Last of TWA attendants recalled from furlough 11 years later

Thursday, August 30, 2012 | 2:54 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — More than 200 Trans World Airlines flight attendants are about to go back to work, nearly 11 years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that caused an airline industry slowdown and cost tens of thousands of jobs.

The recall of 211 workers announced Thursday means that for the first time since 9/11, there won't be a single former TWA attendant on furlough. The recall is effective Nov. 17.

American Airlines bought St. Louis-based TWA just months before the hijackings. In the subsequent downturn, American slashed 2,500 jobs, and TWA attendants, who had lost their seniority in the takeover, were the first to be cut.

"This has always been about fairness for these workers, and I'm thrilled that they'll now have the opportunity to return to their jobs," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who helped broker the deal.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines is rebuilding itself under bankruptcy protection and has offered buyouts to hundreds of flight attendants and other employees. Spokesman Bruce Hicks said the recall of former TWA attendants would "ensure we remain adequately staffed throughout this process."

"We welcome our flight attendants back to service and recognize they play an integral role in providing an outstanding onboard experience for our customers," Hicks said.

Recall rights for the flight attendants on furlough were originally guaranteed only through 2008, but American Airlines agreed to extend the recall rights after pressure from McCaskill and other lawmakers.

Former TWA flight attendant Roger Graham, who spearheaded the effort to extend recall rights, said the layoffs were difficult for some former attendants, many of whom struggled to find decent-paying jobs.

"It was a struggle for everybody," said Graham, who got his job back last year. "It was very difficult to find a comparable job as far as pay goes. A lot of people lost their homes."

Among those who struggled was Ron Hale, 49, of St. Louis, who said he worked as a personal assistant, propane technician and in other jobs since he was laid off in 2002. He's anxious to get back on a plane.

"It's a good feeling," Hale said.

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