Airline says bankruptcy won’t affect Aspen service | AspenTimes.com

Airline says bankruptcy won’t affect Aspen service

In this June 29, 2011 photo, American Airlines aircraft sit at Terminal D gates at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, in Grapevine, Texas. American Airlines and American Eagle's parent companies are filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

ASPEN – The parent company of American Airlines announced Tuesday that it is filing for bankruptcy protection, just two weeks before the airline is scheduled to make its first flight into Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. But officials say the move will not affect service locally.

“There will be no change to our plans at [the Aspen airport]. … Tell the board this will serve to make us a stronger company,” wrote Gary Foss, vice president of planning and marketing for American Airlines, in an email read at Tuesday’s Aspen Chamber Resort Association board meeting. “It is unfortunate that we could not reach agreements with our labor groups outside of this process in spite of six years of strenuous effort, but we are crafty and will now apply that craftiness against a level playing field.

“I think you’ll see some impressive things going forward.”

Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, who shared the email message, agreed.

“All reports are that American will continue with normal operations, so I wouldn’t expect that we will see any impacts from this announcement,” Tomcich said, noting that most airlines that have served the Aspen market, if not all, have done so under the protection of bankruptcy at some point. “In fact, bookings on American are looking really, really good so far.”

American Eagle Airlines, the regional affiliate of American Airlines, will begin daily flights between Dallas/Fort Worth and Aspen, as well as between Los Angeles and Aspen, on Dec. 15; service is planned for winter and summer. American joins United and Frontier, which serve the resort year round.

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According to Tomcich, Tuesday’s announcement actually might create more opportunities for American in the Aspen market, though it will be “a long time before we see any results or changes.”

“For the short term, it’s business as usual,” he said. “In the long term, this could potentially free American Airlines from some pilots agreements related to regional jet service, which could put them in a position for some unique opportunities.

“But it’s really way too soon to speculate.”

American, the nation’s third-largest airline, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an effort to cut costs and unload massive debt built up by years of high fuel prices and labor struggles. AMR Corp. will delay the spinoff of its regional airline operation, American Eagle, which was expected in early 2012. AMR Eagle Holding Corp. also filed for bankruptcy.

jmgovern@aspentimes.com

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