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AIR TRAVEL Comair pilots consider pay freeze



Published: Thu, February 17, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Regional airline says it needs pay concessions to afford 35 new aircraft.

CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Comair pilots union is in talks with management about a pay freeze the regional airline says it needs to buy new planes critical to its long-term survival, a union spokesman said Wednesday.

The Air Line Pilots Association's tentative agreement with Comair is its first public sign of support for new President Fred Buttrell's request that all employees pitch in to help the airline win new business serving major carriers. Negotiators for both sides are trying to finish putting the details into writing this week, then pilots would begin voting within days.

Comair, which is based at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport and serves 119 cities, is facing pressure from lower-cost rivals, including Chautauqua and Atlantic Southeast.

Pilots seek changes, too

Buttrell, who took over at Comair on Jan. 17, wants the 6,000-employee airline to improve its reliability and customer service after a computer system failure forced the airline to cancel all Christmas Day flights, stranding thousands of passengers.

Brian Moynihan, a spokesman for the Comair pilots union, said the proposed agreement would give the approximately 1,800 pilots contract improvements they have sought in quality-of-life issues.

Comair spokesman Nick Miller said the company appreciates the pilots' support but still needs flight attendants to accept a pay freeze to buy as many as 35 new jets.

Leaders of Teamsters Local 513, which represents 1,050 Comair flight attendants, are meeting with the company this week to discuss a possible pay freeze. Spokeswoman Jacqueline Underwood said the union needs more information before seeking members' approval.

Mechanics consider contract

Comair pilots make from $23,000 for a starting first officer to $109,000 for a senior captain. Flight attendants make $20,000 to $40,000.

Comair mechanics are voting this week on a new contract that would give them 2 percent pay increases.

In December, Comair announced that managers and nonunion employees would not receive pay raises this year. Buttrell said he and other top managers will take 10 percent pay cuts beginning March 1.

Buttrell wants the pay freeze to last for the duration of the pilot and flight attendant contracts, which he would like to extend for a year. That would extend the pilots' contract and the pay freeze into 2007 and the flight attendant deal into 2008.




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