PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Friday morning announcement that the new American Airlines would move the old US Airways operations center from Pittsburgh to Dallas/Fort Worth surprised no one.
But it was still a bitter pill for Pittsburgh.
“It’s not a good day, and it’s certainly not a good day for those 600 individuals, those 600 families,” said Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
Six-hundred workers were alerted by email, says Danny Persuit, who heads the Transport Workers Union that represents local flight dispatchers at the operations center.
“It’s going to be a big change,” said Persuit. “It was not unexpected, but when the reality — when they tell you — there was a lot of sadness.”
Persuit says his members have been offered jobs in Dallas/Fort Worth, as airline officials told Fitzgerald.
“The good news is that those 600 people will be offered positions in Dallas. They won’t have positions here, unfortunately, for us,” Fitzgerald said.
So, why the move to Texas?
“When this merger went through with US Airways and American that American had a bigger facility, more capacity and that they’d probably be moving into the headquarters down in Dallas,” said Fitzgerald.
As for the relatively new Pittsburgh facility, partially paid by taxpayers, Fitzgerald says, “We’ve had a lot of interest already in this building.”
Airline officials also told Fitzgerald the US Airways maintenance facility will stay in Pittsburgh, at least for the immediate future.
“For now, those jobs are okay,” he said. “Moving forward, a year from now, two years from now, I don’t know.”
Airline officials say the process of relocating the operations center from western Pennsylvania to Texas will take approximately 18 months.
When and how that will happen for individual employees remains unanswered.
Persuit, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, says he’s not sure what he’ll do when the time comes, but says he’s proud of the work he’s done so far.
“Our office in general, all 600, ran the best airline in the environment that we operate, and the numbers bear that out. We treated every flight like it was our family traveling on it,” he said.
“We knew this was an uphill battle from the moment the merger settlement was released with no mention of preserving jobs in Pittsburgh,” said Congressman Tim Murphy in a statement. “Today’s announcement is a disappointing setback, but I will continue focusing on attracting energy, manufacturing and military related jobs to the airport-area corridor. These growing economic sectors in our region bring additional air traffic and the potential of more airline opportunities to open up at Pittsburgh International Airport.”
Gov. Tom Corbett also released a statement says in part:
“On behalf of the hardworking US Airways employees, we are disappointed that the company has decided to move their operations control center to Dallas,” Corbett said.
“Our job now is to immediately work with the US Airways employees to connect them to new opportunities should they choose to stay in Pennsylvania. We value their work ethic and welcome them to stay in the region. In that effort, I have directed my Secretary of Labor and Industry to activate the state Rapid Response workforce team to assist with job training and placement. The Rapid Response team will coordinate with local partners to retrain and connect these employees with regional job openings that can tap their specialized technical and communications skills.”