AMR pilots union meets company CEO, still backs USAir merger: spokesman

Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:42pm EST

A US Airways plane takes off behind an American Airlines jet at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington April 23, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A US Airways plane takes off behind an American Airlines jet at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington April 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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(Reuters) - American Airlines' pilots union still supports a merger with US Airways GroupLCC.N, a union spokesman said on Thursday, unmoved by a pitch from AMR (AAMRQ.PK) Chief Executive Tom Horton that the company should exit Chapter 11 as an independent carrier.

Next week, US Airways CEO Doug Parker is expected to meet with the board of the Allied Pilots Association, spokesman Dennis Tajer said.

Horton, who became CEO of American parent AMR Corp as the company filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011, requested the meeting with the pilots union leadership and met with the board for about three hours on Thursday, Tajer said.

"The case was made for the standalone plan, and APA leadership gave the standalone plan pitch due consideration but after the meeting continued to believe that a merger is best for the longtime interest of our pilots and our airline," the spokesman added.

American Airlines met with the union to thank it for its leadership in reaching a new labor contract, "discuss the next steps in our evaluation of strategic alternatives and exchange information," according to a statement from spokesman Mike Trevino.

US Airways declined to comment.

US Air has been pushing for a merger with American all year, and its plan has the support of unions that represent American's flight attendants and ground workers, in addition to the pilots union. The two carriers combined would be on par with current No. 1 United Continental Holdings (UAL.N) in scope.

"We anticipate that Mr. Parker will articulate his vision and plan for the new American Airlines next week," Tajer added.

American Airlines creditors want a potential merger with US Airways to be an all-stock deal rather than one that pays some claims in cash, people familiar with the matter said this week. Merger discussions among US Airways, AMR and its creditors are at an advanced stage, the sources said.

The pilots unions at both American and US Airways said this week they would join the merger talks with AMR creditors and the companies. The Allied Pilots Association last week approved a new labor accord with American that grants it a 13.5 percent equity stake in a reorganized AMR.

Keith Wilson, president of the pilots union, said in a message to members on Wednesday that Wall Street analysts suggest an American-US Airways merger is likely. "While I will refrain from speculation, we must be ready to move quickly toward a potential merger," Wilson said.

American Airlines shares rose 16.9 percent to 76 cents on Thursday, while US Airways rose 2.1 percent to $12.97.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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