American Airlines to lay off 175 pilots

American Airlines to lay off 175 pilots

American Airlines to lay off 175 pilots

The laying off will commence with 80 pilots at the end of February, American Airline spokeswoman Missy Latham said in an e-mailed statement. "This was a painful but necessary decision," Latham said, adding that the reductions will "better align the size of our pilot organization with the size of our current operation." She said the firm would furlough up to 175 pilots — about 2 per cent of its 7,800 pilots — in the first half of 2010.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based company added that it already has about 1,800 pilots on furlough. They were laid off but retain rehiring rights by seniority. The firm is taking the step following cut in its number of flights amid lower demand due to the global recession. Owing to the downturn in travel, the airline lost 1.49 billion. It reduced its passenger-carrying capacity to 7.2 per cent in 2009 by cancelling number of flights and using smaller planes with fewer seats.

She said the firm had too many pilots after reducing flights and was witnessing less staff attrition than expected. The airline last furloughed pilots in 2005, and small numbers had been rehired since then. The pilots losing their jobs in February are among those who were rehired in the past few years, said Allied Pilots Association spokesman Gregg Overman.

In some cases, pilots who will be laid off were recalled to their jobs in early 2009, meaning they will be idled twice in less than a year, Overman said. The union's contract requires that the airline offer to recall furloughed pilots before it can hire new ones. Meanwhile, the airline said it would try to minimize involuntary furloughs by offering senior pilots a chance to go for voluntary separation benefits in place of a more junior pilot. The firm will also offer leaves of absence, Latham said.

Overman said the latest furloughs were "just another indication of the concessions our pilots have made since 2003," when the airline's unions agreed to wage cuts to save the company from bankruptcy. He disputed American's claim of a pilot surplus, saying the airline is "pretty tightly manned". The union and the company said they were discussing steps to limit furloughs, which Overman said could include early-retirement incentives.

He said a recent change in federal law that allowed pilots to work past age 60 could be resulting in fewer retirements. Latham said the company and union moved up the first 80 furloughs by one day into February to make those pilots eligible for subsidized health insurance.

People who lose their jobs on or before February 28 can continue to buy health covers through their former employer, with the federal government paying 65 per cent of the cost. This week, American parent AMR Corp reported a USD 344 million loss for the fourth quarter. The company has lost USD 3.59 billion in the past two years.