Thursday, July 3, 2008

American Airlines cutting 900 flight attendant jobs

American AirlinesAt it annual shareholder meeting earlier this year, American Airlines announced plans to cut capacity in the coming months, and acknowledged that the capacity reduction would result in the loss of thousands of jobs across every work group. This week, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), the union representing American Airlines flight attendants, was notified of plans to cut 900 flight attendant jobs.

According to the APFA, the letter to the union stated that the 900 most junior U.S. based flight attendants are subject to furlough effective August 31, 2008. Several measures intended to mitigate the impact of the work force reduction requirements have been negotiated between the APFA and American Airlines.

The first of these measures is called the Voluntary Bridge to Retirement (a program similar to one offered by United Airlines to its senior flight attendants last month). Under the provisions of the American Airlines Voluntary Bridge to Retirement, the company will offer a severance payment of $15,000, plus medical and pass benefits to flight attendants who are at least 50 years of age who will have at least 15 years company seniority as of August 31, 2008. In addition, American Airlines will offer Overage Leaves of Absence and opportunities for Partnership Flying, a job sharing plan.

A Hotline message on the APFA website about the work force reduction said that the one-time Voluntary Bridge to Retirement will be awarded first, followed by leaves at bases with an overage. Where overages then still exist, partnerships will be awarded. After these three voluntary provisions are exhausted, and should any overage still exist, the company will then determine how many flight attendants will need to be furloughed involuntarily in order to meet flight attendant work force reduction target of 900.

According to the flight attendants' contract with American Airlines, “When there is a reduction in force, the Flight Attendant(s) with the least system seniority shall be laid off." Presumably the majority of those would be the former TWA flight attendants, who also were furloughed after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. American Airlines recalled 200 of those furloughed flight attendants in May of 2007, and another 460 in August of 2007.

As of the end of June, there were still 1,192 American Airlines flight attendants on furlough from the earlier layoffs. This week's announcement of new furloughs surely comes as a blow to those who have been awaiting recall for years.

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