American Airlines hopes to negotiate with pilots “in good faith and constructively” after disruption led to a slump in domestic passenger numbers.

Chief executive Tom Horton held out the olive branch after the carrier saw passenger carryings drop by 7.1% in September.

The fall in domestic passenger numbers – to 5.69 million in September, from 6.13 million a year before – was partially offset by a 3.2% rise in international traffic to 4.26 million.

The airline was forced to cancel hundreds of flights due to a rise in the number of pilots calling in sick. It also suffered an increase in pilot reports of mechanical problems with aircraft.

Pilots have rejected management proposals for heavily modified work contracts designed to bring down costs.

American has been hoping to complete a restructuring by the end of this year and emerge from bankruptcy protection, possibly after a merger with a rival.

Horton told the Financial Times that pilots’ rejection of a deal in August was a “clear indication” that the proposed terms had not sufficiently addressed their needs.

The company had opted to return to negotiations rather than take legal action over the disruption, he said.

“Our first instinct was to get back to the table and negotiate a deal in good faith and constructively,” he said. “So that’s what we’re doing.”

Concern over the airline’s safety performance was highlighted after seats on some Boeing 757s came loose in flight.

Horton insisted American Airlines’ safety record was good.

“Our maintenance record, our safety record speaks for itself,” he told the newspaper. “Our performance this year, up until a couple of weeks ago, has been the best in many, many years.”