American Airlines Inc. pilots, who accepted a 23 percent pay cut in 2003, say they want a share of the carrier's future profits.
The Allied Pilots Association's board of directors adopted a resolution Saturday that says the pilots, "who gave a disproportionate share of the 2003 concessions which saved American Airlines from bankruptcy, shall share in the return of the profitability of our company."
At American's request, the company and union began contract talks in September, even though the contract normally wouldn't be amendable until 2008.
Neither side has made a firm proposal on what it's seeking from the other.
However, union leaders have indicated they expect to increase pilot pay, particularly in light of pay increases for top American executives and bonuses of nearly $100 million that went to management this year.
The resolution "just means shared gain," said American pilot Denny Breslin, head of the union's communications committee. "We've all shared the pain. The management has reaped the rewards of that pain. Now the board is giving the negotiating committee the direction to say it's our turn. We want our return on our investment and want our money back."
The company has indicated it wants to increase the number of hours every pilot flies each year, decrease the amount of sick leave and change the way it schedules pilots on reserve.
Reserve pilots are assigned flights on an as-needed basis, rather than bidding on a set schedule each month.
With its finances battered by a slowdown in business travel and the fallout from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist acts, American narrowly avoided bankruptcy in April 2003 by negotiating $1.6 billion in pay cuts and other concessions from its employees. The pilots contributed an estimated $660 million a year.
AMR Corp., American's parent, lost more than $8 billion between 2001 and 2005 but posted combined net income of $306 million in the second and third quarters of this year.
Those profits marked AMR's first consecutive quarters in the black since the third and fourth quarters of 2000.
"We are certainly pleased with the progress we have made financially," American spokeswoman Sue Gordon said. "However, two profitable quarters does not a complete turnaround make. We have still a long way to grow to reach our goal of sustained profitability."
American has to be competitive with all areas of its business, Ms. Gordon said. "Despite our recent progress, our company is still at a competitive disadvantage to its peers," she said.
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Pilots at American Airlines are seeking an across-the-board pay raise and more control over scheduling as the two sides begin early contract talks.
The airline is expected to want more flying time and pay likely to be issue.