updated 2/4/2005 7:05:09 PM ET 2005-02-05T00:05:09

Pilots union leaders said Friday they have approved contract concessions that could save struggling ATA Airlines up to $12 million over the next four months.

The tentative agreement, which calls for 120 days of across-the-board wage reductions and reduced contributions to retirement accounts, still must be approved by members of the Air Line Pilots Association local representing ATA’s 988 flight crew members.

Union members overwhelmingly rejected a $6 million concession package on Jan. 10. But ATA pilot Erik Engdahl, chairman of the union’s executive council, said the airline’s financial situation had worsened since then despite improvements in airline management.

“A majority of the local union leadership believes we now must step forward and help our company survive long enough so that ATA can begin to reap the benefits of its new codeshare agreement with Southwest Airlines,” Engdahl said in a news release.

The code-share agreement, which allows passengers to buy one ticket and fly on either airline, went into effect Friday. Company officials have said the deal could mean $30 million to $50 million in new revenue for each airline.

Specifically the temporary concessions endorsed by union leaders Friday would cut flight crew pay by 20 percent and reduce ATA’s contributions to a flight crew retirement plan by half.

Union members were to begin voting on the cuts Friday. Voting will end on Feb. 14.

ATA Airlines, which is owned by ATA Holdings Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection in October.

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