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COMAIR, striking pilots reach tentative agreement

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Comair and its striking pilots reached a tentative contract agreement Thursday to end a 2 1/2-month walkout that has shut down the nation's second-largest regional carrier.

The deal between Comair and the Comair chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association came after three days of talks with federal mediators, said National Mediation Board spokesman Dan Rainey.

Details of the tentative agreement were not immediately available.

A source close to negotiations said the union agreed to speed the ratification process and try to conduct a vote within 10 days.

Pilots overwhelmingly rejected an initial proposal offered by the board on May 12. They said it did not meet their demands for salaries more in line with larger carriers, shorter shifts, a company-paid retirement program and longer rest intervals between shifts.

The tentative agreement follows a meeting last week with Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, who urged the parties to resume talks and try to reach a settlement by Thursday. They have been negotiating since 1998.

Comair, based at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, has been shut down since the strike began March 26. The regional airline also operated a flight hub in Orlando, Fla.

Delta-owned Comair had been the nation's second-largest regional airline behind American Eagle, carrying an average of 25,000 passengers a day.

Since the walkout began, Comair has laid off 2,400 of its 4,000 nonstriking employees, eliminated 400 pilot positions, sold some aircraft and deferred capital projects.

The strike is the first for an airline since 1998.


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