American Airlines said on Friday that it will lay off up to 175 pilots, about 2 percent of its 7,800 pilots in the first half of the year.

 This was a painful but necessary decision, as this staffing adjustment will better align the size of our pilot organization with the size of our current operation, Missy Latham, American Airlines spokeswoman said.

The airline said it already has about 1,800 pilots on furlough. They were laid off but retain rehiring rights by seniority.

It last furloughed 302 pilots in 2005 and small numbers had been rehired since then.

The airline cut passenger-carrying capacity 7.2 percent in 2009 by eliminating flights and using smaller planes with fewer seats as it struggled with a downturn in travel and lost $1.49 billion.

People who lose their jobs on or before Feb. 28 can continue to buy health insurance through their former employer, with the federal government paying 65 percent of the cost, the company said.