updated 9/10/2004 1:04:19 PM ET 2004-09-10T17:04:19

US Airways made a last-ditch offer to its divided pilots' union Friday for a new labor contract as the beleaguered airline tries to avoid a second bankruptcy filing that may be just be days away.

The offer came as the pilots met Friday afternoon in Pittsburgh, a meeting scheduled at the request of the hard-line union representatives from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia who refused to send an earlier company proposal to the union's 3,000 members for a vote.

US Airways chief executive Bruce Lakefield said Friday that the company has made new offers to both the pilots and flight attendants.

The most recent offer, Lakefield said, was designed to cut pay as little as possible by requiring pilots and flight attendants to fly more hours and make other work-rule changes.

A necessary consequence of that would be additional furloughs. Almost 1,900 pilots are already on furlough, according to the union.

Lakefield said he has received e-mails and correspondence from hundreds of pilots saying they support "a balanced approach" to a new labor contract.

"It is for that reason that we made the proposals that we did today," Lakefield said in a recorded message to employees.

It was unclear if management's offer would be discussed at the pilots' meeting, which was scheduled before the company made its offer.

The airline has warned for some time that a bankruptcy filing as soon as mid-September is possible. Some insiders have speculated a filing may come as early as Sunday.

On Monday, the pilots' union rejected a proposal that would have called for a 20 percent pay cut and a 50 percent cut in retirement-plan contributions that would have saved the airline $295 million a year, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

The moderate chairman of the pilots' Master Executive Council, Bill Pollock, has criticized the Pennsylvania representatives for blocking a vote on management's proposal.

The airline had hoped that a deal with the pilots would create momentum for new contracts with its other unions, including flight attendants and gate workers and reservations agents represented by the Communications Workers of America.

Only one of the airline's unions, the International Association of Machinists, has refused to discuss a revised labor contract.

In all, the airline says it needs $800 million in annual cost cuts from its labor unions as part of a plan to cut costs by $1.5 billion a year.

Despite the looming threat of bankruptcy, negotiations have been particularly difficult because the unions agreed to more than $1 billion a year in concessions just two years ago, during the company's first trip into bankruptcy.

US Airways spokesman David Castelveter declined comment on whether a last-minute deal with the pilots would affect the company's potential need to file for bankruptcy.

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