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TWA Flight Attendants' Fury at American Airlines Takes Flight

Early last week we posted a short item on the ongoing tiff between former TWA flight attendants and American Airlines. It has since generated 61 comments and counting, one of which came from an American Airlines spokesperson defending his company's position. Who knew that Unfair Park is the place where pissed-off flight attendants go to rant?

The fight boils down to this: American bought TWA in 2001. They were to be "Two Great Airlines" Sharing "One Great Future," according to AA's slogan at the time. But "after giving job assurances to the TWA employees and Congress for a fast track approval of the acquisition," according to a press release Unfair Park received, "only seven percent of the entire TWA workforce remains employed." Roger Graham, who served TWA for 18 years as a flight attendant and who sent the release, says of the approximate 4,000 former TWA flight attendants, not a single one is working for American Airlines. Not. One.

Earlier this week, Graham told Unfair Park that at least 200 former TWA employees are living in Dallas, without jobs. “These are people who spent their whole life at airlines, and now they are left with nothing,” he said. “Some of them were let go just days before retirement.”

Of course, those TWA flight attendants aren't the only ones furious with American: Yesterday, American Airlines pilots demanded a 30.5 percent pay raise, in addition to signing bonuses. According to pilot union leaders, this would make up for pay cuts that the employees took four years ago. And they would cushion the blow of last week's news that AMR Corp.CEO Gerard Arpey received a total compensation package of $10.2 million for 2006.

But at least those pilots have their jobs. Graham tells Unfair Park that after the merger six years ago, he and other former TWA flight attendants were put near the bottom of the seniority list by the union that represents American’s flight attendants. As a result, they were the first to go when American began layoffs after September 11, 2001. According to their contracts, American has no obligation to rehire them after five years.

Graham says American is simply waiting for that time to pass so the company can then hire less-experienced -- and therefore cheaper -- flight attendants off the street.

But he says American has plenty of money to rehire them. Since the terror attacks, he says, the airline has received millions from the federal government in bail out money. And news of Arpey's megamillions package doesn't make things look better over at American. Indeed, it's what fueled many of the comments that have been appearing on Unfair Park since April 23. To wit:

As one of the many who wish to return to the job that I known as my own, and as I read the newspaper report of how many flights have had to be cancelled because people were not available or legal for work why are you not recalling? We promise to be good and work nicely with others. We promise to promote the company. Why can't we come back?

And:

The issue has always been money. Now it is obvious that it is not. The execs got the bonuses and cashed in on millions of shares of stock (see you may suffer too, general public). So why can't I work? Why after 30 years have I been put aside? I made about $23,000 a year as a flight attendant with AA and I am now too expensive to recall.

And:

It is totally unconscionable the way American Airlines has treated furloughed workers from 9/11. Hiding behind a "contract" with the flight attendant union to unload itself of a more senior group of flight attendants is corporate shenanigans at its lowest level ever!

And:

If not recalled by this time next year I will never recieve the retirement I earned over the last three decades. No money, no benefits, no medical insurance, nothing to show for the last 30 years except a full sickbank that I earned over those many years, never used and may never see (you must retire to cash it in). I am the sole wage earner and caretaker for myself and there is not a day that goes by that I don't worry about time running out. I am one of many of us living in this state of fear.

They go on and on. And they all more or less say the same thing: Gerard Arpey isn't getting any TWA coffee, but he might be a swell TWA tea. --Jesse Hyde

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