American Asks Pilots to Defer Vacations on Staffing Concern

AMR Corp.’s American Airlines asked some pilots to voluntarily delay vacations this month to ensure adequate staffing after more retirements than the carrier expected.

September’s 111 retirements are about 10 times the monthly average over the past year, according to the Allied Pilots Association. Forty-five captains and four first officers who fly Boeing Co. 777s were among the retirees, the union said in an e-mail to members.

“At this time, we’re pretty confident we can cover the near term,” Missy Cousino, an American spokeswoman, said in an interview. “That’s why we have systems in place like reserves and the ability of pilots to pick up additional time. We’re feeling like we’ll be able to cover it with a buffer.”

Pilots who opt to defer vacations can reschedule the time off later in the year, receive pay for the unused time at the end of 2011 or roll it into 2012, Cousino said today. She couldn’t say how many pilots had responded to the request.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline, the third-largest in the U.S., has not asked the union to temporarily waive any contract provisions involving work rules or scheduling, said Sam Mayer, an APA spokesman. American operates 47 Boeing 777s, its largest aircraft.

The larger number of retirements resulted in part from pilots seeking to obtain maximum value for stock in their pension plans, Mayer said.

The plan allows pilots to lock in the share price 60 days prior to retirement, meaning those leaving in September could avoid share declines that occurred in July and August. AMR fell 33 percent during those months, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 7.7 percent.

AMR closed at $7.79 on the last day of 2010. The shares gained 15 cents or 4.5 percent to $3.47 at 4 p.m. today in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

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