American Near Decision on Cutting Service

Wednesday, July 2nd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ American Airlines is laying off 3,100 flight attendants and nearing decisions on cutting more flights, closing maintenance facilities and parking nearly five dozen additional airplanes.

American, the world's largest carrier, moved to complete the layoffs Tuesday as part of a plan to save $4 billion a year. Of the 3,123 workers losing their jobs this week, 1,780 had worked for Trans World Airlines before American's parent, Fort Worth-based AMR Corp., bought TWA out of bankruptcy two years ago.

``We will not be able to fly every nonstop route we fly today, nor will we be able to provide the same level of service in markets that cannot profitably support our current flight schedule,'' said chief executive Gerard Arpey.

American is expected to close one or more of its maintenance facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, Tulsa, Okla., and Kansas City, Mo., and is reviewing its eight U.S. reservations centers.

The airline is dealing with a long and continuing slump in air travel that began with the 2001 recession. American said Tuesday that miles flown by paying passengers in June fell 3.2 percent from the weak results of June 2002.

American has trimmed its fleet by 57 planes in the last year, and will idle 57 more by next summer. Meanwhile, flight-attendant layoffs announced in mid-May finally took effect this week.

Timothy Legeros of Boston planned to turn in his uniform and keys on Wednesday, ending a happy but brief career as a flight attendant.

``I still love it and would go back if they called me tomorrow,'' said Legeros, 33, who became an attendant after stints in real estate and retail. ``It was the best three years of my life.''

The last remaining TWA attendants, based in St. Louis, were at the bottom of American's seniority list, making them the first to be laid off, no matter how long they had been flying.

``Of course it's a difficult day, but we understand these furloughs are needed to keep American Airlines on the path back to profitability,'' said Julia Bishop-Cross, an American spokeswoman in St. Louis.

Maura Sanders of Arlington, Texas, became a flight attendant three years ago, at age 44, realizing a dream since high school.

``It was so long to get here, it hurts. It's hard to let a dream die,'' she said.

Legeros said he felt lucky to be young and ``probably much more employable'' than longtime TWA attendants.

``If you're 60 and trying to find a job, good luck,'' he said. ``I feel for them _ you'd be inhuman if you didn't.''

Making the layoffs even tougher for many former TWA workers is that under a deal between their union and the airline, severance benefits were dropped. For some top-scale TWA flight attendants, that meant a loss of two months' pay, or about $8,000, workers said.

The loss of severance benefits was just one item discussed in a hearing last week in federal court in New York, where former TWA flight attendants asked for an injunction to stop the layoffs. A judge denied their request Monday.

The workers' lawsuit against American and the flight attendants' union is still pending, charging in part that employee voting on labor concessions was tainted.

John Ward, president of the union, said giving up severance benefits was ``painful'' but necessary to protect other contract rights won in previous years of bargaining. He said the union made the best of a bad situation.

``It's staggering to think that in one fell swoop go 3,123 jobs,'' Ward said. ``We always hope the furloughs will be the last.''