Fort Worth-based American Airlines said Wednesday it will close its Kansas City maintenance base next September, along with four smaller maintenance stations at other airports across the country.
The closure of the Kansas City base is a final blow to city officials who fought for years to keep the base open.
In 2005 the airline signed a 25 year lease to continue its operations there, and Kansas City offered about $85 million dollars in incentives in exchange. The base has a long history that dates back to the heyday of TWA airlines, before American purchased the carrier in 2001.
In a letter to employees, American Senior Vice President Carmine Romano said, "As American, like the rest of the industry continues to reduce capacity, we must be strategic in structuring a maintenance system that serves the needs of the fleet we fly today, as well as the plans in place for our airline in the future." Romano said the airlines fleet has shrunk from a high of 900 planes to about 600 today.
American is offering a $12,500 separation allowance to employees who opt to leave before the September 2010 base closure. The airline will also offer a program for more senior mechanics to "stand-in-stead", allowing less senior employees to keep their jobs.
The closures will result in the loss of approximately 700 jobs, the company said in a letter to employees. Transport Workers Union that respresents mechanics said in a statment that the news was difficult to accept. "We’re still hopeful that before the Kansas City
facility closes late next year that industry conditions will improve and allow many of our members to find work elsewhere in the company", TWU director John Conley said in a statement.
City leaders in Kansas City did not immediately react to the news. After a meeting Tuesday between airline officials and local politicians, City Manager Wayne Cauthen, told the Kansas City Star “They told us not to say anything. They wanted to talk to their employees.”
The airline also plans to close smaller maintenance stations at the airports in Kansas City, Detroit, Minneapolis, and San Jose.
American also has major maintenance bases in Tulsa, Okla., and Fort Worth, Texas. It has considered closing a base for several years, but held off after expanding its business of working on other airlines' planes.