Sen. Rockefeller 'disappointed' by American Airlines bankruptcy

"Seeking bankruptcy protection is not an easy decision and is a difficult and painful process for workers, retirees, shareholders, and the communities American Airlines serves," Rockefeller continued. "I’m confident that the company will work through this restructuring and emerge a stronger and better airline."

Rockefeller tied the bankruptcy into his push to get Congress to enact a long-term funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees the operations of the airline companies and airports.

"Ensuring that the U.S. has a healthy airline industry is one of the reasons that I am working so hard to pass an FAA reauthorization bill," he said. "We need a long-term FAA bill to create the conditions necessary for our airlines, airports, and manufacturers to thrive.”

American said Tuesday that going into bankruptcy was necessary "to restore the Company's profitability, operating flexibility, and financial strength.

"This was a difficult decision, but it is the necessary and right path for us to take — and take now — to become a more efficient, financially stronger and competitive airline," AMR President Thomas Horton, who the airline announced will take over for CEO Gerard Arpey, said in a statement.