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Retirees complain, but American CEO says travel policy won’t change

American Airlines jets taxi at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Thursday, March 26, 2015. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)
American Airlines jets taxi at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Thursday, March 26, 2015. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison) Star-Telegram

American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker told retirees Wednesday that the carrier will not revert to its old policy for employee travel.

Several retirees at American’s annual shareholders meeting in New York expressed unhappiness with the new policy, which gives them lower priority than current employees for flying standby.

“We feel we were severely downgraded with our pass benefits,” retiree Gail Dunham said. “You devalued what we worked a lifetime to accomplish.”

This was the second year in a row that retirees voiced concerns at the shareholders meeting.

Parker said the airline has no plans to change the travel policy.

“We are happy with the way we manage it,” he said. “We do appreciate and understand your concerns but are committed to stick to the program we have because we feel it is the one that is most fair for everyone.”

At issue is a change made last year that gave all active employees priority on the standby list over retirees. Previously, retirees and active employees were placed on the standby list based on when they checked in 24 hours before a flight.

When American and US Airways merged in late 2013, the airlines needed to align their policies. At the time, US Airways employees were placed on the standby list based on seniority while American employes were placed based on check-in time. As a result, US Airways employees conformed with American’s check-in-time policy, and all retirees were placed in a category below active employees.

Parker said retirees can get on 76 percent of the time when they ask to stand by for a flight. And when employees and retirees get on a flight, all of them are able to successfully fly standby 97 percent of the time. In only 3 percent of the cases do employees get on a flight and retirees don’t.

“The reality is, as I hoped would be the case, our retirees are being able to travel,” Parker said. “They’re being able to travel at a slightly higher rate than our actives are, getting on more than 3 out of 4 flights.”

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631

Twitter: @Sky_Talk

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