American Airlines doles out bonuses despite $375 million loss


American Airlines is bleeding money, and its unions say they are subsisting on peanuts in coach while corporate executives sip champagne in first class.

On Wednesday, the AMR Corporation, American’s parent company, announced it lost $375 million in the first quarter of 2009.

Meanwhile, American Airlines executives will receive $6.5 million in stock-based bonuses this year, with bonuses doled out over the past four years totaling $300 million, according to the Allied Pilots Association. The union based the information on AMR’s filings on Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“A bonus is supposed to be paid for a job well done,” says union spokesman Captain Sam Mayer in an interview with the Huffington Post. “You’ve got a company bleeding money, consistently trailing just about every other carrier — where’s the performance?”

AMR is mired in negotiations with all three of its unions, and while the $6.5 million is not huge — smaller than previous bonuses and doled out to over 900 people — the unions are seizing on it to cast company executives as feeding at the trough while workers’ wages languish.

In a statement to the Huffington Post, American Airlines spokeswoman Missy Latham says the company hasn’t paid a cash bonus since 2001, and that it’s payouts are small.

– In addition to salary and short-term incentive pay, we compensate our leadership with long-term incentives, such as options, deferred shares and performance shares, which take three to five years to vest and their value to the individual is solely based on the company’s performance. Our executive pay is designed to offer median pay when compared to positions in and outside the airline industry.

The value of any shares granted under the Performance Share Plan won’t be known until they vest, but it’s expected this year’s plan will pay out significantly below the value targeted by the AMR Board in 2006. The declined value of these shares demonstrates the downside of at-risk compensation and serves as an illustration of our compensation philosophy that tightly links pay to company performance and shareholder interest. –

Several hundred members of the Transport Workers Union — mechanics, bag handlers, folks who clean planes — protested Tuesday outside the company’s corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. They brought giant novelty bonus checks made out to company executives, then canceled the checks by tearing them up, the Star-Telegram reported. The union also went viral, creating an online game in which players match checks to corporate executives. A cartoon of Gerard Arpey walks off with the biggest moneybags at the end.