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Southwest, Pilots Union Agree On Bigger 737

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Southwest Airlines said on Thursday it reached an agreement with the board of its pilots' union that could pave the way for a larger-capacity Boeing 737-800 plane to be added to its fleet.

Dallas-based Southwest, which last month proposed buying low-cost rival AirTran to expand in US East Coast markets, said the tentative pact would now go before the full membership of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) for a ratification vote.

If approved, Southwest said the current pilot contract would be extended by one year and become amendable on August 31, 2012, and would include potential for pay increases based on company performance.

In September, Southwest gained tentative approval from the executive board of the union that represents its flight attendants to add the bigger aircraft. It said it was still studying training and scheduling needs and other regulatory issues entailed in adding the plane.

The Boeing 737-800 seats 189 passengers in a one-class configuration. Southwest currently operates smaller-capacity models of the Boeing 737. Use of the bigger plane would allow it to carry more passengers in gate-restricted and higher-growth cities.

The International Air Transport Association said on Thursday that growth in the number of passengers in business and first class slowed in August from July, suggesting that the post-recession rebound in international air travel could be easing.

(Reuters)

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