- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

CHICAGO, Feb. 27 (UPI) — Flight attendants at bankrupt United Airlines have proposed a new contract to save the carrier more than $1 billion over six years.

The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 24,000 United employees, said it was committed to ensuring the airline's reorganization is successful.

"Our proposal provides flight attendant cost savings that enable the airline to achieve a durable cost structure that is directly competitive with lower cost carriers in terms of overall flight attendant costs," said AFA United Master Executive Council President Greg Davidowitch in a statement Wednesday.

United got a temporary 9 percent pay cut from flight attendants after it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Dec. 9 to help the airline qualify for federal loan guarantees that were denied and demanded much larger givebacks from pilots and mechanics.

The union's proposal is significantly lower than the $1.9 billion in concessions proposed by United for its flight attendants between now and 2009. United has said it wants to create a low-fare discount carrier, code-named "Starfish," a proposal opposed by both the AFA and the pilots union.

United has lost more than $4 billion since mid-2000 and desperately needs to lower operating expenses.

UAL Corp., United's parent, has said it would ask a bankruptcy judge to void union contracts unless the unions agreed to major wage and benefit concessions.

AFA said its proposal included wage cuts and work rule and schedule changes that would enhance long-term efficiency at United, which is saddled with higher labor costs than low-fare competitors like Continental, Southwest and Jet Blue airlines.

"A cost structure that makes it possible for United to compete with the lower-cost, low-fare carriers while maintaining our premium product, would make United the leaders in the industry once again," Davidowitch said.

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