Comair pilots agreed by more than a 2-to-1 margin Friday to accept wage cuts and other concessions the Delta Air Lines Inc. subsidiary said it needs to stay competitive and emerge from bankruptcy.
A recorded message by the Air Line Pilots Association said that of those voting, 770, or 69 percent, voted to accept the settlement, with 350, or 31 percent, against. The airline has nearly 1,500 pilots.
Comair said the agreement would reduce its costs by $40 million over the next four years. It earlier gained concessions from the unions representing mechanics and flight attendants as part of its restructuring.
"The sacrifices we have asked of all employees are difficult. I will be glad to have these times behind us, and I am sure all of you will as well," Comair President Don Bornhorst in a message to the airline's 6,500 employees.
The company said it now expects to come out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late April or May.
The tentative agreement was reached only after talks broke off and Comair announced it was planning to impose concessions on the pilots. The union leadership put the agreement to its members, who completed their vote Friday.
Comair, based near Cincinnati in Erlanger, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2005 along with its Atlanta-based parent. The regional airline has been working since then to achieve $70 million annually in cost savings to complete its restructuring plan.
Analysts say Comair must continue to focus on keeping costs competitive if it is going to retain Delta's business and survive.
"Comair can be replaced," said Mike Boyd, an aviation industry analyst with The Boyd Group. "It has had generally superb quality, just not the costs. If Comair doesn't get its costs down, Delta will take its business elsewhere."
The deal came after a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in December ruled the airline could impose concessions on its pilots if no agreement was reached. Pilots had authorized their union to call a strike if concessions were imposed, but the judge blocked any strike or job action that would disrupt service.
The pilots union leaders recommended the deal's approval even though union officials said they weren't completely satisfied with it.
Comair had said it would impose concessions Sunday if pilots did not ratify the pact. Pilot pay would range from about $21,120 to $95,000, down from $22,500 to $108,600, with pay cuts ranging from about 7.75 percent to 13 percent.