US Airways has struck deals with unions at American Airlines to win their support for a possible merger of the two airlines.
The unions are angry that American is trying to cut jobs and labor costs while under bankruptcy protection. They represent 55,000 pilots, flight attendants and ground workers at American, the nation's third-largest airline.
The unions can't force a merger on their own, but they can work with other creditors of American's parent company, AMR Corp., to persuade the bankruptcy judge to open the door to a deal.
Doug Parker, the chairman and chief executive of US Airways Group Inc., said Friday that to win a merger with American, his company still needs support of AMR's creditors, management and board of directors.
"But this is obviously an important first step along that path, and we are hopeful we can all work together to make this happen," Parker said in a note to US Airways employees.
Parker said a merger could save about 6,200 jobs at American, or nearly half the jobs that American wants to eliminate. He said he would keep both airlines' current hubs and planes to create a bigger company that could compete against United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
The pilots' union said US Airways executives promised that the combined company would be called American Airlines and be based in American's hometown of Fort Worth, Texas.
The three unions at American said in a statement that a merger with US Airways is the best way to fix American, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November.
AMR chief executive Thomas Horton has indicated he would prefer that AMR remain independent but is open to a merger after his company emerges from bankruptcy protection. American said Friday that the unions' comments "do not in any way alter the company's commitment to pursue our business plan."
US Airways flies an average of six daily departures from Long Island MacArthur Airport, a spokesman said Friday.