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NEW YORK – Wanted: A few good recruits to serve coffee and help combat terrorism at 30,000 feet.
American Airlines said Wednesday that it will post job openings for 1,500 flight attendants next month. It will start hiring in December and put the new staff in training beginning in January.
That may seem like a strange move for a company trying to cut labor costs under bankruptcy protection, but the airline needs to replace some of the 2,205 flight attendants who have accepted a $40,000 buyout to leave the company – the equivalent of about a year’s salary. It’s the first time the company has hired flight attendants in 11 years.
The departing flight attendants all started working before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that included the crashes of two American Airlines jets.
Since then, they’ve seen their company lose more than $10 billion. In 2003, workers accepted pay cuts to keep American out of bankruptcy, then were outraged to discover that hundreds of management employees have received bonuses.
The flight attendants’ final departures will be staggered over the next year.
The job they’re leaving has lost the allure it had back when passengers flew in their Sunday best and received free meals in coach. It often involves long hours and responsibilities ranging from basic hosting duties to medical interventions – and even terrorism prevention.
Briefings on the buyouts were standing-room-only, according to representatives of the flight attendants’ union.
The offer was open to those with at least 15 years at the airline, which currently has about 16,000 flight attendants.
The buyouts were part of a concessionary contract approved by flight attendants in August and were aimed at reducing the number of layoffs.
The contract would impose tougher scheduling rules but give the attendants a 3 percent stake in American’s parent, AMR Corp., after it emerges from bankruptcy protection.