WASHINGTON - The pilots union for US Airways said yesterday the airline is pressuring pilots to use less fuel than they feel is safe in order to save money.
US Airways Capt. James Ray, a spokesman for the US Airline Pilots Association, which represents the airline's 5,200 pilots, said eight senior pilots and the union have filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The union bought a full-page ad in yesterday's USA Today, accusing the airline of "a program of intimidation to pressure your captain to reduce fuel loads."
Carrying extra fuel costs airlines money because it adds to the weight of the airliner.
Captain Ray said soaring jet fuel prices have sent all the airlines scrambling to find ways to cut the weight of airliners because the heavier the plane, the more fuel the plane burns. US Airways, based in Tempe, Ariz., has removed movie players, redesigned its meal carts, and replaced glassware with plastic to cut weight.
But it went too far when it ordered eight pilots who requested "an extra 10 to 15 minutes worth of fuel" to attend training sessions, or "check rides," that could put their pilot licenses in jeopardy, Captain Ray said.
"We feel they're trying to set an example," Captain Ray said. "Captains shouldn't be intimidated into thinking, 'If I say I need this fuel, they may send me for a check ride.'•"
US Airways spokesman Morgan Durrant said the decision to bring in the eight pilots for extra training was not meant to be punitive. "That's totally not true," he said.
During the past few years, the carrier has required its planes to carry enough fuel to pad their flight times by 60 to 90 minutes, Mr. Durrant said.
"These eight pilots have routinely been above the 60 to 90-minute range. It just behooves us as a company to talk to these guys, figure out what they're seeing that we're not," he said.
FAA regulations require aircraft to carry enough fuel to reach their destination and an alternate destination, plus 45 minutes worth of fuel, FAA spokesman Laura Brown said.
"We don't see any evidence right now that there are violations of the regulation," she said.