United Airlines said yesterday that it would fire any flight attendants who take part in a threatened strike, launching an early salvo as...

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CHICAGO — United Airlines said yesterday that it would fire any flight attendants who take part in a threatened strike, launching an early salvo as the carrier and its unions prepare for their battle in bankruptcy court next week.

A strike would “force the company to take steps to preserve the airline,” United said in a letter sent to the attorney for the Association of Flight Attendants. The letter is the first public acknowledgement by United, based in Elk Grove Township, Ill., that a strike could severely damage its efforts to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

A union spokeswoman called United’s threats “laughable.”

“It’s … just more of the same from United,” said Sara Nelson Dela Cruz.

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United is scheduled to go before a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Chicago next week to seek to invalidate the contracts of three of its largest unions. The airline wants to invoke new pay and benefit terms.

Also yesterday, the flight attendants and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers each filed objections to a proposed agreement between United and a federal pension-insurance agency.

The agreement they are contesting is between the carrier and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. United will seek court approval of the deal at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. It would allow the carrier to transfer its pension obligations to the government agency, which United estimates would save it $645 million a year.