USAir recruits 1,000 as business surges

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USAIR, British Airways' transatlantic partner, will recruit 1,000 staff to cope with new business, despite a projected loss of more than dollars 200m during the first quarter.

Interest in USAir's discount fares has caused a near- 50 per cent increase in customer calls since January, swamping reservations agents and causing 'unacceptable telephone hold times', a spokesman said.

The airline needs more people answering telephones if it is to preserve its market share in the face of tough competition from Southwest and Continental Airlines.

Last year, USAir made 2,500 customer service agents redundant, and continues to struggle with higher manning levels than many competitors. But 800 of the 1,000 jobs will be part-time 'off-airport' booking agents who will not be trade union members, and thus not covered by the no-redundancy agreements that protect USAir flight crews and aircraft ground workers.

British Airways last month suspended plans to more than double its dollars 400m investment in USAir because of its continuing losses. Passenger traffic at USAir, however, rose 14 per cent last month over a year ago, and the airline has been negotiating with union workers to bring down costs.