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American Airlines, Pilots Dig In For Marathon Talks -- Feb. 14, 1997

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Clinton Urges Cooperation In American Airline Talks

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 14) -- As American Airlines executives and pilots continued non-stop talks in hopes of averting a strike before a midnight deadline, President Bill Clinton suggested both sides to "reach out to one another in the best interests of the nation."

Clinton was urged by the airline's president, and by several mayors and members of Congress, to invoke his emergency powers to require American's pilots to remain on the job for a 60-day "cooling-off" period. So far he has stayed on the sidelines.

"Today, I want to say no more than I did yesterday, except to re-emphasize that it should be obvious to everyone looking at this that it cannot be a good thing for American Airlines," Clinton told reporters Thursday afternoon at a press conference.

Clinton

"But more importantly, it cannot be a good thing for the people of the United States," Clinton added. American Airlines carries about 20 percent of U.S. air passengers each day.

The pilots are threatening to strike over salary issues and a dispute over which planes and routes they fly. As representatives from both sides of the dispute said the non-stop talks would continue, the Transportation Department predicted on Thursday that a strike would cost $200 million per day and affect some 40,000 passengers.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill lawmakers were supporting Clinton's approach.

pilots

"The president is saying let the parties keep working," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) told reporters. "He is doing what I would do because of course we would all like for this to be settled in the free market. But he is also keeping his options very, very open. He does understand the enormous impact that this is going to have on business as well as consumer travelers, and it is going to be terrible and I think he realizes that."

Based at Chicago's O'Hare airport, American has already canceled a dozen domestic flights, including in and out of White Plains, N.Y. and Orange County, Calif. Most overseas flights have been canceled including scheduled departures to Japan, Central and South America, and most of Europe, so crews and planes would not be stuck overseas in case a strike occurs.


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