American Airlines warns of job cuts in thousands
Amid labor strife with its pilots union and growing flight cancellations, American Airlines is warning more than 11,000 employees of coming job changes.
AP Airlines Writer
DALLAS — American Airlines is sending layoff warning notices to more than 11,000 employees although a spokesman says the company expects job losses to be closer to 4,400.
The notices went out to mechanics and ground workers whose jobs will be affected as American goes through a bankruptcy restructuring.
American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks said Tuesday that fewer than 40 percent of those getting notices will lose their jobs. Hicks said federal law requires the company to notify anyone whose position could change, including those who could get "bumped" by more-senior employees whose jobs are eliminated or outsourced.
American said in February that it planned to cut 14,000 jobs, including 13,000 held by union workers. But if Hicks is right, the final job losses will be about a third of that.
Over the summer American accepted slightly smaller cost-cutting measures as it negotiated new labor contracts, and it agreed to give bonuses to flight attendants and ground workers who quit. So far 1,800 flight attendants and 800 ground workers have applied to take the money and leave.
Layoff notices went to nearly 3,000 workers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where a maintenance facility will close, and nearly 3,000 more at a base in Tulsa, Okla. Also receiving notices were about 1,200 workers in Miami, 1,100 in New York and Newark, N.J., 900 in Chicago, and smaller numbers elsewhere.
"As bad as this is — and we knew this day was coming — we've been able to lessen the pain," said Jamie Horwitz, a spokesman for the Transport Workers Union.
Separately, the leader of the pilots' union blasted the company, saying it is "paying lip service" to negotiating a contract while using the bankruptcy process to wring punitive cost-cutting concessions from pilots.
Eight other labor groups approved long-term contracts that will help AMR cut annual labor spending by about $1 billion. Pilots, however, voted overwhelmingly against the company's last contract offer, and a federal bankruptcy judge allowed American to impose new pay and working rules on pilots.
The acting president of the Allied Pilots Association, Keith Wilson, said in a message to members that he would meet this week with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other senior officials in the Obama administration and Congress. The union has asked federal officials to approve steps that could eventually lead to a strike, but that permission hasn't been granted.
Hicks said American is ready to resume negotiations "when the union is ready."
Still, pilots are holding a strike-authorization vote. And according to the company, they are calling in sick more often than usual, contributing to an increase in canceled flights. American has trimmed its September and October schedule by up to 2 percent to make sure it has enough pilots to operate flights.
Hunter Keay, an analyst for Wolfe Trahan & Co., said he does not think the threat of cancellations will lead travelers to avoid American. But he said there has been "a clear deterioration in labor relations" at American.
An American merger with US Airways Group Inc. could produce a bigger airline with more revenue and more labor peace, Keay said. US Airways has lobbied for a merger but American executives have been reluctant.
American and parent AMR Corp., which is based in Fort Worth, filed for bankruptcy protection in November.