Obviously, an effort to provide flight attendants at the merged American/US Airways with an "industry leading" contract did not go as planned. Rather, in a ratification election, the proposed contract lost by one-tenth of 1% of the vote. The chatter following Sunday's vote count has been bitterly divisive.
Must Read: American Airlines' Labor Issues Again Complicate a Merger
Nevertheless, on Tuesday the former management team of America West -- which began in 2004 to openly chase mergers and now runs American, the world's largest airline -- was at it again, kicking off the most important labor negotiations it has ever faced with an opening charm offensive.
Formal contract talks with the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 15,000 American pilots, begin Wednesday. The airline submitted a proposed agreement along with a letter from President Scott Kirby, who said he has backed down from one of the airline's primary goals, a request to add five seats to large regional jets flown by affiliated carriers.
"We have excluded that request, even though we believe it is in the company's best interest, in an effort to build much needed trust into our labor-management relations at the new American," Kirby wrote.
Kirby said adding five seats to 76-seat regional jets would bring more passengers into the hubs where American feeds the mainline flights flown by APA members.
But Kirby noted he has spent a lot of time with pilots recently, explaining his views. In that process, he saw up close that "the pilots of American do not fully trust management." He said he understands why mistrust exists at both American and US Airways. "We want to change that perception and the entire leadership team at AA is working very hard to do so," he wrote.
Besides abandoning the change in the scope clause, the contract offer gives American pilots "the highest pay rates among our large, network peers, and does so well before anyone could have contemplated," Kirby said. He sees the offer "as a sign of good faith to demonstrate the trust we want to build."
A response late Tuesday from APA President Keith Wilson was non-committal. "The proposals appear incomplete, as they do not address many of APA's quality-of-life-related negotiating priorities," Wilson said in a prepared statement. Pilot leaders were scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss their next step.
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