No more American Airlines planes will be flying in and out of Alliance Airport in north Fort Worth.
Starting Friday, the Fort Worth-based carrier will begin laying off about 250 workers that staffed the Alliance maintenance base, fixing Boeing 777s and 767s and other parts for American’s aircraft.
"We are all quite sad to be bringing it to a close," said Bill Collins, vice president of base maintenance for American. "But we had a more efficient way to get that job completed and the economics of the restructuring required us to do something in a fairly significant way to improve the cost base."
The 1.6-million-square-foot maintenance facility first opened in 1991 with an iconic suspended roof that has no fixed columns holding it up. With its cantilever design, seven wide-body planes standing wingtip to wingtip can fit inside the facility’s docks.
Robert Kirk, treasurer of Transport Workers Union Local 567 which represents the mechanics and store clerks that work at Alliance, has worked at the facility since 1992. He said it is hard to watch friends who have worked for American for over a decade lose their jobs.
"When I came down here, it was a state-of-the-art facility. I saw this is as the future of American Airlines," said Kirk who is helping laid off employees work with the Texas Workforce Commission for job retraining and other career services. "It’s not fun watching people pack up their toolbox."
When American announced its restructuring plan in February, it said it planned to close the Alliance facility by the end of the year, displacing the 1,200 employees at the base. But with early retirement offers and other positions open within American, the carrier was able to significantly reduce the number of Alliance workers laid off. American said 73 percent of its Alliance workers affected by the potential layoffs accepted jobs elsewhere in the company.
Some of the Alliance mechanics were able to move into positions at the Texas Aero Engine Service facility in Alliance which will remain open. TAESL is American’s joint venture with Rolls-Royce that repairs and overhauls engines and employs about 600 workers.
The carrier has moved some of the maintenance work performed at Alliance to its Tulsa facility but much of the work has been outsourced to third-party vendors. Those include TIMCO Aviation Service and ST Aerospace, which have facilities in Alabama and North Carolina, and Hong Kong-based HAECO. The last plane to leave Alliance was a Boeing 777, which had its maintenance work completed last week, Collins said.
However, there are still some employees at Alliance working on aircraft components, such as coffee pots. Collins said American plans to move component work to hangars at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport but has experienced construction delays at DFW as it prepares the facility to accommodate the work. As a result, American’s Alliance facility will remain partially open until possibly the middle of next year, he said.
"Once those renovations and improvements are complete, it will enable us to move the rest of the back shops and the people over to [our DFW hangars]," Collins said.