DALLAS (AP) -- American Airlines is trying to reassure employees that most of them will get full pensions even if the company terminates its retirement plans in bankruptcy.
In a letter to employees Monday, a top American official said more than 90 percent of those whose pension benefits have vested would get everything they are owed.
The letter from Jeff Brundage, senior vice president of American parent AMR Corp., suggested that most of those whose benefits could be reduced are pilots or upper management, who get higher salaries and pensions.
The fate of pensions has been a major topic of employees since AMR and American filed for bankruptcy protection Nov. 29.
AMR and its lawyers have said publicly that the company could terminate its retirement plans and turn them over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. That's a federal agency that insures traditional "defined-benefit" plans that are still common in the airline industry, although not in most other sectors of the economy.
The PBGC limits the benefits it will pay to retirees, but the limit affects only people with relatively large pensions. A 65-year-old retiring this year could get up to $54,000, with lower limits for people who retire at younger ages.
Brundage didn't say how many American Airlines pilots have vested pensions above $54,000 a year, and a spokesman for the company, Bruce Hicks, said "We did not break out percentages by any specific work group."
But Brundage did say that excluding pilots and upper management, only 2 percent of employees would see their benefits limited if the company terminated the retirement plans.
Officials for the pilots' union did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum has warned AMR not to terminate its plans unless it can prove in bankruptcy court that it can survive only if it does so. He has noted that other airlines went through bankruptcy reorganizations without terminating pensions.
The PBGC last year ran a record deficit of $26 billion, prompting agency officials to warn that they might have to raise pension-insurance premiums on employers or even seek a taxpayer bailout.