US Airways Pilots Still Fight for Pension Payouts, 11 Years After Bankruptcy Case

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- In March 2003, as it was emerging from the first post-Sept. 11 airline bankruptcy, US Airways terminated its pilot pension plan, depriving thousands of pilots of comfortable retirements they had come to expect.

Eleven years later, the court battles are still being fought after two groups of pilots sued the government-backed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which took over the plan.

In one case, the US Airline Pilots Association, which represents US Airways pilots, contends that the agency -- as the plan's trustee -- should have investigated and pursued wrongdoing that occurred before the takeover occurred. A decision could come any day.

In the other case, the Soaring Eagles -- a group of mostly retired 1,700 pilots --  have challenged the agency's interpretation and calculations of how benefits should be paid out. The interpretations deprive retirees of thousands of dollars per month, the Soaring Eagles said. Two courts have rejected their arguments. In a last-ditch effort, the Soaring Eagles now hope to convince the Supreme Court to hear the case.

During the round of airline bankruptcies and consolidations that has occurred in the first 15 years of the 21st century, no major airline pilot group has paid a higher price than pilots from the former Crystal City, Va.-based US Airways. The pilots lost their pensions, worked for industry-low wages for a decade and suffered from a controversial seniority ruling following a 2005 merger with America West Airlines.

The wage disparity was generally addressed in the 2013 merger with American Airlines (AAL). But following the American merger, the US Airways pilots contend that contract improvements have been delayed and worry that their union could disappear before a seniority list is prepared.

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