US Airways has struck deals with labor unions at American Airlines to win their support for a possible merger with American.
The unions represent more than 50,000 workers including pilots, flight attendants and ground workers at American, the nation's third-largest airline.
They said Friday that a merger with Tempe-based US Airways Group Inc. is the best way to fix American, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November.
US Airways CEO Doug Parker said the agreements do not mean that US Airways has agreed merge with American.
"It only means we have reached agreements with these three unions on what their collective bargaining agreements would look like after a merger, and that they would like to work with us to make a merger a reality," Parker said in a statement released Friday morning.
"To get to an actual merger," Parker continued, "many more things must happen, including gaining the support of AMR's creditors, its management team and its Board of Directors. But this is obviously an important first step along that path and we are hopeful we can all work together to make this happen."
The unions oppose American's plan to cut 13,000 union jobs and sharply cut labor costs to return to profitability. American is seeking to throw out contracts with the unions that govern pay, benefits and work rules, and impose its own terms on employees.
Thomas Horton, CEO of American Airlines' parent company, AMR Corp., has indicated he would prefer that AMR remain independent but is open to a merger after his company emerges from bankruptcy protection.
Friday's gambit by US Airways and the American Airlines unions could complicate Horton's strategy, however.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. Story by David Koenig and Joshua Freed, AP Airlines writers. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation) contributed to this report.
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