Tuesday, February 02, 2010

AMR May Train Attendant Stand-Ins in Case of Walkout (Update1)

February 01, 2010, 08:24 PM EST

By Mary Schlangenstein and John HughesFeb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- American Airlines told U.S. officials it's studyingthe training of replacement workers in the event of a flight attendants'strike at the world's second-largest carrier, the Federal AviationAdministration said.

AMR Corp.'s American hasn't taken steps to implement such a plan, AlisonDuquette, an FAA spokeswoman, said today in an interview. Any shortenedtraining sessions for replacement workers would require clearance by theagency, she said.

"The airline has told us they are considering" training new attendants,Duquette said. "If they decide to go ahead with that, we would be approvingthat training as part of the process."Alerting the FAA about a possible training need highlights the tension atAmerican as it prepares for five days of talks with the Association ofProfessional Flight Attendants starting Feb. 27.

The union has said it willseek a release from further bargaining, a step toward a walkout, if nocontract is reached.American is "working to coordinate an approved contingency training program,should it be necessary," while focusing on reaching an agreement with theflight attendants, said Missy Latham, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth,Texas-based carrier.

Such plans are "standard in the airline industry duringcontract negotiations, " she said.David Roscow, an APFA spokesman, said the union had no immediate comment.APFA represents about 16,550 active-duty attendants at American, which makes1,900 flights a day, excluding its American Eagle commuter unit. Americanhas 1,408 attendants on furlough, including 550 laid off in 2009.

1993 Training

In 1993, American trained about 1,300 managers and volunteers in an attemptto keep more planes flying during a five-day strike by attendants. The workstoppage, which occurred just before Thanksgiving and ended whenthen-President Bill Clinton intervened, cost the carrier at least $10million a day.

Replacements underwent a 10-day course that focused on safety and wasmonitored by the FAA. Federal requirements call for 1 flight attendant forevery 50 seats on an aircraft."It's hard to know how successful something like that would be," said RobertW. Mann of consultant R.W. Mann & Co. in Port Washington, New York. "It's aseffective as replacements can be with the proviso that customers usuallynotice the difference.

"American and the attendants' union have been in talks since June 2008.Eleven contract articles remained open when the two sides ended a focused11-day negotiating session on Jan. 21. After the new talks were scheduledthis month, the union delayed a strike-authorization vote set for as earlyas Jan. 22.--

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