Says Karen Rohr, "Some girls live in Southern California, where their homes and families are. They have been commuting all these years to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Now the company is planning more cuts in wages and benefits to the point it doesn't pay to go to work. They are cutting health insurance. Everybody -- pilots, the stews, all retirees -- are concerned about that. It used to be fun. It's no fun anymore."

Actually, US Air took the fun out of PSA when it took over in the late 1980s, and that's one reason the West Coast market was lost. "At first I was pretty bullish on US Air," says Mel Rohr. "But they made us change philosophy. We went from a happy-go-lucky operation, with the girls joking with the customers, to the East Coast mentality. We lost most of our customers."

"[PSA] had 85 percent of the California corridor at one time," says San Diegan Joe Graham, who retired from US Airways last December. Now, US Airways has a tiny presence in the West, and "is beating up on employees with [cheap] airline-type contracts," continues Graham. "United is drinking the same Kool-Aid."

Graham's retirement checks now come from the federal pension agency. He is getting one-third of what he was promised. "If US Airways liquidates, none of the employees would have health insurance. We are also concerned that if United and other airlines play the same trick as US Airways, the [Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp] will be further underwater and require a government bailout," says Graham, a former official of the Air Line Pilots Association. "At US Air, every guy with a yellow tie comes in and rips off his piece and leaves." By contrast, "Working for PSA was like having been with the Blue Angels."

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