American Airlines Plans To Cut 13,000 Jobs

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WASHINGTON, DC -- American Airlines announced Wednesday it plans to cut 13,000 jobs from the staff of 88,000 at the nation's No. 3 airline.

The cuts will fall most heavily on the airline's maintenance operations, which will lose 4,600 jobs. More than 4,000 additional ground worker jobs will be eliminated, as will 2,300 flight attendant jobs.

Management will be reduced by 1,400 employees, with the most narrow cut coming among pilots and first officers, which will only see a reduction of 400.

Thomas Horton, CEO of American Air parent AMR Corp. (AAMRQ), said in a letter to American employees, "We will end this journey with many fewer people. But we will also preserve tens of thousands of jobs that would have been lost if we had not embarked on this path."

Horton said the company needs to save more than $1.25 billion annually in labor costs, and reduce costs in each work group, including management, by 20%. To try to cushion the blow of those cuts, it is offering employees a profit sharing plan.

Some of the savings will come from the airline's proposal, also announced Wednesday, to shift its underfunded pension plans to a government agency, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

"If this liability is not eliminated, we will need to have more than $800 million each year in additional savings to service the unfunded liabilities," said the company.

Since American's bankruptcy, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has said it would seek to block the airline from dumping its pensions on the agency, which is already facing a deficit of its own. The agency's estimate is that American's pensions are underfunded by $10 billion.

If the company is successful in shifting its pensions to the agency, thousands of workers and retirees, particularly its pilots and upper management, would have their pension benefits slashed. But American said Wednesday that 90% of 130,000 employees, retirees and other beneficiaries covered by the plans will not have their benefits reduced.

Other savings will come from restructuring debt and leases, grounding older planes, and improving supplier contracts. Horton said the company wants to cut $2 billion a year in total cost cuts.

AMR is also is looking for $1 billion a year in improved revenue from better use of its aircraft and improved product offerings.

There have been suggestions since the bankruptcy filing that American should close hubs, break-up the carrier or merge with another airline.

"I do not believe any of these outcomes are in the best interests of American, our people, or our stakeholders," Horton wrote. "But as I have said since the start of this process, there will be many parties with input into the outcome of our restructuring."

The company is meeting with the three major unions that represent the workers at American, the Allied Pilots Association, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transport Workers union, which represents ground workers including mechanics. Between them the three unions represent about 54,000 employees at American and its feeder airline, American Eagle, which also is owned by AMR.

Beyond job cuts, the unions are still waiting to hear details about proposed changes in work rules, like requiring longer hours for flight crews.

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