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Flight attendants at American Airlines finally accept new contract

Aug 20, 2012 12:02 am

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The reluctant, limited support was tempered by an re-affirmation that the flight attendants would much rather be working for US Airways’ Doug Parker than American’s Tom Horton.

— Jason Clampet

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American Airlines flight attendants have approved the bankrupt carrier’s “last, best and final” contract offer, with 59.5 percent voting in favor of the cost-saving terms, the union said today.

But that doesn’t mean members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants have warmly braced the carrier’s restructuring plan.

“We will now continue our strong and concise message that we have zero confidence in this management team,” said a bluntly worded statement from union president Laura Glading and other APFA leaders.

With the ratification, the airline’s pilots are the only union at American to have rejected contract terms and face the prospect of having their existing contract tossed out in bankruptcy court.

Despite voting for the new contract terms, which still requires bankruptcy court approval, the flight attendants say they will continue to back a proposed merger with US Airways. Its CEO, Doug Parker, a one-time American employee, has successfully negotiated tentative term sheets with American’s unions.

“We firmly believe that the only way for American Airlines to grow and compete and perhaps even to survive is through a merger that puts Doug Parker and his team in charge,” the APFA leaders said.

Fort Worth-based American saw the vote results as a victory.

“Ratification of the flight attendant agreement is an important step forward in our restructuring,” said airline spokesman Bruce Hicks. “We know this was not an easy decision for our flight attendants and we are very pleased with the choice they made.”

The agreement includes an “early out” incentive that, potentially, could eliminate the need for more than 2,000 furloughs, Hicks said by email. Attendants with at least 15 years of seniority would receive a $40,000 severance payment.

Other provisions include a $1,500 lump sum payment on the date of signing, pay increases over the next five years, including 3 percent the first year, and an equity stake in the new American.

“Our flight attendants join our seven TWU-represented employee groups with ratified agreements providing another step forward for our people and the company,” he said.

The holdouts, who are crucial players, are the pilots.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane sided with the Allied Pilots Association on Wednesday by denying a motion by AMR Corp., the airline’s parent company, to nullify the pilots’ contract. AMR on Friday filed a revised motion seeking to abrogate the contract, but will have to wait a few weeks for court approval to impose new cost-cutting measures on the 8,000 pilots, including changes to benefits and work rules.

Beyond its unionized work force, the airline spokesman said the carrier was moving forward with changes covering other employees.

The flight attendants minced no words about its less-than-reverential view of airline executives.

“For now, we must remain strong and professional and work to heal from this very stressful process,” the union leaders told their members. “It is important to remember who and what has caused this horrible situation: our current management team….

“With this vote behind us, our focus will be on achieving a merger with US Airways which will improve on the (contract) and re-establish pride and viability to American Airlines.”

(c)2012 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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