U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

TWA Flight Attendants Finally Lose Legal Battle Over Seniority Rights

It looks like a long and bitter battle that first began in 2001 is finally coming to an end. The Second Circuit's Court of Appeals just sided with a lower district court decision, affirming that plaintiff's are not entitlement to the seniority order that had been lost when TWA was acquired by U.S. Airways in 2001.

The case was ironically made worse with the enactment of the McCaskill-Bond Act which largely owed its existence to the original US Air/ AA / TWA takeover.

TWA Flight Attendants' Complaint

Several prior TWA flight attendants brought suit when U.S. Airways merged with American Airlines in 2013, claiming that they were unfairly "endtailed" at the bottom of the newly formed company's seniority list following AA's takeover of US Air/TWA. They had previously enjoyed favorable assignments and other perks after having earned prime spots which followed a decade's worth of time served with TWA way before the 2001 merger.

McCaskill-Bond

To make matters more confusing, Congress passed the McCaskill-Bond Act in 2007, which was somewhat spawned by similar conflicts between TWA employees and new management when American took over. The act generally required the integration of seniority lists of all involved airlines to be conducted in a "fair and equitable manner." Easier said than done.

The union that represented the TWA attendants fought for a Merger Transition Agreement that basically precluded all reordering of each airline's respective list before fusing them. It was thought by the TWA plaintiffs that this would protect their seniority even after merger.

Not Quite

Unfortunately, the merger of the companies created an even larger seniority list and resulted in the TWA employees nearing the bottom. At district court, the judge basically dismissed the case. The Second Circuit affirmed. Here's why.

According to U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier, the McCaskill-Bond "basic rule" did not require preservation of TWA's order in the integration process. Rather, all it required was that newly arrived employees be integrated into the American Airlines master list. Newly arriving employees could have been with TWA for decades and still be considered "new" under the language of the Act.

Irony of Getting Screwed

In stinging irony, the federal law that was borne of the acquisition of TWA by AA in 2001 "did nothing for the very group ... whose misfortunes had given it life," according to Judge Lohier, quoting him from the opinion.

There were also claims that AA had acted in bad faith and failed to "promote the aggregate welfare of all of its members." The Circuit dismissed these claims and wistfully pointed out that given the nature of a list, someone has to come out on bottom. A moving of TWA employees up in the seniority list ranks would have opened the gates of similar complaints from previous American Airlines employees, and thus it was likely that defendants did not arbitrarily single out the TWA employees to be last on the list.

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