What the American Airlines merger could mean for the LGBT community

Posted on 14 Feb 2013 at 4:59pm

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For the thousands of gay and lesbian employees of American Airlines, today’s announcement of a merger with USAirways was good news. Because of a higher pay scale at US Airways, many will be getting a raise. And the merger creates job security for American employees after working for a company that’s been in bankruptcy for a year.

Bob Witeck, the gay president of Washington, D.C.-based Witeck Communications Inc., a public relations firm that works with American Airlines, said the merger would be good for the employees and passengers. He said everyone will keep all of their frequent flier miles, for example.

“I have worked with American Airlines for 20 years, and have witnessed the hard, pioneering work they have done to earn the LGBT community’s trust and loyalty,” he said. “I give them highest marks for always trying to get it right, and to stand by the values we share. In this new era, while we cannot know all the changes and great opportunities ahead, I cannot imagine that commitment changing one bit.”

In the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, American Airlines scores 100 percent. US Airways scored 100 percent in 2011 but only 85 percent in 2012 and 90 percent in 2013.

US Airways lost points in two categories in 2012. It only received five out of 10 points for businesses that offer at least three other soft benefits for domestic partners such as bereavement leave, employee discounts, FMLA leave or others. It also lost all points for businesses that offer at least one transgender-inclusive health care coverage plan.

In 2013, US Airways got the five points back for soft benefits but made no progress in transgender health benefits. Of the eight airlines measured, only American and United received 100 percent. The other six all rated 90 percent.

American Airlines was the first major carrier to add nondiscrimination protections, which it’s had in place at least 20 years.

In most mergers the policies that benefit more employees are usually the ones adopted by the merged company. That is not always the case, though. When Mobil and Exxon merged, Mobil employees lost many benefits they had in their former company.

The combined airline will have more than 6,000 flights daily. Where the two carriers compete on the same routes, flights may be cut. Cuts could mean job losses.

And with less competition on some routes, prices could rise. From Dallas, both airlines fly nonstop to Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

American Airlines has been a strong supporter of the LGBT community, especially in the D-FW area. The airline is a member of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, has sponsored events such as Black Tie Dinner as a silver sponsor and is the official airline of Dallas Pride.

Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox said she’s optimistic about the merger and relieved the company will remain in Dallas. She said RCD has a longstanding partnership with American and she recently signed a new contract with them.

“I think American will be interested in continuing their partnership with us,” she said.

Among the benefits the agency receives, she said, are airline tickets. At the Toast to Life fundraiser on Feb. 23, American tickets will be part of several travel packages that will be auctioned.

She said the long relationship with the carrier goes back to the 1990s and recalled gay Councilman Craig McDaniel obtaining a letter of support from the airline when the city voted on its first LGBT nondiscrimination policy. Cox called American a valuable ally.

Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, said: “For many years American Airlines has been a leader in diversity and inclusion for all customers it serves including the LGBT community, including its fair-minded employment policies and its supply chain. It is our hope and expectation that the new American Airlines will continue to be a strong partner with us and the strong allies we have in the LGBT community, and to live up to the very high standards it has set.”

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