DALLAS (AP) — Pilots at American Airlines approved a new labor contract, which could clear the way for consideration of a merger with US Airways.
The pilots' union announced Friday that 74 percent of its members voted to ratify the contract. Pilots rejected a similar offer in August, but union leaders lobbied hard for passage the second time around.
Under the contract, pilots will get pay raises and own 13.5 percent of American Airlines' parent AMR Corp. after it emerges from bankruptcy protection.
Union officials and analysts say the vote gives AMR creditors certainty about the company's labor costs, making it easier for them to weigh which gives them more money — American on its own, or getting bigger through a merger with US Airways.
"This contract represents a bridge to a merger with US Airways," said union spokesman Dennis Tajer. He said the vote "should not in any way be viewed as support for the American stand-alone plan or for this current management team."
American also hailed the vote as a key step in its turnaround after years of heavy losses.
The pilots' vote "gives us the certainty we need for American to successfully restructure," said AMR spokesman Bruce Hicks. He added that "the modernization of our company is well under way, and we remain focused on emerging as a competitive, world-class airline."
AMR and American filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011. With the pilots' deal in hand, the company could exit Chapter 11 early next year, a faster reorganization than those in the last decade at United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Friday's vote filled in the last unknown piece in AMR's labor-cost puzzle. It will help AMR creditors weigh the company's plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection on its own versus a merger that would leave US Airways' executives running the combined operation. US Airways has vowed that if it prevails, it will keep the American Airlines name and be based in American's hometown of Fort Worth, Texas.
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