American Airlines job cuts rattle Miami
By Scott Blake
The painful fact that Miami's dominant airline and one of its largest private employers is bankrupt is starting to hit home.
American Airlines' parent company wants to eliminate about 13,000 jobs — about 15% of its workforce — as the nation's third-largest carrier reforms itself under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Last week's announcement sent shockwaves through Miami.
"We never want to see anyone lose their job, and we will continue to help those who may," Frank Nero, CEO and president of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the county's economic development agency, said in a statement.
"We are hopeful American will keep its routes to and from Miami, and continue to employ most of its employees and contract local vendors," said Mr. Nero, whose agency has identified aviation as a key industry for local job retention and growth.
American employs about 9,000 people in South Florida. The company has not disclosed its local staffing plans.
However, the company plans to consolidate around its five key markets, including Miami, boosting the number of departures in those cities by 20% over the next five years. That includes increasing international flights, which bodes well for Miami, American's busiest international hub.
American is to start new flights between Miami and Barcelona in April, and between Miami and Manaus, Brazil, in June. Also in June, the airline will increase flights between Miami and Brasilia and Belo Horizonte, both in Brazil, said American spokeswoman Dori Alvarez.
Miami-Dade Aviation Director Jose Abreu said he has had discussions with American representatives, who said the airline has no plans to cut flights in Miami.
"They intend to grow this hub because there are higher [revenue] yields for international flights," Mr. Abreu said.
Still, if American wants to cut jobs in other cities, some employees in Miami may lose their jobs because they have less union seniority, called
getting "bumped," Mr. Abreu said.
When asked about American's staffing plans for Miami, Ms. Alvarez, the American spokeswoman, said: "Market-specific plans have not been announced."
In addition to American and subsidiary American Eagle handling nearly 70% of the passenger traffic at Miami International, the company also is a major cargo transporter here.
Whatever happens to American, local officials said, will send ripple effects through the local economy.
"As a major private provider of local jobs, American Airlines plays a vital role in the economic development of our community and is an important partner in driving international commerce to South Florida," Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement.
"While current economic headwinds have forced American Airlines to make some difficult decisions," the mayor added, "we believe the restructuring process will give American the flexibility to build and invest in its strongest markets, like Miami, where they've set significant goals for growth."
The ripple effects of American's reorganization could be felt most in Miami's tourism industry.
"The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau has a strong historical business relationship with American Airlines," William D. Talbert III, the bureau's CEO and president, said in a statement. "Working closely with [American's] Miami office, we have successfully partnered on marketing efforts worldwide that have resulted in making Greater Miami a top global destination."
Mr. Talbert added: "We stand ready to work with our industry partners to assist employees in our community impacted by the reorganization. It is our hope that the Greater Miami hospitality industry — which has seen 19 consecutive months of positive job growth — will be able to provide employment opportunities."
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