The federal government signaled Tuesday that it was ready to fight to prevent American Airlines from using bankruptcy to shed its pension plans.
While American has not said it intends to force the government to take over its pension plans, Joshua Gotbaum, director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, said he was hoping to get out in front of any such move by the airline. The agency is already operating with a $23 billion deficit and has said it would bear an additional $9 billion loss if American terminated all four of its employees’ plans, which cover 130,000 people.
Last month, American’s parent company, AMR Corporation, said that it was contributing just $6.5 million to the pension plans, far short of the $97 million contribution that it would need to make if it were outside bankruptcy.
In a move to recover that shortfall, Mr. Gotbaum said Tuesday that the agency had put liens on $91 million of American’s assets, beginning the process of foreclosure. Most of the assets are in Latin America. They include aircraft, ticketing offices and real estate and are not part of the bankruptcy.