The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. isn’t happy that AMR contributed only $6.5 million this week to its four employee pension plans, much less than it was scheduled to make.

“On Jan. 15, AMR failed to make a $100 million payment to fund its pension benefits,” PBGC communications director J. Jioni Palmer said Thursday.

“This is a disturbing development, as the airline has more than $4 billion in cash. American’s actions hurt the financial health of the pension plans, and undermine the retirement security of American’s workers and retirees,” Palmer said.

AMR and its subsidiaries, primarily American Airlines, filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29, and PBGC officials have been pressuring AMR since then not to terminate or freeze its pensions.

A decision to terminate pensions would dump them on the federal agency, raising its deficit significantly and resulting in a $1 billion loss to participants in the AMR pension plans.

AMR spokesman Sean Collins defended the company’s decision.

“The company has determined this is the appropriate course of action for the quarterly contribution amount due by January 15, 2012,” Collins said. “This action allows the company to preserve cash.”

UPDATE: Association of Professional Flight Attendants president Laura Glading said she was “outraged” by the missed pension contribution. Her statement:

“This is further evidence that Tom Horton and his team have their priorities upside down. For years, they awarded themselves millions in bonuses even while they destroyed the company we Flight Attendants worked so hard to build.

“Now, with a well-publicized $4 billion in cash on hand, they are forgoing their legal obligations to our pension plans. It seems they would rather spend the company’s cash on the lawyers and advisors that will help them try to scuttle our benefits packages.

“We’ve seen some changes at the top since the Chapter 11 filing, but there has been no change in direction whatsoever.”

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