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AMR/US Airways Deal Faces Pilot Seniority Hassles

"No matter how you look at it, we arbitrated this already," Ferguson said. "The problem of seniority integration between East and West pilots has already been resolved under the process specified in McCaskill-Bond." He said he would not accept fences that would protect East pilots from the impact of the arbitrator's ruling.

The most controversial section of the seniority ruling places about 1,000 East pilots, with around 15 years on the property and never laid off, behind West pilots with a few years on the property.

Unfortunately, during the arbitration process, a majority of East union leaders took the position that "date of hire" seniority should apply to all pilots, even pilots who were laid off at the time, which would have been unprecedented, and declined to negotiate.

Subsequently, the pilot group, about two thirds from the East, voted to leave ALPA, which had represented US Airways pilots for 57 years, to create USAPA. Now, some West pilots say the best thing about a potential merger is that USAPA would most likely go away.

As for TWA pilots, they wished for date-of-hire integration when they joined American. But when the seniority lists were merged, the top 2,500 spots went to American pilots. About half of the TWA pilots were integrated into the list at the rate of one TWA pilot for approximately eight American pilots. The lower half of the TWA seniority list was then "stapled" to the bottom of the American list.

In March, the bankruptcy court judge in the AMR case denied a request by the TWA pilots to be included on the creditors committee. The TWA pilots argued that APA did not represent their interests. Of 2,200 TWA pilots at the time of the merger, about 700 remain on active duty with American and 700 remain on furlough.

Meanwhile, a New Jersey federal court jury in 2011 decided that ALPA did not properly represent TWA pilots during the 2001 merger. The impact remains unclear. Bud Bensel, a retired TWA captain involved in filing the suit, said TWA pilots "want some seniority back," but noted it is hard to see how they would benefit in a merger deal negotiated by APA and USAPA.

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