Pilots at American Airlines hold 2nd contract vote

AP News
Posted: Nov 16, 2012 6:14 PM

DALLAS (AP) — Pilots at American Airlines will vote again on whether to approve a contract offer from the company, which has been operating under bankruptcy protection for nearly a year.

The Allied Pilots Association board on Friday accepted a tentative agreement with the airline and will send it to union members to consider.

The 7,500 pilots rejected a previous company offer in August, and American responded by getting bankruptcy court approval to impose pay and benefit cuts.

Union President Keith Wilson called the agreement the best one possible under current circumstances and said that "pressing for more amounts to overplaying the hand we've been dealt."

The union said voting was expected to end Dec. 7. Like the proposal rejected in August, pilots would get raises and 13.5 percent of the stock in parent AMR Corp. after it emerges from bankruptcy. The union promised to release more details later Friday.

The pilots are the last union group that hasn't approved a cost-cutting contract in the last few months. Approval of the contract would help AMR emerge from bankruptcy protection by locking down long-term labor savings. American aims to reduce annual labor costs by about $1 billion.

"We are pleased the Allied Pilots Association is putting the tentative agreement out for a vote," said AMR spokesman Bruce Hicks. Without offering specifics, he said American tried to address pilots' concerns while still getting a contract that meets the company's cost-saving target of 17 percent.

US Airways Group Inc. is pursuing a merger with American that would leave US Airways executives running the combined company. The airlines have exchanged private financial information and discussed some outlines of a merger, including who would own most of the stock, but it's uncertain if they will ever complete a deal.

On Friday lawyers for US Airways pilots asked a federal bankruptcy judge in New York for the right to ask the companies about merger talks. They argued that US Airways pilots don't have as much information as the Allied Pilots Association — which is on the creditors committee in the bankruptcy case — even though they too would be affected by a merger.

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AMR believes that the US Airways union isn't entitled to the information and plans to object to the request, Hicks said.

Separately American said that more than 20,000 people applied to become flight attendants after the company announced last month that it planned to hire 1,500. They will replace more than 2,200 veteran attendants who took buyout offers of up to $40,000 to leave.

After interviews in December, the first class of new flight attendants is expected to begin training in January and start working in April.

American said it was thrilled with the response and has enough candidates but is still looking for applicants who speak Korean, Mandarin, Finnish, German, Italian or Japanese.