I remember that at the end of 2007, American Airlines/AMR had almost erased the unfunded liability in its pension plans. Ah, the good old days…

They ended pretty quickly in 2008 as the stock market dive pulled down the value of pension plans (and my retirement funds) pretty sharply.

Here is a chart that shows AMR’s accumulated benefit obligation year by year since 1998, the value of its pension plan assets, the percentage of obligations covered by those assets and the surplus or deficit in dollars. All dollar figures are in millions:


Year Accumulated benefit obligation Fair value of plan assets Funded vs. ABO Difference
1998 $5,073 $5,564 109.7% $491
1999 $4,700 $5,282 112.4% $582
2000 $5,306 $5,731 108.0% $425
2001 $6,041 $5,323 88.1% -$718
2002 $8,757 $5,323 60.8% -$3,434
2003 $8,894 $6,230 70.0% -$2,664
2004 $9,158 $7,335 80.1% -$1,823
2005 $10,041 $7,778 77.5% -$2,263
2006 $10,153 $8,565 84.4% -$1,588
2007 $9,486 $9,099 95.9% -$387
2008 $9,656 $6,714 69.5% -$2,942
2009 $10,558 $7,027 66.6% -$3,531
2010 $11,508 $7,773 67.5% -$3,735
2011 $12,935 $8,132 62.9% -$4,803

Another useful chart for those who haven’t looked this information up already is a listing of what other airlines did with their various employee groups when they went through Chapter 11 proceedings in the last decade:


Category Delta United Northwest US Airways
Pilots Terminated 2006 Terminated 2005 Frozen 2006 Terminated 2003
Flight attendants Frozen 2005 Terminated 2005 Frozen 2006 Terminated 2005
Mechanics and related employees Frozen 2005 Terminated 2005 Frozen 2006 Terminated 2005
Agents and reps Frozen 2005 Terminated 2005 Frozen 2006 Terminated 2005

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