American Airlines employees head to D.C. to rally for merger

Posted Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Dozens of American Airlines employees and a few US Airways workers boarded a charter flight at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on Tuesday to head to Washington, D.C., to rally in support of the airlines’ merger.

Kris Jetzer, a six-year employee of American, said workers at the airline want to see the merger approved so AMR Corp., American’s parent, can emerge from bankruptcy.

“It puts American into a very competitive spot in size as the largest carrier in the world, and we’ll be able to compete again against a merged Delta and a merged United,” Jetzer said before boarding the morning flight.

The merger between American and US Airways has been on hold since the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit in August. The government says the merger is anti-competitive and would hurt consumers with higher fares and more fees.

“The DOJ is saying, ‘No, no, no,’ and we’re saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’” said Tara Paige, an eight-year reservations specialist who works from her home in Arlington. “They need to see the face of American, not just the company but they need to see me as a person.”

Some employees took vacation time to attend today’s rally at the Capitol.

Tariq Mahmood, a 17-year employee, is usually off Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so it made sense for him to volunteer to show his support for the merger.

“This was my day off, so I said, ‘Let’s go,’” Mahmood said. “As employees, we’re sacrificing our time to support this.”

Zack Minter, 22, has been with American for only one month, working in the Admirals Club at DFW Airport, but says he is an example of what the merged airline could be.

“The new American really places a lot of value on the customer and cultivating relationships with our customers and our people,” Minter said. “If we’re able to merge with US Airways, we can bring that level of customer care to a larger group of people.”

Most passengers on the charter work for American, but a few are US Airways employees, some of whom have been at American’s headquarters to coordinate integration of the two carriers. A similar charter flight for employees at US Airways’ headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., also left for the Capitol on Tuesday.

Hundreds of pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, baggage handlers and other employees from the two companies are scheduled to be in Washington to talk up the merger with members of Congress. Union officials representing flight attendants, pilots and other airline employees are also scheduled to speak.

The rally is scheduled to include U.S. Reps. Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound; Robert Brady, D-Pa.; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth; and Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.

Fort Worth resident and US Airways flight attendant Greg Bentley said he believes that the merger provides job security for himself and his co-workers, who have survived previous bankruptcies and furloughs in the tumultuous industry.

“We can’t remain a weak carrier in this environment, and the only way that we’re going to be successful is to be a stronger single airline,” Bentley said.

While employees are rallying at the Capitol, American’s board of directors is scheduled to meet to discuss the merger. CEO Tom Horton plans to ask the board to remove his $20 million severance package from the merger agreement.

Last week, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane ruled that Horton’s compensation did not conform to the bankruptcy code and should not be included in the restructuring plan.

However, Lane did approve the restructuring plan, allowing AMR to emerge from bankruptcy protection if the antitrust suit is resolved in the carrier’s favor.

Staff writer Chris Adams conributed to this report.

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk

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AA employees make trip to Washington

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