Two City Council members, a state senator, and representatives of Hispanic, African American and women's groups raised concerns Tuesday about the economic impact on jobs, minority contracts, and flights if US Airways Group Inc. merges with bankrupt American Airlines.
Would Philadelphia remain an airline hub, with 6,500 airline employees? What would be the fallout on a proposed multibillion dollar expansion of Philadelphia International Airport?
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, joined by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, vowed to hold public hearings to get to the bottom of whether creating the world's largest airline would be good for Philadelphia.
"As a group that believes in job growth and minority participation, we appreciate that this merger could be the catalyst for the goals that we seek," Johnson said, at a briefing in Council's City Hall Caucus Room.
Other speakers included Steven Bradley, chair of the African American Chamber of Commerce; State Sen. Tina Tartaglione; Varsovia Fernandez, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Geri Swift, president of the Women's Business Development Center.
The Nutter administration supports a potential merger, believing that it would bring more business and new travel options to the airport - including the possibility of nonstop flights to China and Japan.
US Airways CEO Doug Parker told the National Press Club in July that Philadelphia would remain a hub city.
The two airlines' route networks are complementary. A combined airline would "fly to all the cities we currently fly, and maintain all the hubs we currently maintain, and the citizens and customers in those communities would just have more service to more cities," he said.
Expansion of the city-owned airport, which would take 12 to 15 years to complete, is a separate issue.
Airlines project that the expansion, which they would pay for, would cost about $10.5 billion. The city puts the tab closer to $6.4 billion. A project-management team is presently crunching the numbers to come up with the true cost.
Airlines have expressed worries over some expenses, including a new runway along the Delaware River.
"We do not oppose expanding PHL's facilities but, as we've stated before, we are concerned that escalating costs at the airport will potentially damage the future viability of our hub operation there," said Todd Lehmacher, spokesman for US Airways, which transports nearly 70 percent of passengers to and from the Philadelphia airport.
Any growth "needs to be implemented in such a way that maximizes airport efficiency and makes financial sense for US Airways," he said. "US Airways has a strong record of supporting local and minority-owned businesses, and we welcome their continued inclusion in the bid process for any proposed future projects."