The union employees will not get severance pay, says Ebenhoch, adding, "We are trying to be as humane as possible and will extend health benefits through the end of the year."
The spokesman said employees will retain recall rights, noting that if the economic situation changes, "we want to make certain there is still an airline for them to return to."
American's 'State of Emergency'
At American Airlines, spokesman Al Becker says Chairman and CEO Donald Carty has declared a "state of emergency."
"We are fighting for our lives, for the survival of the company," says Becker.
American said last week it would shortly begin layoffs of 20,000 workers from all work groups. "We will not be in a financial position to do some of the things we would normally do for our employees," added Becker.
He confirmed there will be no severance for union employees, but said the company is still determining how many employees that will effect. The company will also know in a few days whether it will extend health benefits to the laid-off workers, but Becker says it is leaning toward extending them 90 days.
Union representatives say they plan to fight the companies' efforts to cut severance packages once the layoffs start taking effect, says Jim Gannon, director of communications for the Transport Workers Union of America. Gannon says workers should receive the severance packages promised in their contracts, especially in light of the government's $15 billion bailout package of the industry.
"They're talking about a national war emergency, but I think this is a stretch," says Gannon."We're definitely going to grieve it."
By contrast, Continental Airlines says it has offered its employees severance, unpaid leave and early retirement. It will honor all union contracts. Continental said today that it has managed to avert more than 1,000 of the 12,000 announced layoffs through voluntary leave of absence program.
The airline will honor all union contracts regarding severance at a cost of more than $60 million.
-- ABCNEWS' Ramona Schindelheim contributed to this report.