PHOENIX (AP)_ America West Airlines pilots rejected a proposed contract Tuesday, saying the retirement benefits and job security provisions offered were inadequate.

About 1,400 pilots voted, with roughly 73 percent rejecting the proposed three-year agreement.

The pilots rejected the contract because they were unable to get additional retirement benefits, said Peter Blandino, chairman of the local chapter the Air Line Pilots Association. Currently, they have only a 401 (k) plan.

The pilots were also concerned about provisions in the contract they feared could be used to replace them with more regional pilots if America West's regular business shrinks, he said.

``I don't think the pilots were shocked as much as dissatisfied about what was offered,'' Blandino said. ``The pilots are pretty sanguine and realistic about what is going on in the economy and the industry.''

America West pilots are at the bottom of the industry pay scale, but airline officials have said the pay is being compared to that of larger airlines, such as Delta, instead of similar low-cost airlines like American TransAir.

America West, the nation's eighth largest carrier, has posted losses for nine straight quarters.

Company officials have argued that an agreement with the federal government to win backing for a $380 million federal loan included setting ceilings on annual pay increases for workers.

``We are disappointed that our pilots voted against ratification of the agreement between America West and the Air Line Pilots Association, particularly given the economic realities facing our industry and our company today,'' said Douglas Parker, chairman and chief executive officer.

America West pilots began negotiating with management in February 2000. The National Mediation Board assigned a federal mediator to facilitate the talks in May 2001.

The mediation board suspended talks following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The two sides resumed negotiating last March, and the pilots association and management reached the tentative agreement in December. It called for an immediate 11 percent pay raise and a 3 percent raise in 2005.

Blandino said he expects new negotiations to begin by July.

``The next step is to get back to the table and see where those friction points were and try to resolve them,'' he said.


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