US unions not already tied to concessions packages could be moving away from accepting cost-cutting measures that the airlines say are essential for sustainable profitability.

The battle cry began last week following Northwest Airlines' announcement of an unexpected $42 million net profit for the three summer months. Almost immediately its mechanics union, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, declared the results indicative of the industry's cyclical nature, and that profits at Continental Airlines and Northwest demonstrate that the "worst is over".

This stance, more vocal than other union statements, but not too far removed from their general sentiments, conflicts directly with that of the airlines.

Northwest admits that its first profitable quarter since early 2001 was unexpected and led its third quarter statement with renewed calls for its unions to concede to demands for $1 billion in annual labour savings.

Delta Air Lines - which has just enforced new working rules on its non-unionised flight attendants - last week also appealed to its pilots to return to the negotiating table to consider "reasonable" cuts.

Source: Flight International