american airlinesEven as the company’s merger with US Airways remains on hold, American Airlines is continuing with plans to expand by hiring more personnel.

The Fort Worth-based company has announced it will hire 1,500 pilots by 2018. The jobs will be posted by Oct. 1.

This brings the number of employees American Airlines plans to hire in the next few years to more than 4,000. The company announced earlier this year that it plans to add 1,500 flight attendants and 1,200 agents.

The news shows that the airline remains optimistic about its future, even as it remains in bankruptcy. The planned merger with US Airways has been on hold as the U.S. Department of Justice and seven states have filed complaints against the merger. A trial on the issue is scheduled for Nov. 25.

There has also been a lawsuit filed by an anti-trust attorney on behalf of 40 consumers, claiming the merger will kill competition and result in higher prices.  A government study earlier this year took a similar point of view. The Government Accountability Office found that merger of American and US Airways would reduce competition on 1,600 plane routes that are used by about 53 million passengers.

There have been more than 2 million documents exchanged between the two airlines and the government since the lawsuit began, the Dallas Morning News reported. A little less than 1 million were sent when the carriers still hoped the government would approve the merger.

Still, American wants to move forward with adding personnel. “American takes great pride in the exceptional quality of our pilots, and we’re excited to continue building our team through this selective hiring and recruitment process,” John Hale, American’s vice president for flights, told the Los Angeles Times.

Pilots will be needed to fly more than 500 new planes, which were ordered before American Airlines parent company – AMR Corp. – filed bankruptcy in 2011, according to the Times. They also will replace retiring pilots and meet more stringent staffing requirements imposed by the Federal Aviation Authority that are designed to give pilots more rest between flight shifts.

The first phase of hiring will involve adding 45 to 50 pilots each month through the summer of 2014. However, even with more pilots, flight attendants and agents, American Airlines still will not have the staffing levels it reached about two years ago, when the company was larger than it had even been.

The Times quotes U.S. Bureau of Transportation figures showing that American had 66,400 full-time positions in April 2011. As of now, the carrier employs 59,047.

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