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American Airlines, which wants to eliminate 13,000 jobs under a bankruptcy reorganization, separately plans to cut additional 500 flight attendants this spring because it's flying less than it did a year ago.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union that represents the workers, said Wednesday that those at the bottom of the seniority ladder could be out of work by April 1.
American Airlines spokeswoman Missy Cousino said capacity cuts scheduled in 2012 mean "We have more flight attendants than necessary."
Cousino, who confirmed that the 500 job cuts are in addition to the 13,000 the company said last week that it plans to eliminate, said furloughs would be needed if the company can't free up enough jobs through voluntary options such as 1-year leaves of absence.
Hunter Keay, an analyst with Wolfe Trahan & Co., said schedules published by American Airlines and affiliate American Eagle indicate that the company will cut passenger-carrying capacity by 2 percent in for February through April compared with last year.
Airlines cut capacity by reducing flights and using planes that carry fewer passengers. Delta and United, which are profitable, unlike American, also are reducing seats. Limiting the supply of seats can drive up fares.
American has 73,000 employees, including 16,000 flight attendants. Including Eagle and other subsidiaries, parent AMR Corp. has about 88,000 workers. Of the 13,000 jobs that the company wants to eliminate during the bankruptcy process, 2,300 would be flight attendants.
Meanwhile, the flight attendants and American's two other unions are preparing to begin negotiations over the company's reorganization plan, which also calls for terminating pension plans, requiring more hours from some workers, and closing a major maintenance facility in Fort Worth.
American Airlines executives have said they will consider union alternatives if they cut labor costs by $1.25 billion per year.
If American and the unions can't agree on cost-cutting steps, American could ask a bankruptcy judge in New York to throw out previous labor contracts and impose the company's plan.