US Airways planes

US Airways remains committed to merging with American Airlines, despite a legal challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice. (Joshua Lott / Getty Images / April 20, 2012)

US Airways Group Inc., with new backing by three unions representing nearly 55,000 American Airlines employees, is angling for a merger between the two airline companies, according to statements made Friday.

Combining with bankrupt American Airlines “represents a unique opportunity that we should not ignore,” said US Airways Chief Executive Doug Parker in a letter to employees. The deal would “create a preeminent airline” that could “compete successfully with United, Delta and other carriers.”

Though AA’s parent company, AMR Corp., would have to first agree to a merger, US Airways has already signed agreements with three major AA unions laying out how collective bargaining pacts would look should a deal go through.

The unions — the Allied Pilots Assn., the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transport Workers Union — all signed pacts. In a message to members, the APA said a merger would be “the best possible course of action for both our profession and for the future of our airline.”

Fusing the two companies could create a single carrier that would lead air travel on the East Coast and in the Midwest while becoming more competitive in the West, according to the APA.

US Airways also filed an 8-K form with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday disclosing the accords. The company said that merging with American would save at least 6,200 of the more than 13,000 jobs that AMR has planned to cut during restructuring.

“Today is one step in what will be a much longer process,” Parker wrote.

On Thursday, AMR said it suffered a $1.7-billion loss in its first quarter. The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in late November.

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