American Airlines Files for Bankruptcy Protection

Facing the highest labor costs in the industry and continued losses, American Airlines and American Eagle’s parent companies filed today for  Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

AMR Corp. and AMR Eagle Holding Corp. said Tuesday in a statement that the move is “in the best interest of the companies and its shareholders.”

AMR named Thomas Horton as new CEO after the Chapter 11 filing.  The shares fell 60 percent in premarket trading.

“American took this action in order to achieve a cost and debt structure that is competitive in the airline industry so that it can continue delivering a world-class travel experience for its customers,” the company said in its statement.

Normal operations will continue during the reorganization.

“American’s customers are always our top priority and they can continue to depend on us for the safe, reliable travel and high quality service they know and expect from us,” said Horton. “American serves 260 airports in more than 50 countries and territories, and we are committed to maintaining a strong presence in worldwide markets.”

The  Fort Worth,Texas-based company listed $24.7 billion in assets and $29.6 billion in debt in court papers filed today in New York.

AMR had losses of $162 million in the third quarter and $2.7 billion in the past year while the other major airlines posted profits. United Continental, the parent of United Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, had third-quarter profits of $653 million and US Airways made $76 million.

The airline had been in contract talks with unions representing its pilots, flight attendants and ground crews for more than four years. After the other major airlines declared bankruptcy and cut their labor costs  following 9/11, American was left with the highest costs in the industry.