U.S. Airways is seeking incentives from Phoenix and two other important cities in its system for a consolidated operations center the carrier plans to set up by early 2009.
The Tempe-based airline has sent letters to Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C., seeking information on tax breaks, cheap utilities, discounted buildings and other incentives they might be willing to offer in exchange for the 600 jobs that would be provided at the center.
‘‘US Airways is soliciting interest in providing full financing for the building and all of the furnishings, fixtures and equipment, including the actual data and telephone equipment with a preliminary budget of $25 million,’’ the letter said.
The high-tech center would control the worldwide operations of the airline, carrying out such activities as monitoring weather and flight paths; scheduling crews, aircraft and fueling; and controlling other actions needed for the daily functioning of the fleet.
Since the merger of US Airways and America West Airlines in September, the carrier has operated two such facilities— one at Buckeye Road and 24th Street in Phoenix, which was the America West operations center, and another near the Pittsburgh airport, which was the US Airways center.
As the operations of the two carriers continue to be merged gradually, it will make sense to consolidate the operations headquarters in one location, US spokesman Morgan Durrant said.
“This request is just to get some information, to find out the options and any incentives that might come our way, so when it comes time to consolidate, we can put it in the best place,” he said.
The airline employs 150 people at the America West center in Phoenix, so there is a possibility that those jobs could be lost if the airline decides to consolidate in another location, he said.
But if the airline decides to locate the center in Phoenix, the Valley could gain 450 jobs that are in Pittsburgh, he said.
A decision is expected by mid-2007.
The project will not affect any functions at the company’s corporate headquarters, 111 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, Durrant said.
US Airways is looking at Phoenix and Pittsburgh because of its existing centers in those cities, he said. Charlotte also is in the mix because it’s the airline’s largest hub and the site of large maintenance and training operations, he said.
In the letter, the airline said it wants its new operations center to be within a 30-minute drive of its current facilities in the three target cities.
The low, secure building must be safe from power outages or flooding and away from highways or rail lines to minimize the risk of accidents involving hazardous materials that could force an evacuation, the airline said. ‘‘This facility is to be considered a ‘highsecurity’ plant where continuous, uninterrupted operation is of paramount importance,’’ the airline said.
The three candidates all indicated they are eager to attract the project. Phoenix deputy city manager Dave Krietor said the city will do “what’s reasonable” to help the airline, but he added that Phoenix has already extended much aid to the carrier, and Phoenix may be owed special consideration.
“We have been killing this airline with kindness for 20 years,” he said. “We nurtured them through bankruptcy, we have built great airport facilities for them. . . . The airline knows they have done a great job of surviving and becoming a big player in the industry, but Phoenix has had a lot to do with that.”
Economic development officials in Pittsburgh, which has lost 10,000 US Airways employees since 2001 as the airline reduced its operations there, vowed to compete vigorously for the project. “We are going to try like heck,” Allegheny County Airport Authority executive director Kent George told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Pittsburgh boosters said it would be most logical to put the center in the East, where the merged airline has about 75 percent of its flights.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report