Bankruptcy judge set to hear pilots, American Airlines arguments Tuesday

Allied Pilots Assoc. wants judge to turn down American Airlines' cost-cutting plan

By Glenna Milberg - Reporter

MIAMI - American Airlines management will attend a hearing in New York on Tuesday to ask a judge for permission to end its pilots' union contract, impose pay cuts and alter working conditions. 

The airline's actions and expenditures must be approved by a judge while the company is in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

The Allied Pilots Association hopes to persuade a bankruptcy judge to turn down American Airlines' plan to throw out the union's contract. The union hopes the judge will require the airline to give fresh reasoning and evidence that their new business plan needs such a strong measure.

"We think it's a big mistake for American Airlines management to do that. Morale is at an all-time low and that's certainly not going to help any," said Howie Schack, speaking for the Allied Pilots Association, the union representing American's pilots.

If the judge agrees, American will move " achieve the necessary cost savings and continue moving forward toward a successful restructuring," wrote the airline's spokesperson in a statement to reporters.

"We're looking to get the same contract as United and Delta pilots have right now, even in bankruptcy because the pilot cost really isn't the main issue," said Scott Iovine, who chairs the Miami-based pilots group for APA.

American maintains that labor cost is its issue. It planned a 20 percent downsizing when it filed for bankruptcy last fall and around 10,000 jobs were lost. Flight attendants, mechanics and other workers agreed to hundreds of millions in concessions.

The pilots say they support a merger between American and US Airways, now in negotiations, as the best way for the airline to be viable and profitable.

They are also taking their concerns outside of the courtroom. More than 100 Miami-based pilots for American Airlines spent their Labor Day holiday protesting by staging a silent march through the airline's terminal at Miami International Airport Monday.

Meanwhile American Airlines continues to hold talks with U.S. Airways over a possible merger.

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