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Commercial Aviation: Bankruptcy and Pension Problems Are Symptoms of Underlying Structural Issues
JayEtta Z. Hecker (au)
Since 2001 the U.S. airline industry has lost over $30 billion. Delta, Northwest, United, & US Air. have filed for bankruptcy, the latter two terminating & transferring their pension plans to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC). The net claim on PBGC from these terminations was $9.7 billion; plan participants lost $5.3 billion in benefits. Many in the industry have maintained that airlines’ use of bankruptcy protection as a means to continue operations is harmful to the industry. This debate has received even sharper focus with pension defaults. This report details: (1) the role of bankruptcy in the airline industry, (2) whether bankruptcies are harming the industry, & (3) the effect of airline pension underfunding on employees, airlines, & the PBGC. Illus.
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