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America West Avoids Strike

Flight attendants and America West Airlines reached an contract agreement late Friday, ending a four-year fight over pay that brought the airline to the brink of a strike.

The 2,300 flight attendants were free to strike after 12:01 a.m. EST Saturday, but three days of talks with federal mediators in Washington resulted in a settlement. Details were not expected to be disclosed until Saturday.

"Each side got to make sure they're getting the absolute maximum," union attorney Stephanie Sloggett-O'Dell said.

There was no immediate comment from the airline.

The strike had threatened to leave up to 100,000 passengers stranded this weekend. America West, the nation's ninth largest airline, serves 53 domestic destinations overall and eight cities in Mexico and Canada. It has hubs in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio.

The Association of Flight Attendants had threatened a series of random worked stoppages, dubbed CHAOS, for "Creating Havoc Around Our System."

On Thursday, it conducted a dry run to see how long it would take to get word to flight attendants that a flight was being struck and then to inform passengers. Union spokeswoman Deanna Clarkson said the flight attendants believed they could shut down the airline in 7 minutes.

America West threatened to fire flight attendants involved in such a strike and warned that it may shut down the entire airline.

The flight attendants have been locked in a feud with the airline for four years since they unionized in 1994 three years after America West filed for bankruptcy protection.

During the bankruptcy reorganization, flight attendants took a 10 percent pay cut, which has not been restored. The company, buoyed by low fuel costs and good economic times, posted record profits in 1997 and 1998.

The flight attendants have been demanding that their pay be on par with the average of the top 10 carriers. Currently, about two-thirds of America West's flight attendants earn the top-scale salary of $23,800. Top-scale flight attendants at rival Southwest Airlines earn $41,200.

The flight attendants also want the same daily expenses that pilots receive, $1.80 an hour away from their base city. Currently, flight attendants get no per diem allowance.

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