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New perk for top US Airways executives

Published Sep. 3, 2005

Suppose your company is demanding employee pay cuts, saying bankruptcy reorganization is an option and asking the government for help getting a $1-billion loan.

Is this any time to give the 31 top executives a new perk?

Apparently, US Airways thinks so. The airline recently gave executives at the vice president level and up the status of Chairman's Preferred customers, the most elite of its frequent fliers who travel at least 100,000 miles a year on the airline.

They already could fly free, either on business or vacations (along with immediate family members). The change gives the top execs the right to upgrade into first class ahead of paying customers with lesser elite status.

The perk was exposed by John McCorkle, a furloughed US Airways flight attendant who writes an e-mail newsletter read by current and former US Airways employees, airline enthusiasts and some journalists.

McCorkle has never been shy about skewering the airline's management, especially chairman Stephen Wolf and Rakesh Ganagwal, the former CEO. But he's a fan of new CEO David Siegel for communicating better with the rank-and-file and getting executives out into the field.

McCorkle says he doesn't have a problem with executives flying first class on business. But they and their families shouldn't take first-class seats ahead of paying customers.

A spokesman for US Airways said the policy was changed so the highest-ranking executives can see how the airline's best customers are treated and suggest changes, if needed. Sort of a secret shopper program but at Neiman Marcus, not Kmart.

The policy was modeled after ones at American and Continental, the spokesman said. US Airways executives are expected to use discretion and not take a first-class seat from a frequent flier, the spokesman said.

_ Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.