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Originally published Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Rival moves into US Airways' turf

Southwest Airlines has intensified its assault against bankrupt US Airways, announcing plans yesterday to offer service in Pittsburgh in May. Analysts said the move could speed...

The Associated Press

DALLAS — Southwest Airlines has intensified its assault against bankrupt US Airways, announcing plans yesterday to offer service in Pittsburgh in May.

Analysts said the move could speed the demise of US Airways, the dominant carrier in Pittsburgh. The nation's seventh-largest carrier, which has been crippled by fare wars with Southwest and other airlines, has said that if it can't reduce labor costs it could begin liquidation this month.

US Airways did not immediately return a call yesterday seeking comment.

Last May, Southwest moved into Philadelphia, one of US Airways' main airports, and has since expanded service there, forcing US Airways to cut fares. Southwest said traffic on Philadelphia-based routes to Chicago, Orlando, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Providence, R.I., rose 51 percent and average fares fell 37 percent.

Now Southwest is extending its reach to Pittsburgh.

Gary Kelly, Southwest's chief executive, called Pittsburgh "a great addition to our system ... and a wonderful opportunity for Southwest."

The airline did not announce its Pittsburgh schedule or fares.

"That's the nail in the coffin. It's the end of US Airways," said Michael Boyd, president of The Boyd Group, an aviation-consulting firm in Colorado. "There is just no way an airline like Southwest is going to go into Pittsburgh unless it knows US Airways is through and it knows there's going to be a huge gap there."

As recently as 2002, US Airways operated more than 82 percent of flights out of Pittsburgh but that number has fallen to about 65 percent.

US Airways has also come under scrutiny for its customer service. The airline suffered a customer-relations nightmare over Christmas, when a combination of bad weather and absent employees caused about 10,000 bags to pile up in Philadelphia.

Southwest, which flies to 59 U.S. cities, has remained profitable during the downturn and has continued to add planes.

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Associated Press reporter Charles Sheehan in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

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