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Continental Furloughs 148 Pilots... But It Could Have Been Worse

Mitigation Agreement Spared 326 Jobs Through Retirements, Leaves Of Absence

The union representing pilots at Continental Airlines announced Tuesday that its efforts, along with the participation of pilots who took part in the programs outlined in a negotiated agreement with Continental, were successful in saving the jobs of 326 Continental Airlines pilots who otherwise would have been furloughed.

"The pieces really came together for this effort," said Captain Jay Pierce, chairman of the Continental chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association. "We were able to propose some very unique and forward thinking ideas to management that started the ball rolling. In a cooperative process, the union and Continental were able to reach agreement on ways to achieve reductions voluntarily rather than by the traditional cuts through furloughs. And of course, our pilots who chose to participate in the programs were the third key component. Putting it all together, I think it had benefit for Continental, but of greater concern, this helped our pilots and their families."

The announcement comes as Continental furloughs 148 pilots, beginning Wednesday. Another 151 will retire early, and 64 will accept leaves, union spokeswoman Amy Flanagan told the New York Times.

The agreement -- designed to reduce or eliminate furloughs -- included retirement incentives, leaves of absence and reductions in the number of hours flown. The majority of jobs were saved from pilots leaving due to retirement incentives, followed by an overall system-wide reduction in the average number of hours each pilot flies, pilots taking leaves of absence and last, a program where pilots could decide to voluntarily reduce their flying time.

"However, we firmly believe that furloughing 148 pilots, a relatively small number given the 500 pilots who were initially sent furlough notices, does not accomplish the strategic savings a typical furlough would net," Pierce said. "It is our belief that the best interests of Continental would be better served by preserving these jobs in order to have the ability to rapidly respond to an ever changing industry."

ALPA represents over 53,000 pilots at 37 airlines in the United States and Canada, including the nearly 5000 pilots at Continental Airlines.

FMI: www.alpa.org, www.continental.com

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