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) -- Flight attendant unions at

American Airlines



US Airways


are taking the lead in advocating for a merger of the two carriers.

"We all think American needs to merge," said Laura Glading, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American flight attendants, in an interview. "We think American is going to be in jeopardy if it manages to emerge (from bankruptcy) as a standalone."

The APFA and the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents the US Airways flight attendants, recently issued a joint statement in support of the merger.

"Both unions firmly believe that an American Airlines/US Airways merger is in the best interest of the flight attendants at both carriers and are committed to working to further the goal of that merger," the statement said.

On Wednesday, US Airways flight attendant leaders reiterated that belief in a letter to members. They noted that a recently re-negotiated contract agreement, which remains to be ratified, is "the cornerstone of our strategy, (providing) industry-leading scope protections and contract improvements, to ensure we enter the merger from a position of strength." Said Glading: "Their membership is as excited as ours about the prospects for a merger, so we are working together."

American's other unions continue to support a merger, but somewhat less intensely. The Transportation Workers union has focused on preserving its options, in case a merger cannot be completed.

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"We have tried to explore every option that would save jobs at American Airlines and keep the airline competitive," TWU President James Little has said. "We think the AMR board of directors should do the same."

On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Keith Wilson, president of the Allied Pilots Association, said "size does matter (and) a consolidated airline coming out of bankruptcy will be much stronger and much more highly competitive with the two carriers,


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, flying international routes."

However, Wilson said the pilots have not taken as definitive a stand as the flight attendants. Unlike AFA and TWU, the APA has yet to reach agreement on a contract with American, which would be in place were the carrier to emerge from bankruptcy without a merger.

"We're still open to exploring all options," Wilson said. APA vice president Anthony Chapman noted, however, that the tentative contract agreement with US Airways "is still more value rich" than a tentative contract agreement with American, which was rejected by pilots.

For the moment, Wilson said, US Airways executives have ceased speaking with pilot leaders. US Airways perhaps anticipates it will sign a non-disclosure agreement with American, enabling the two to confidentially discuss financial results. On Wednesday, James Ray, spokesman for the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, which represents US Airways pilots, said that "US Airways has in fact been asked by AMR, as a sign of good faith, to cease union negotiations and behave as if the NDA has already been signed," Ray said. "US Airways has agreed to honor that request."

Meanwhile, US Airways on Thursday applauded the flight attendants' agreement to jointly advocate for the merger. "Flight Attendants at US Airways and American Airlines recognize that a US Airways/American Airlines merger will provide career opportunities and job security for their members," said US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr. "We congratulate the leadership at the Association of Flight Attendants at US Airways and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants at American Airlines in reaching this agreement."

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Ted Reed