American Airlines has yet to emerge from bankruptcy after 22 months of restructuring, but it’s starting to act like a thriving enterprise.The Fort Worth-based carrier said Monday it will begin the process of hiring hundreds of new pilots and told employees that they are likely to receive profit-sharing payments next year.The airline is opening up its application process today to begin hiring 1,500 pilots over the next five years — the first time it has done so in more than a decade.American had announced last fall that it would need to recall and hire as many as 2,500 pilots in five years as more pilots reach the mandatory retirement age and the government introduces new pilot rest rules. American began recalling 650 furloughed pilots in January, and the last furloughed pilot, who had been laid off in late 2001, returned to the carrier in May.“Today marks an important step toward a bright future at the new American,” said American’s vice president of flight, Capt. John Hale. “We’re providing our current pilots with the strongest career advancement and growth opportunities in more than a decade, while continuing to build a premier airline and world-class employer they can be proud to fly for throughout their careers.”The carrier has close to 500 pilots who are over 60 and will need to retire within five years when they reach the Federal Aviation Administration’s mandatory retirement age of 65. New federal regulations requiring more rest time for pilots will also go into effect next year, requiring major airlines to have more pilots available to fly.American said it plans to initially hire 45 to 50 pilots per month through next summer. Some will be hired from American Eagle as part of an arbitration ruling made in 2010 that requires American to hire a certain number of Eagle pilots in each hiring class.Allied Pilots Association spokesman Gregg Overman said American’s pilots union welcomes the news that the carrier will be hiring its first new pilots since 2001.“While we are pleased — it certainly beats the alternative — we believe the best way to secure a long-term future at American Airlines is to see the merger with US Airways completed,” Overman said. American’s unions have long supported the merger.In a letter to employees on Monday, American CEO Tom Horton said that the carrier is still open to settling its pending antitrust case with the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a lawsuit in August to stop American’s merger with US Airways. A trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 25 in federal court in Washington, D.C.He added that American workers may see some profit-sharing payments next year if the airline continues to post profits in 2013.“While the year isn’t over, and profit-sharing is based on full-year results, I’m optimistic that in March 2014 we’ll be able to make profit-sharing payments for the first time in many years,” Horton said.American Airlines’ parent company, AMR Corp., reported a $71 million profit in August, according to a court document filed on Monday. The company has been undergoing a bankruptcy court reorganization since November 2011. In its monthly operating report, the carrier posted a monthly profit of $165 million excluding reorganization fees and one-time accounting items. The financial disclosure is required by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.The company said it spent $27 million on aircraft financing renegotiations and rejections and $9 million on professional fees during the month. It also spent $4 million on “other” reorganization items which are not detailed in the report.AMR said that its mainline carrier, American Airlines, had passenger revenues of $1.8 billion with its regional affiliates, including American Eagle, contributing $263 million. Total revenues for the month were $2.34 billion, up 7 percent from last year.The company ended the month with $643 million in cash and $5.5 billion in short-term investments for a total of about $6.1 billion on hand. That number does not include $935 million in restricted cash.Separately, in a filing made in federal court Monday, the carriers said they have given the DOJ more than 400,000 documents as part of the pre-trial activity for the antitrust trial.That does not include the 925,000 documents the carriers gave the DOJ as part of the government's investigation into the merger prior to filing the antitrust suit last month, the carriers said.The DOJ has turned over 560,000 documents to the airlines attorneys and taken eleven depositions of witnesses at the two carriers, according to the filing.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk