American Eagle flight attendants question merger benefits

Washington DC
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Flight attendants at American Eagle Airlines are raising concerns regarding the benefits of the proposed merger of American Airlines and US Airways for the carrier.

The 1,800 cabin crew at the wholly-owned regional carrier cite American’s recent outsourcing of flying and a lack of answers regarding a post-merger American Eagle for their increasing concerns about the future of their jobs, says the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) in a statement.

“To date, American Eagle flight attendants have not been shown how our contributions will be valued at the new airline,” says Robert Barrow, AFA president at American Eagle. “This merger may not be good for all workers.”

Fort Worth, Texas-based American has repeatedly cited the need to diversify its regional feed, which is largely provided by American Eagle currently, as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring.

Republic Airlines began flying the first of 47 76-seat Embraer 175s for the carrier on 1 August, ExpressJet Airlines introduced 11 50-seat regional jets in February and SkyWest Airlines began flying 12 50-seaters in November 2012 as part of this diversification strategy.

In addition, American Eagle has closed crew bases in Los Angeles and San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of the restructuring.

The AFA paints a picture of more concessions to come at American Eagle in the event of a merger. The carrier’s flight attendants ratified a new labour agreement with American that included pay cuts and other concessions in September 2012.

However, the flight attendants have not been included in any of the memorandum of understandings between labour groups at American and US Airways and the airlines’ regarding contracts following the proposed merger.

“We’re not so much opposing the merger,” says the union. “There’s just so many questions and no answers have been given to our workers.”

The AFA claims that US Airways management approached the airline’s pilots union the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) regarding further concessions in exchange for new E-175 aircraft this past June. These aircraft were subsequently offered to pilots at the Tempe, Arizona-based carrier’s subsidiary PSA Airlines to fly at reduced rates in a contract that was ratified this month, according to the AFA.

The American Eagle ALPA master executive council (MEC) did not comment on these claims by press time. However, a letter from MEC chairman captain Tony Gutierrez on 6 September says that the new contract ratified by PSA pilots includes the addition 30 Bombardier CRJ900s from American with the first aircraft having to enter service by 2016.

American is in talks with both Bombardier and Embraer regarding an order for in the ballpark of 60 76-seat CRJ900s or E-175s. The order is expected to be finalised before the end of the year but was delayed by the US Department of Justice’s challenge to the proposed merger in August.

American did not comment by press time.