- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2003

Pilots for American Airlines over the weekend offered $660 million in concessions designed to save the struggling company from bankruptcy.
The Allied Pilots Association, which represents 13,500 American Airlines pilots, said its Saturday proposal includes across-the-board pay cuts and work rule changes designed to increase productivity and efficiency.
The proposal comes on the heels of tentative agreements made late last week between AMR Corp., parent of the world's largest airline, and seven of its eight groups represented by the Transport Workers Union.
The company has asked all of its workers to make cuts totaling $1.8 billion in annual savings to keep it out of bankruptcy.
If the concessions are not enough to prevent Chapter 11 protection, American would be the third major airline to file for bankruptcy in the last year. US Airways and United Airlines filed for Chapter 11 last year; US Airways emerges from bankruptcy today.
The industry has been hard-hit by a sluggish economy, terrorism fears caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks and war on Iraq.
It lost $5.2 billion in the past two years and expected to lose $800 million in the first three months of 2003. Fitch Ratings estimated last week American would lose as much as $150 million in April because of the war in Iraq.
American has laid off more than 1,000 pilots since September 11 and is expected to lay off 1,000 more this year.
Shares of AMR Corp. closed at $1.58 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.
They have lost more than 94 percent of their value in the last 12 months.
The pilots union said it modeled its proposal after similar deals it made with United and US Airways.
Union officials said they met every day for the past month to craft the proposal for American. Union spokesman Steve Blankenship, who is a pilot, said in an interview that the airline could file for bankruptcy as soon as today if it does not accept the concessions.
American had not ratified the agreement by late yesterday, and did not return phone calls requesting comment on the pilots' plan.
"Our intention from the beginning was to get this out so we can immediately begin the ratification process," Mr. Blankenship said.
American is continuing talks with flight attendants and mechanics. The airline on Thursday reached tentative agreements with the 16,300 members of its fleet service group, and on Saturday reached tentative agreements with clerks, dispatchers, meteorologists, technical specialists and technicians.
It reached an agreement with instructors Saturday.
"Face-to-face negotiations continue around the table, around the clock with the mechanics, flight attendants and pilots," American said in a statement yesterday.
It is still not clear whether the airline will be able to continue operating.
James Little, director of the air-transport division of the Transport Workers Union, said in a letter to members Saturday that American probably will need an additional $500 million in concessions to operate in bankruptcy.
But Mr. Blankenship said the pilots can't afford many more concessions.
"There's only so much that people can give, especially with the profession of a pilot," he said. "The passengers put so much confidence in us, and we have to operate with a clear mind."
Mr. Blankenship said agreeing to concessions was difficult for pilots, who have been operating under "extreme pressures" since September 11.
The war in Iraq has made matters worse, but he said that even though the airline industry is struggling, pilots remain optimistic.
"This is an industry that has been heading for a crash," Mr. Blankenship said.
"With that said, fuel prices are down, the war could possibly end soon and we have all indications that if we can pull out of this nose dive, there will be a recovery."

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