- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

FORT WORTH, Texas, Feb. 13 (UPI) — The flight attendants' union at American Airlines says it is willing to discuss limited concessions to help the struggling airline but the company must first prove it needs $340 million in cuts from its 25,000 members.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants' response came late Wednesday following a board meeting and it offered no promise of immediate action to accept the airline's plea for $1.8 billion in wage and benefit cuts from its unions.

American, the world's largest airline, said Feb. 5 that the concessions were necessary if the Fort Worth-based company was to compete with low-cost airlines such as Southwest Airlines and avoid bankruptcy like United Airlines and US Airways.

AMR, American's parent company, lost $3.5 billion last year and $1.8 billion in 2001.

A resolution adopted by the APFA board stated that any relief the union agrees to would have to be limited and temporary. Leaders said their action also did not mean they would accept the amount of concessions proposed from their membership.

"If the need for relief is demonstrated to APFA's satisfaction, the relief to be provided will be designed to address and will be limited in scope and duration to meet the specific demonstrated need for relief," APFA President John Ward said in a hotline message to members.

Ward said every effort would be made to protect the union's current industry leading contract with American. The two-year-old pact doesn't expire until 2004 so any temporary concessions would have to be approved by members. The average base pay is $29,000 annually for domestic attendants and $31,000 for international attendants.

American said in a statement that it was pleased with the union's openness to talk.

"We are very encouraged that the collaborative process we have been engaged in for some time with all union leaders has been productive," the statement read.

American has asked for permanent concessions totaling $660 million from pilots, $620 million from ground workers, $340 million from flight attendants, $80 million from ticket agents, and $100 million from management.

The unions representing pilots and ground workers have not formally responded to the request but the Allied Pilots Association's board is meeting this week in Fort Worth to draft its strategy.

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