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Qwest union to seek short#x2013;term; contract

DENVER -- Qwest Communications' largest union will seek a short-term contract and forgo raises through 2005 because of the telecommunications company's financial problems.

The Communications Workers of America District 7, which represents 28,000 employees, will seek a two-year contract instead of the standard three-year contract.

"They're going to be profitable by then, and it will be time for them to pay for what we may not be able to get at this point," said John Thompson, union vice president.

The union began bargaining with Qwest this month.

The current contract, a two-year extension from 2001, expires in August. Thompson said pay raises would be discussed in 2005.

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Qwest wouldn't comment on negotiations.

The Denver-based company is the dominant local-phone provider in 14 states including Minnesota.

It is struggling with $20 billion in debt and stagnant revenue.

CEO: AirTran expansion planned

MINNEAPOLIS -- While six major airlines are slashing costs after losing $3.6 billion in the first quarter, AirTran Airways CEO Joe Leonard is taking a different turn.

AirTran is making plans to acquire 100 new airplanes.

The low-fare carrier made $10.7 million last year, and Leonard wants to expand the Florida-based company by 25 percent a year.

Leonard, who has a home in Forest Lake, Minn., talked about the airline's success in a speech today in Andover at a MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce luncheon and in a Star Tribune interview.

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AirTran has a hub in Atlanta and serves 41 cities, including Minneapolis-St. Paul.

On Wednesday, it launched an expansion into the Western United States by beginning nonstop service to Denver, and it will add flights to Los Angeles and Las Vegas in June.

AirTran currently is meeting with Airbus and Boeing because Leonard wants to add a new plane type to the fleet -- either the Boeing 737 or the Airbus A319.

Leonard expects to choose between Airbus and Boeing this summer and then start taking delivery on the new planes in June 2004.

The new planes are expected to arrive at the rate of one per month

Airbus seals landmark European deal

BERLIN -- Seven European countries Tuesday sealed a long-awaited order for 180 Airbus military transport planes, a deal worth some 20 billion euros ($23.8 billion) that is meant to boost Europe's ability to deploy independently of NATO.

The contract, signed in the former German capital of Bonn, includes 60 A400M aircraft for Germany and 50 for France. The signing came after German lawmakers last week approved funding for the planes after years of wrangling.

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The deal was signed by the Airbus Military subsidiary of European Aeronautic Defence &; Space Co. and a procurement agency representing the buyers, which also include Spain, which is taking 27 aircraft; Britain, 25, Turkey, 10; Belgium, seven, and Luxembourg, one.

Expected to enter service by 2010, the planes are part of European Union plans to set up its own 60,000-strong military force capable of quick deployments independent of NATO.

The A400M, powered by four turboprop engines, is designed to replace aging military transport planes such as the U.S.-made Hercules C-130 and the Franco-German Transall.

The plane will also be competing on the world market, notably against U.S. makers.

The project has been on the drawing board for more than 20 years, dogged by tight defense budgets.

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