American's unions back US Airways, American Airlines merger
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- US Airways Group Inc. took a big step toward a merger with bankrupt American Airlines on Friday, as the carrier and American's three largest unions announced they have signed agreements for contract terms.
The unions representing American's pilots, flight attendants and mechanics and other aircraft service personnel threw their support behind a merger. The move cuts off a large segment of support for an independent American Airlines, as the three unions have seats on American's nine-member creditors committee.
"This significant step represents our shared recognition that a merger between American Airlines and US Airways is the best strategy and fastest option to complete the restructuring of American Airlines," said a joint statement from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the Allied Pilots Association and the Transport Workers Union. Together, they represent 55,000 employees of American.
The combined US Airways-American company would be known as American Airlines, union officials said, and would be based in Fort Worth, Texas -- American's current headquarters.
Hanging in the balance of any deal are thousands of jobs and the potential to end seven years of union strife within US Airways.
US Airways has been circling AMR Corp., the parent of the nation's third-largest carrier, since it declared bankruptcy in November. US Airways confirmed in January that it has hired advisers to explore a deal. The company is the nation's fifth-largest carrier.
"Our intention would be to put our two complementary networks together, maintaining both airlines' existing hubs and aircraft, and create an airline that could compete successfully with [United Continental, Delta Air Lines] and other carriers within our industry," CEO Doug Parker said in a letter to employees Friday morning.
Dave Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, said in a letter to pilots on Friday that the union has been in direct talks with US Airways management since early March. Mr. Bates said the pilots have lost confidence American can pull out of its tailspin. The union represents 10,000 pilots.
Mr. Parker cautioned that any formal merger agreement is still a ways off. "Today is one step in what will be a much longer process. For now, it remains business as usual," he said in Friday's letter.
US Airways still needs to get the support of American's board of directors, other members of the creditors committee, the bankruptcy court and regulators. And American executives, especially CEO Tom Horton, have publicly fended off merger overtures from US Airways, saying the best path for American is to emerge as a standalone company.
Pittsburgh International Airport saw US Airways flights there plummet after the carrier emerged from bankruptcy combined with America West in 2005.
First Published April 21, 2012 12:00 am