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Americans’ pilots OK contract, clearing hurdle to merger

DALLAS — Pilots at American Airlines approved a new labor contract Friday, which could clear the way for consideration of a merger with US Airways.

The pilots’ union announced that 74 percent of its members voted to ratify the contract. Pilots rejected a similar offer in August, but union leaders lobbied hard for passage the second time around.

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Under the contract, pilots will get pay raises and own 13.5 percent of American Airlines’ parent AMR Corp. after it emerges from bankruptcy protection.

Union officials and analysts say the vote gives AMR creditors certainty about the company’s labor costs, making it easier for them to weigh which gives them more money — American on its own, or getting bigger through a merger with US Airways.

‘‘This contract represents a bridge to a merger with US Airways,’’ said union spokesman Dennis Tajer. He said the vote ‘‘should not in any way be viewed as support for the American standalone plan or for this current management team.’’

American also hailed the vote as a key step in its turnaround after years of heavy losses.

The pilots’ vote ‘‘gives us the certainty we need for American to successfully restructure,’’ said Denise Lynn, American’s senior vice president of people, in a statement.

AMR and American filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011. With the pilots’ deal in hand, the company could exit Chapter 11 early next year.

Flight attendants and ground workers have ratified separate contracts that reduced benefits and outsourced thousands of jobs.

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