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Comair pilots' union looking to ratify contract proposal

by J.R. Brammer

STAFF WRITER

BRIDGEPORT -- A regional jet carrier scheduled to begin daily round-trip service between Benedum Airport and Cincinnati April 11 is waiting to see whether its pilots' union will ratify a contract proposal.

If not, more than 1,000 Comair pilots could go on strike by the end of March.

Officials with the Delta Airlines subsidiary are optimistic.

"It's a very strong contract," says Nick Miller, Comair spokesman. "We have every intention of operating as normal."

A spokesperson with the Air Line Pilots Association in Washington, D.C., did not return phone calls Tuesday.

Miller said the airline will learn of the union's decision on Monday.

"Obviously no one wants to see service curtailed," says Roger Diaz, president of the Benedum Airport Authority, "but since the service hasn't started yet it wouldn't disrupt the day-to-day goings on."

Comair has been in contract negotiations with its pilots since 1998. In December 1999, the carrier sued its pilots for delaying and canceling flights.

According to company officials, the pilots cited such things as torn seat cushions, broken light bulbs and chipped paint as reasons for canceling flights, an industry publication wrote.

Later that month, a federal judge chided both the pilots and Comair for not considering the impact on passengers. He ordered the pilots to return to work.

"What happened that long ago is no longer applicable," Miller says. "A lot has happened since then."

Comair, based at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, currently operates routes in 38 U.S. states under the provisions of a previous contract.

Staff writer J.R. Brammer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at jbrammer@exponent-telegram.com.

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