Pilots Union Held In Contempt

Dutch tennis player Raemon Sluiter returns the ball to Russian player Dmitry Tursunov during their match at the Davis Cup tennis meeting between The Netherlands and Russia in Amsterdam, Feb. 10, 2006.
A federal judge held a pilots union and two of its board members in contempt Saturday for defying his court order, saying they did not do enough to encourage disgruntled American Airlines pilots to return to work.

About one in four American pilots called in sick Friday at the nation's second-largest airline, which in turn canceled several hundred more flights planned for the long Presidents Day weekend. More than a half-million passengers have been affected by the week-long sick out.

U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall said he would decide Feb. 17 how much to fine the Allied Pilots Association, union President Rich LaVoy, and union Vice President Brian Mayhew.

The judge indicated the fine would be in the "eight figures" and ordered that the union set aside $10 million in a bond to pay it. He ordered LaVoy to set aside $10,000 and Mayhew $5,000.

A spokesman for American Airlines, which had asked Kendall to declare the union in contempt, said officials had mixed emotions.

"We're gratified with the judge's order but clearly disappointed it has come to this," said spokesman Chris Chiames. "A majority of our pilots are doing their jobs and we hope the rest come back real soon."

LaVoy said he was not surprised. He plans to review his options with his lawyers before deciding whether to appeal. "We obviously don't agree with the judge's order," he said.

Union members have been calling in sick and refusing to accept overtime since Feb. 6 in a dispute concerning how quickly American should integrate the pilots from recently purchased Reno Air into its own roster.

American officials said Saturday that 5,600 flights have been canceled since the work action began, affecting more than a half-million travelers. The cancellations have cost American between $67 million and $90 million, Chiames said.

By Katie Fairbank