American Airlines plans to add 2,500 new pilots over the next five years in a combination of new hires and recalls of furloughed pilots, CEO Tom Horton said on Wednesday in a letter to employees.
The announcement, which comes amid tumultuous contract negotiations, was met with skepticism by the pilots' union.
First Officer Tom Hoban, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, suggested the airline was "dangling" the prospect of new jobs as a negotiating tactic.
"Do they think we're stupid?" he asked. "This isn't our first rodeo."
He added both sides seem to be making progress in the face-to-face negotiations, which began nearly three weeks ago.
Company spokesman Bruce Hicks said the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with the talks.
In fact, the plans to hire new pilots were revealed in detail in a letter to pilots by Vice President of Flight John Hale on June 1, Hicks said.
Just last week, the bankrupt carrier announced plans to hire 1,500 new flight attendants in the next year.
Horton said in his letter that the new jobs come as the airline expands internationally and buys new jets.
"We are rapidly building the youngest and most efficient fleet in the industry, with 550 new aircraft on their way," Horton wrote.
The Fort Worth-based airline plans to add flights from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Seoul, South Korea, and Lima, Peru; from Chicago to Dusseldorf, Germany; and from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Dublin.
"The new American is getting closer every day," Horton said.
American has already reached concessionary labor deals with flight attendants and ground workers, and a deal with pilots is seen as one of the last obstacles before the airline can emerge from bankruptcy.