American’s Battle With its Mechanics Seems to Be Getting Worse

A week ago the judge in the American Airlines case against its mechanics ordered the mechanics to achieve an overnight productivity level equal to 2018.

The mechanics responded by:

  1. Asking the FAA to assign inspectors “to all maintenance locations sufficient to ensure that the use of targeted productivity levels does not compromise the public safety or compliance with FAR regulations.”

  2. Requesting that the judge modify the ruling, suggesting that it would compromise safety.

The judge denied this request suggesting that American’s mechanics “have provided nothing in support of that position that would cause the court to believe that the members of defendants do not have good enough judgement to know when they are doing something that would adversely affect the travelling public.”

The FAA, which previously expressed concern to all parties over the breakdown between the airline and its mechanics, isn’t commenting on what additional oversight steps it may be taking.

Meanwhile negotiations involving a federal mediator were supposed to re-commence this week but have been cancelled. At this point the company’s position should be that it will meet anywhere, any time, and for however long is necessary to bring reolution to the drag on its operation.

At the halfway point in the summer, American is still failing to meet its (modest) performance goals and indeed has slipped somewhat week-over-week.

To be sure, this is a difficult negotiation. American is dealing with two different unions in an association with each other, each representing different groups (legacy American and US Airways) of employees with different interests. Mechanics have some unreasonable demands, such as resisting American Airlines (non-union) employees in Brazil from doing work on aircraft while planes sit during the day, insisting that union fleet service workers deliver catering (instead of the catering companies), and demanding that de-icing be done by union employees. American says they are offering terms more generous than either United or Delta.

However American’s scope rules are already more tilted towards the union mechanics than either Delta or United. American employees more people while other airlines outsource more, so of course the deal will be more costly. American does want more outsourcing, but isn’t offering enough new money to entice mechanics to agree. Part of that problem is the company already unilaterally offered employees raises without a new contract. Now the amount of additional money on the table available to grease a deal is less than it would have been.

With negotiations being cancelled, with the company back in court, with mechanics under court order to perform and the FAA expressing heightened sensitivity, as with most things it all comes back to Patrick Swayze in Road House.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So the mid contract raises have come back to bite American as most people predicted. Instant raise with n improvement in service, quality or productivity. Who could have anticipated that??

  2. So at what point with all that is going on at AA ( or not going on) does Parker wake up and smell the coffee? He needs for the sake of the brand resign and the board bring in fresh blood

  3. The union boss (John) told Parker/Isom he will “Bloody the Brand”. Parker/Isom are in over their heads. Time to bring in a new management team!

  4. Probably the biggest mistake of Parker’s career was giving the raises in good faith. No good deed goes unpunished. Parker could be replaced tomorrow and nothing would change. Just same as when the merger was announced, so many “experts” said “this is the end of labor issues at AA”. Wrong, the workgroup leadership is the problem.

  5. I’ve been actively booking away from American this year even at an AA hub. Most years I’m Plat Pro or at least Plat and this year I’ve done a grand total of four segments. United isn’t much better from a customer service perspective but at least I’m more likely to get where I need to go… on time.

  6. I have had one delay. . .PHL (of course) out side of that all has been good (fingers crossed). Went through this back in the early 2000’s with NWA. They struck, NWA fired them and they almost all came back. I think AA is waiting till the fall to lock them out and break the stupid union.

    This is Parker’s failing of the merger, working with people. It’s time for him to go.

  7. AA should immediately begin outsourcing as many maintenance jobs as possible, and make it crystal clear to the union that once those jobs are gone they aren’t coming back. Do your job or lose your job.

  8. Doug – I agree completely. Companies don’t have the spine to deal with unions like they used to. I still remember fondly when Reagan fired all the (illegally) striking air traffic controllers. BTW for all the AA horror stories I live in Charlotte, fly them almost exclusively (EP and lifetime Platinum) and have had NO mechanical delays. Of course there will be whining about the exception instead of the rule.

  9. @Doug – You tell them. A 40 hour work week, living wage, and health insurance should be abolished so the rich can make more money. So what that Parker and his cronies couldn’t care less about their own people? The sheer unmitigated gall of these mechanics to want the company to share some of the massive profits being earned!

  10. The raise that the mechanics got is irrelevant. They would have gotten backpay all in one lump sum. AA thought that they would get around the contracts with a “helping hands” agreement. The company didn’t just “give” anything ,they got something in return. Now we work their planes and they work ours which didn’t happen before.
    So since the mechanics hadn’t gotten a raise last year they will get it in one lump sum once a contract is voted in. Parker gave a raise/lump sum payment up front and in exchange got “helping hands”.
    The company wants to shove a contract down the member’s throats on their terms and that won’t happen. They want way too many job cuts when both airlines gave up lots of jobs and scope in bankruptcies and 2003 during AA’s employee givebacks of up to 20% and vacation time. Employees have given up way too much already.

  11. It really is a Patriotic Decision Keep Good Middle Class Jobs in America! I stand with the Mechanics 🙂 And Ditch Parker ASAP Yikes! 🙁

  12. The title of this thread is demonstrably false — at least as it pertains to the interests of frequent flyers. AA’s “battle” with its mechanics is NOT getting worse, as the mechanics are being FAR less disruptive now that the Texas judge has dropped the hammer on them. Your own “data” doesn’t even show much of a problem: AA is missing their controllable completion factor GOAL by 4/10ths of a point? I’m sorry, but that’s not a story.
    Nobody really knows how AA’s dispute with its mechanics will end. Well, that’s not really true, either — we do know. There will be a new contract. We don’t know when. But the Judge’s order makes this messy process FAR less likely to affect travellers.
    The big “headache” story for flyers this summer is now the weather. It’s been a big problem, with nasty thunderstorms popping up at major hubs almost every day. The stats now suggest this has become a bigger operational problem for UA than AA: there’s little evidence that the mechanics dispute is making this worse anymore.

  13. @chopsticks – American Airlines senior management disagrees with you and indeed they’re starting the day with just as many planes out of service (2x normal levels) as before the judge’s order.

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