AMR Pilot Group Committee Bid On Hold

February 29, 2012

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A demand by an American Airlines' pilots group to form its own bankruptcy committee was put on hold on Wednesday after an attorney for the group said new "dramatic facts" had emerged that could change its stance.

A bankruptcy judge granted a request by the American Independent Cockpit Alliance to postpone until Tuesday a hearing on whether it can form a committee to advocate for its rights in the bankruptcy of American Airlines parent AMR.

The group, whose members are mostly pilots who worked for TWA before it was bought by AMR in 2001, have said the current creditors' committee will not serve its interests.

The Allied Pilots' Association, the pilots' union representative on the committee, has longstanding "hostility" toward TWA pilots, the cockpit alliance said in court papers.

But "dramatic facts relayed to us... at five o'clock this morning" could change the cockpit alliance's stance, its lawyer, Lucas Middlebrook, said at a hearing on Wednesday in US Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

Middlebrook did not elaborate. Judge Sean Lane set a Thursday deadline for the cockpit alliance to file court papers with more details.

While he granted the alliance's request for a postponement, the judge expressed frustration with the group, as did an AMR lawyer.

An Allied Pilots Association spokesman refuted characterisations of hostility toward any member faction.

"We have a duty of fair representation," spokesman Gregg Overman said.

Other groups, including AMR retirees and a group of passenger service agents, have also asked to form committees. AMR and its creditors' committee have opposed those requests, which are set for a hearing on Tuesday.

The nine-member creditors' committee features a heavy union presence, including the Allied Pilots, the Transport Workers Union and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

Labour is a crucial and contentious issue in the airline's restructuring, as the company and its various unions try to renegotiate the terms of collective bargaining agreements.

Bankrupt airlines have traditionally saved hundreds of millions of dollars through labour concessions and are allowed to reject agreements. AMR has told its unions it needs USD$1.25 billion in labour-related savings and must cut 13,000 jobs.

The Allied Pilots sued AMR on Tuesday, asking a court to rule the airline cannot reject its contract because it has technically expired. The sides have been negotiating a new deal since the current one ran out in 2008, according to the lawsuit. The Allied Pilots say laws require AMR to respect the terms of its current contract until a new one is reached.