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LSG Sky Chefs to lay off up to 30% of work force

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ARLINGTON, Texas — LSG Sky Chefs, the largest U.S. airline caterer, said Wednesday it would lay off up to 4,800 employees, or 30 percent of its U.S. work force, because of flight and food-service cutbacks by airlines.

Sky Chefs, which operates 80 kitchens at 58 airports around the country, also said it would close or consolidate some facilities and stop its expansion plans. It gave no further details, and calls to the company spokesman were not immediately returned.

Most major airlines have cut their flight schedules by 20 percent since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, and passenger traffic has been lighter than normal. American Airlines, the world's largest carrier, also eliminated meal service on most flight.

Randall Boyd, a Sky Chefs board member, said those factors "are having an immediate and profound impact on our business."

"We have no other choice than to move swiftly to significantly reshape our operations and adjust staffing levels," Boyd said in a statement issued by the company. "This is a very painful process, but it is essential to our survival."

Boyd said the airline food industry is asking Congress for financial help. Last week, Congress approved a $15 billion package of grants and loan guarantees for the nation's airline industry.

Sky Chefs said it had begun giving furlough notices to kitchen, management and administrative employees. The company said it would continue to provide medical benefits to laid-off workers.