American Airlines' Tulsa base could benefit from merger
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2013
2/16/13 at 7:00 AM
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The merger between American Airlines and US Airways might actually be an opportunity for more work at the 6,200-employee Tulsa maintenance base, says Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber.
But before that happens, he said, the community needs to show support as the airline gets new leadership.
On Thursday, directors of American Airlines and Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways agreed on a merger deal that would create the world's largest airline, with more than 100,000 employees.
Elected officials from the Tulsa area and leaders of the Tulsa Regional Chamber gathered Friday to express support for the proposed American Airlines Group Inc. and find what they can do to preserve, or even expand, American's local maintenance base.
"It's such a massive opportunity, and it's imperative in my mind that we find a way to pay for the improvements we need," Neal said.
It was 15 months ago, just after American filed bankruptcy, that those same government and business leaders gathered for a similar meeting to express support for the airline. Then the goal was to save jobs in Tulsa, but at this week's meeting the mood was more celebratory because American now has a new partner and a clearer path out of financial trouble.
"It's hard to imagine what our region would look like without the impact of American Airlines and more than 6,000 employees that work there," said Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith.
With 6,200 workers at the Tulsa maintenance base, American Airlines is one of the largest employers in the area.
Last year, the Tulsa Regional Chamber organized a vote to fund $369 million of improvements to tenants at Tulsa International Airport, including the city-owned American Airlines maintenance center. But voters turned down the measure in November.
Neal said officials have not decided when they will go back to voters with another package, but he said they are looking into what kind of improvements are needed at the base and how the effort might be presented to the public.
US Airways operates a fleet of 340 aircraft, with 76 more planes on order from Airbus. Together, the merged airline will have nearly 1,000 aircraft that fly 900 routes.
Sam Cirri, president of Transport Workers Union Local 514, sees that as an opportunity to expand the services the base provides, adding work for local employees.
"I really think that the Tulsa maintenance base was one of the major reasons US Airways wanted American Airlines," Cirri said.
Doug Parker, who will be CEO of American Airlines Group, said he expects the merger to take about six months to complete.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett said it is important that area leaders remain united in support of the company.
"When this first happened and American Airlines first declared bankruptcy, the key is that we all stayed together," he said. "I know that united effort was not lost on the powers that be at American Airlines and at US Airways."
Original Print Headline: Area leaders hope for more AA jobs
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380