Coverage of the merger between American Airlines and US Airways

Fort Worth Reacts to AMR's Bankruptcy

Cautious optimism for local leaders

By Chris Van Horne
|  Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011  |  Updated 8:21 PM CDT
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American Airlines is one of the biggest employers in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, so city and county leaders are watching the airline's bankruptcy closely.

Chris Van Horne, Fort Worth Reporter

American Airlines is one of the biggest employers in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, so city and county leaders are watching the airline's bankruptcy closely.

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AMR Files for Bankruptcy Protection

American Airlines' parent company, AMR Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday. The company says it was forced to file because of high labor and fuel costs and the weak economy.

AMR: Bankruptcy Will Have Little Impact on Passengers

For the 240,000 passengers who fly American Airlines each day, the airline's bankruptcy filing should have little noticeable impact.
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American Airlines is one of the biggest employers in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, so the bankruptcy filing is being closely watched by city and county leaders.

Their reaction was fairly similar to what American Airlines said -- that the filing something no one wanted but everyone hopes will have long-term positive effects.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said American informed her early Tuesday morning about the filing, so that the city was aware. While there isn't much the city can do, Price said she will meet with American Airline officials in the coming weeks.

"It's a shock," Price said, "It's hard for a company that size. It's hard for the city with just the emotional factor."

Price said AMR's Chapter 11 file is concerning, but she believes it will be good for American in the long run.

"And they'll be stronger for it," Price said. "And we just want to support their employees and support the company so they do come out more competitive. It could be a really good thing for Fort Worth, because we want to keep them here and keep them strong."

American is one of the area's biggest taxpayers, as well as one of the biggest employers.

Tarrant County Tax Assessor/Collector Ron Wright, who replaced Price in that office when she ran for mayor, was concerned over continual rumors of bankruptcy.

Wright's office placed tax liens on 365 of American's planes just three weeks ago. The liens were filed with the Federal Aviation Administration in Oklahoma City.

"I didn't want to get caught with my pants down and not having any means to protect Tarrant County if they did file bankruptcy," Wright said, noting that if the county didn't file the liens before bankruptcy, there would be nothing he could do.

Wright called the maneuver the most important decision he's made in the job thus far. He has heard from those in his office that American officials were unhappy about the liens. However, five of the liens were released so American could sell those planes. Wright said the filings will help recoup the $6.5 million American owes to the 65 entities he collects taxes for.

"What that does is moves us up in the priority of payments for the bankruptcy courts," Wright said.

He said it's not an unusual move, and that while word of the liens could have had a negative impact on American before they filed, it was something he had to do to protect Tarrant County taxpayers.

"I have to treat a large corporation the way I would a small business," Wright said, saying he wants to see all businesses succeed.

American does business at Alliance Airport in north Fort Worth, employing between 1,500 and 2,500 workers at the maintenance facility, where the airline conducts its most thorough safety inspections, as well as repairs.

Mike Berry, President of Hillwood Properties which runs Alliance, says American has been a big part of the Alliance development and is a good partner. He was not overly concerned about the future of the airline at the facility because of its vital importance to the maintenance mission of the airline.

American Airlines Bankruptcy:
Find complete coverage of the American Airlines bankruptcy proceedings, expert analysis and the impact on customers and the local economy in our special section. Click here for more.

American Airlines Merger:
Complete coverage of the merger between American Airlines and US Airways into the newly-formed Fort Worth-based company, American Airlines Group (AAL). Click here for more.

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