FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - After becoming an American Airlines flight attendant in 1975, Paul Collins says he is now ready to hang up his wings. He says, "I've gone the distance, and I'm ready." At 61, Collins is among the flight attendants deciding to leave as part of the airline's early out incentive. He says, "It's about time. I don't think 37 years is necessarily an early out."
American's early out offer comes as the airline tries to emerge from bankruptcy. Flight attendants must apply by Thursday, and will receive $40,000 in cash. But they will give up all seniority, lose their company-subsidized health benefits, and can't be rehired. More than 1400 flight attendants have signed up, and the numbers keep rising.
The flight attendants fought hard and won the early out incentive, so they could avoid layoffs. Because so many of them have taken advantage of the program, the airline says no flight attendants will have to lose their jobs.
Relations between the union and American have been very tense. Before striking a deal, American originally proposed furloughing 2300 flight attendants.
Collins says, "It's been traumatic, but I feel we're going to get through this." For him, his career is not just professional, but personal too. His wife has been a flight attendant for 30 years, and she is staying on. They've occasionally worked on the same flight. When asked how that went, Collins says, "Great, I mean as long as I did what she told me to do. I always say Jack, I don't know about other guys, I'm the captain of my ship, my wife, the admiral, assures me I am."
TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION
In another development Friday, American Airlines said that early next week, it will notify 11,000 employees that their jobs could be impacted. The airline will send what's called WARN notices to the affected employees who are mechanics, fleet services clerks, and other units represented by the Transport Workers Union.
This does not mean that all of these workers will lose their jobs. American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks says if an employee's job is eliminated, depending on their level of seniority, they may be given a different position and may have to relocate.
In the process, they could bump someone who has less seniority. Hicks says this is being done according to the union contract. Of the 11,000 workers who could be affected, less than 40% will be furloughed. That's far lower than the 8,500 employees the airline originally proposed furloughing this past February.
OUTSOURCING OF MAINTENANCE
American Airlines has confirmed that it will soon outsource some of its jet maintenance to companies in the U.S. and China. It will take affect after American shuts down its maintenance base at Fort Worth Alliance airport.
Its 777 widebody jets will undergo what's called "heavy checks" in Hong Kong. Some of its 767 widebody jets will go to the airline's Tulsa maintenance facility, others will go to another company in Alabama. Some 757 aircraft will have maintenance performed in Florida.
Spokesman Bruce Hicks says the companies that will be doing the work are all well-established, and have done similar maintenance for other airlines for years. Hicks says the work is subject to inspection by American and the FAA.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Inspector General has criticized the FAA's oversight of these companies performing maintenance for the airlines. But the inspector general's office has said the FAA has made some improvements in recent years.
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