By Jack Fink & Jason Allen, CBS 11 News
amr headquarters Pilots Union Board Votes To Send Americans Deal To Members

American Airlines parent company AMR Corporation’s headquarters. (credit: Chuck Schechner/NewsRadio 1080 KRLD)

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The Allied Pilots Association board will send American Airlines’ “last, best offer” to its members for a vote.

The vote was tight: The board voted 9-7 to pass the deal down to the nearly 10,000 members in the union.

“The deciding factor was whether or not this last, best final offer really met the minimum standard to go to the membership here and you’ve got a lot of divided opinions amongst our board members about whether it did or didn’t,” said Tom Hoban, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association.

The deal will give pilots a 15 percent raise over the next six years; freeze member pensions instead of eliminating them; and give those in the union a 13.5 percent stake in the company after it emerges from bankruptcy. Their advisors focused on that stake –– it could make the pilots the largest equipty holder in the company.

“If, in fact, we were going to jeopardize the business plan at all, we wouldn’t have made those changes. Understand that,” said Bruce Hicks, American Airlines spokesman. “But we had a number of things in our favor, including bette results for the company than we anticipated at this point.”

The union now has the next six weeks to educate its members about the deal –– a federal bankruptcy judge has agreed to an August 8 deadline.

In a statement issued shortly after the decision, Hicks said the company is “pleased” the board voted to take it to its members for a vote.

“We believe this agreement addresses the needs of our pilots while achieving the goals of our business plan and further demonstrates our commitment to reaching consensual agreements with all of our unions,” Hicks said in a prepared statement.

Last week, the pilots union board rejected American Airlines’ previous offer and asked the company to request the federal bankruptcy judge delay a ruling so the two could negotiate the terms more. The judge granted American’s wish.

AMR Corporation, American’s parent company, had called to cut pilot compensation by $315 million–– far lower than the company’s previous suggestion of $370 million. However, it still trails U.S. Airways’s offer to the union; it only called $240 million in cuts.

That company has launched a continued pursuit to merge with the Fort Worth-based carrier. American has said it’s open to a merger, but has been laser-focused on emerging through bankruptcy as a standalone airline.

“You know, we had two choices in front of us, either see our contract terminated by the court here on Friday or accept something that allowed us to save major portions of our contract,” said Hoban said.

The deal the pilots union board will send to its members does not include a merger with U.S. Airways.

Hoban said the union is happy to pass the deal to members for a vote –– it allows American to take the next step in the bankruptcy process.

“Whether or not that means consideration of U.S. Airways as a merger partner or American’s standalone plan, it essentially sets this piece aside and now you’ve got two competing bids with regards to the plan of reorganization,” Hoban said. “It’s the end of the beginning, so to speak.”

The pending vote also got the flight attendants and two units of the Transport Workers Union back to the bargaining table with AMR. Those three bodies had voted to reject American’s offer.