February 28, 2006
Statement of ALPA ATA Master Executive Council Chairman Capt. Jim Anderson Regarding ATA’s Emergence from Bankruptcy
“Today ATA Airlines has finally exited bankruptcy after almost a year and a half of tumult and trauma for its loyal employees and customers. While the ALPA-represented pilots of ATA have sacrificed more than any other employee group and almost all other creditors, they stand ready to aid in the continued challenges ahead.
“This is a great day for all ATA employees, not just because of our airline’s survival, but because leaving bankruptcy once again levels the labor-management playing field. The bankruptcy law put all the advantages on the company’s side. We can now be agents of our own destiny once more and negotiate with the company as equals.
“Bankruptcy didn’t ‘go easy’ for us. Almost one-third of our membership has been furloughed. The average pilot took a 40 percent pay cut, and captains who were downgraded to first officers lost almost 60 percent of their salary. Our retirement benefits were frozen and we pay far more for health insurance than we did before. In total, we have given up $151 million in pay and benefits since 2004.
“But thanks to the dedication, professionalism and personal sacrifice of our crewmembers, ATA has survived. Now it’s up to management to make our airline thrive. We’ve given them the tools--now they are accountable for our future performance.
“ATA can be profitable, as evidenced by the considerable interest in the company by the investment community and various potential suitors, and the fact that a number of ATA’s competitors are profitable, even in the current climate. The first step in returning ATA to its rightful place in the airline community is to ensure that ATA’s pilots--as career professionals and creditors in the bankruptcy--are equal partners in this new venture, and that the monumental sacrifices they and their families have made in the process will reap rightful and just return on those investments.
“We are cautiously optimistic that ATA’s business plan can work. It plays to our strengths in international and charter flying. But we need to be a partner, not a puppet, of Southwest Airlines. We also need long-term stability, not short-term risk-taking. As pilots, we know prior planning prevents mistakes, and our management needs to think ahead and not rely on hasty decision-making.
“We commit to helping management grow our world-renowned international charter business and grow the Southwest codeshare so that we can bring back our more than 300 furloughed crewmembers. We will be as flexible as we can to help strengthen our airline and attract new business, but only when it won’t impose additional harm on our crewmembers or further damage their quality of life. Our contract becomes amendable in October 2008, and we will begin negotiations in mid-2007. Until then, we will hold the line on any further erosion of our pay, work rules and benefits.
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are. Today represents the first step in the beginning of the New ATA. With commitment, shared sacrifice and intelligent planning, the future can be bright--but only if the new airline is more thoughtful and makes wiser choices than the old one did.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s oldest and largest pilot union and represents 61,000 airline pilots at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org.
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ALPA CONTACT: Rusty Ayers, 773-284-4910; 847-323-9519 (cell)