ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Airline catering companies are slashing staffs nationwide after major airlines drastically reduced meal service earlier this fall.
Rep. Don Young, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, is questioning the moves in light of billions of dollars in federal aid to air carriers in the wake of the September terrorist attacks.
In Anchorage, LSG Sky Chefs trimmed 15 people from their Anchorage staff of 300, according to the local office of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union.
Most flights out of Anchorage will be unaffected by the meal cuts.
Alaska Airlines is keeping its meal service intact and the company does half the passenger business out of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, said airport spokesman Mark Butler.
Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines spokesman also are continuing meal service.
But Delta and United airlines are eliminate meals on flights to Seattle.
Union members nationwide on Thursday protested the meal suspension, said local union secretary Tora Brawley. Brawley said 10,000 layoffs are expected between LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, the nation's two largest in-flight caterers. LSG officials did not return calls Thursday for comment.
Unions aren't the only ones concerned.
Brawley said U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, wrote the major airlines' trade association asking for a report on the matter. The letter said he sponsored financial assistance to U.S. air carriers specifically to prevent this kind of economic undertow.
Taxpayers have so far paid $3.8 billion to shore up airlines until flights fill up again, with the remaining $1.2 billion to be paid early next year, said the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Airlines are cutting costs because fewer people are flying since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Industry estimates are that 27 percent fewer Americans boarded flights at Thanksgiving than a year ago. Alaska Airlines reported Thanksgiving bookings were down 4 percent from last year.
Estimates are that the industry could lose as much as $9.2 billion when the losses for the year are totaled.
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