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American Airlines flight attendants protest conditions

D/FW AIRPORT - Flight attendants for American Airlines demonstrated, held signs and passed out travel pillows to passengers Friday as they protested what they said were poor working conditions and deteriorating service at the airline.

Attendants marched at four airports nationwide, including Los Angeles, Miami and LaGuardia Airport in New York as well as Dallas/Fort Worth Airport."We want the customers to know that we feel their pain," said Diana Dunn, a 21-year American flight attendant who is also an official with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union that represents American attendants.

The union began contract talks with American earlier this year, and is hoping to win higher wages and improved work rules, after taking steep cuts in 2003.

American spokesman Tami McLallen said the airline "respects the rights of employees to express their opinion." She said American is working with the union to forge a contract that can benefit attendants as well as keep the airline competitive.

"Our goal is simple, we want to strengthen our airline so we can provide security and opportunities to the thousands of men and women who work for us," she said.

Brad Norr, a D/FW-based attendant, said American flight attendants routinely receive the brunt of complaints and frustration from passengers about poor service.

"Who can blame them, they're packed into these seats, we've taken away their pillows, and if you can even find a blanket it's probably dirty," said Norr as he stood outside D/FW's Terminal C. "We want the passengers to know we're not their enemy; we're on their side."

Attendants passed out travel pillows stamped with the address for their Internet site, www.paxforpax.com. The site, which is called "Peace for Passengers," makes a case for improving attendant wages and working conditions, and attempts to enlist passengers to send comments to the airline.

Since the 2003 concessions, which kept American out of bankruptcy, many attendants have complained about longer work days and less rest time between flights, as well as no meals during long shifts. Because of wage cuts ,many work more hours each month to keep from falling behind.

"It's become a much more difficult job," Dunn said.

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