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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 17:30 GMT
Airline staff 'to work for free'
US Airways staff checking luggage at Chicago's O'Hare airport
US Airways is taking measures to avoid a repeat of last week's chaos
US Airways is seeking volunteers to work for free over the New Year weekend to avoid a repeat of the chaos caused by staff shortages before Christmas.

The airline had to cancel hundreds of flights from Philadelphia airport after staff called in sick while thousands of items of luggage went undelivered.

The carrier, battling for financial survival, wants people to work on New Year's Eve at Philadelphia without pay.

It said staff would have a "rewarding opportunity" to meet customers.

Volunteers sought

America's seventh largest airline is seeking volunteers to work between 30 December and 3 January, filling roles such as check-in staff and baggage handlers.

It promises to be a rewarding opportunity to come face to face with our customers
US Airways

The Washington Post reported that the airline had sent staff an e-mail stressing that any volunteers would not be paid for the work if it was their day off.

"This is a volunteer program," the newspaper reported the e-mail as saying.

"It promises to be a rewarding opportunity to learn more about the operation of our airline and come face to face with our customers."

Stranded

The airline is desperate to avoid a repeat of the problems which afflicted services from one of the country's largest airports in the run-up to Christmas.

More than 400 flights were cancelled between 23-27 December after a larger than usual number of staff failed to turn up for work.

The chaos left thousands of passengers stranded along the east coast of the United States.

US Airways has been in bankruptcy protection since 2003 and its long-term survival remains in doubt.

US Airways jets
US Airways is battling for survival

The company has been trying to persuade unions representing flight attendants and baggage handlers to accept sizeable pay cuts.

Minority action

The Association of Flight Attendants criticised staff who missed work before Christmas, claiming that the airline's operation had "failed miserably" over the period.

"This was caused, unfortunately, by a minority of employees who appear to have decided to take some action against the company," said Perry Hayes, president of Association's US Airways branch.

"Sadly, the employees who took this action may ultimately cause the failure of the airline."

The carrier says it will examine staff attendance records over the period with a view to disciplining employees found to have skipped work without good cause.

US civil aviation authorities have launched an investigation into the problems at US Airways.

They are also studying a separate incident over the holiday weekend involving Comair.

The Delta Air Lines subsidiary cancelled hundreds of flights after a computer system crashed.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why US Airways needs the goodwill of its staff



SEE ALSO:
US to probe airline travel chaos
28 Dec 04 |  Business
Airlines 'end 2004 $5bn in red'
15 Dec 04 |  Business
US Airways agrees cash lifeline
26 Nov 04 |  Business
US Airways to cut jobs and wages
05 Oct 04 |  Business


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