Delta Air Lines, the onetime savior of Pan American World Airways that later pulled the plug on the dying carrier, has been hit with another lawsuit, this one a $1.1 billion action by former Pan Am employees thrown out of work.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court said 8,000 Pan Am workers wrongfully lost their jobs and benefits because of Delta's withdrawal from a deal intended to keep Pan Am flying.Pan Am died on Dec. 4, a day after Delta said in a bankruptcy court hearing it would not provide any more money to help Pan Am move from New York to Miami and operate as a smaller carrier that would concentrate on serving Latin America.
Delta spokesman Neil Monroe said his carrier had not yet seen the lawsuit, but he promised a vigorous defense.
Monroe said Delta not only tried to keep Pan Am alive, but it hired 7,800 former Pan Am workers as it took over Pan Am's prized trans-Atlantic operations and the Pan Am Shuttle last fall.
Delta also has been sued by Pan Am and Pan Am's creditors, who claim the Atlanta-based carrier led them on with false promises to assist Pan Am's reorganization efforts only so Delta could win Pan Am assets.
Delta tried last summer to buy the assets, only to encounter a bidding war from other airlines that eventually prompted it to agree to the package that would have kept Pan Am in the air.
After Delta got what it wanted last fall, it immediately began easing away from plans to keep Pan Am alive, the lawsuits said. Pan Am and its creditors are suing Delta in U.S. Bankrtupcy Court.
Delta strongly denied their charges, saying it invested more time and money into reorganizing Pan Am than it had to.
Delta said it finally decided to provide no more money to Pan Am because it believed there was no way Pan Am could become a viable airline.
In addition to the lawsuits, Delta's involvement with Pan Am has also led to allegations that Delta asked improper questions about the marital status and sexual practices of Pan Am workers who applied for jobs.
New York state human rights officials said Wednesday they had found probable cause in complaints filed by some 100 workers and will hold public hearings. Delta has denied asking the improper questions and accused the state of failing to get its side of the story.