http://www.dallasnews.com/business/...irlines-union-contract-dispute-lead-demotions Former TWA pilots sue American Airlines, union over contract dispute that could lead to demotionsFILED UNDERAMERICAN AIRLINES AT15 HRS AGO Three former Trans World Airlines pilots are suing American Airlines and its pilots union over their handling of a contractual dispute that could see at least 85 pilots demoted from captain to first officer. In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in North Texas, the pilots, now employees at American, requested a preliminary injunction to halt a grievance hearing scheduled to begin March 14. The case directly affects only a small number of American’s more than 15,000 pilots, but it helps illustrate the complicated web of contracts and protections spun by two decades of consolidation and bankruptcies. It also highlights the unending importance of seniority in an industry where pilots tend to stick with a single airline their whole career. The roots of the dispute trace back to 2001 and how TWA pilots were integrated into the seniority list after American acquired the airline. About 1,200 pilots were tacked to the bottom of American’s seniority list without credit for their time served at TWA. But American and the pilots union worked out an agreement to guarantee a limited number of jobs for TWA pilots at its former hub in St. Louis. Those protections changed after American’s 2011 bankruptcy and a subsequent renegotiation of the contract with the union, guaranteeing 260 captain positions on narrow-body aircraft and 86 captain positions on small widebody aircraft for former TWA pilots. But the protections were temporary and were set to expire when a single TWA pilot hired in 1997, Magnus Alehult, accrued enough seniority to become a captain on any aircraft in American’s fleet. Alehult hit that threshold in October, but only qualified for captain on American’s fleet of small regional aircraft acquired as part of its 2013 US Airways merger. The TWA pilots maintain that their agreement doesn’t apply to those lower-paying jobs on smaller regional jets. They also say the protections shouldn’t go away until Alehult qualifies for a captain’s spot on a larger narrow-body aircraft like the Boeing 737, where pilots earn as much as $82 per hour more. But three other American pilots filed grievances seeking to have those 260 protected captain jobs returned to the overall system, allowing any pilot with appropriate seniority to bid for them. The three American pilots who filed the grievance are all first officers who would stand to become captains if the change were made. According to the lawsuit, removing the protections would cause at least 85 former TWA pilots, including plaintiff Kevin Horner, to be demoted from captain to first officer and take a pay cut of $75 per hour because of their lack of seniority. Pilots are paid based on block hours, the time from when an aircraft door closes to depart and when it reopens upon arrival. The lawsuit said changes to the protected jobs also could force another 150 former TWA pilots to operate on reserve status outside their home base, which disrupts quality of life in addition to guaranteeing 15 fewer hours per month. American and the union have taken no stance on the underlying dispute. The grievances were expedited to binding arbitration for a resolution, with hearings scheduled to start next week. The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses American and the union of skipping several steps in the grievance process, a move the former TWA pilots say limits their time to respond. American and the Allied Pilots Association declined to comment for this report due to the ongoing litigation. The lawsuit alleges the actions by American and the union violate the pilots’ collective bargaining agreement and the Railway Labor Act that governs airline labor relations.