American pilots ratify tentative agreement

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American Airlines pilots have voted to ratify a tentative contract agreement by a margin of more than 47 percentage points.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA)-represented pilots voted 73.7% for the contract and 26.3% against with 7,440 votes cast, according to a statement from union president Keith Wilson.

Fort Worth-based American says that it will ask the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York to consider approving the contract during a 19 December hearing. The court must approve the agreement before it can enter into force.

"We are pleased our pilots supported and ratified this agreement, which is an important step forward in our restructuring," says Denise Lynn, senior vice-president of people at American. "Once we've received court approval of this agreement, we will have new collective bargaining agreements with all of our unionised groups."

Wilson says that the APA continues to support a merger with US Airways as "the best path to a stronger, more competitive American", in the statement.

The contract allows American to increase the number of regional aircraft with 66- to 76-seats to 25% of the in-service mainline narrowbody fleet - 120 aircraft based on current numbers - through 2014. The percentage increases to 30% in 2015 and 40% in 2016 and beyond. However, it may be forced to replace small regional jets with larger aircraft as the regional fleet with more than 30 seats is capped at 65% of the narrowbody mainline fleet - or 313 aircraft.

American has 47 Bombardier CRJ700s with 63-seats and 213 small jets in its regional fleet.

Marcio Nobre Migon, head of the aircraft financing department at the Brazilian development bank BNDES, told Flightglobal that the airline's parent AMR is in talks with Embraer and other airframers regarding an order for large regional aircraft, in November.

American is understood to be considering the Embraer 170 or 175, or the Bombardier CRJ900.

The airline can also expand domestic codeshares with Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and other carriers, under the agreement.

A bankruptcy court judge approved American's section 1113 request to reject its existing pilots contract in September. Pilots rejected a previous tentative agreement between the airline and union by a 22 percentage point margin with 61% voting against in August.

American has operated under chapter 11 bankruptcy since 29 November 2011.