Friday, January 22, 2010

American Airlines announces new round of pilot furloughs

by B. N. Sullivan

wingletAmerican Airlines announced today "the unfortunate need to furlough up to 175 of our pilots in the first half of 2010." Among those who will be laid off are previously furloughed pilots who returned to work during the past year. The airline already has 1,887 pilots on furlough.

In a message to its membership, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American Airlines pilots, said that "management intends to furlough approximately 130 active pilots. Management has also indicated that the total could reach as high as 160 over the next two months." Presumably those numbers are estimates, since the airline mentioned 175 pilot furloughs in the first half of 2010, and the union specified 160.

According to APA:
The union leadership and Negotiating Committee are discussing a variety of potential furlough mitigation tools, such as voluntary leaves-of-absence and furloughs-in-stead. APA is hoping to compel management to institute early retirement incentives and other such mechanisms to minimize, if not outright eliminate, the need to furlough. Talks with management concerning these issues will continue.

Initial furlough notifications have begun and we estimate that approximately two-thirds of the furloughs will be effective at the end of February. The remaining furloughs will likely take effect at the end of March.
In a statement to the press, American Airlines said, "The impact of the economy and reduction in capacity over the last 18 months, coupled with lower than expected pilot attrition, has resulted in a pilot surplus. This was a painful but necessary decision, as this staffing adjustment will better align the size of our pilot organization with the size of our current operation."

Commenting on furlough mitigation negotiations with the pilots' union, American Airlines said:
"We are also pleased that we were able to work with the APA to move up the furlough date by one day to achieve eligibility for subsidized COBRA medical benefits for the first group of furloughed pilots.

"American values and respects the professionalism, commitment and contributions of our pilots and regrets having to make this difficult decision."
American last furloughed pilots in 2005.

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