American Airlines Pilots Behaving Badly

Yesterday I suggested that American’s pilots were engaged in a sick out because after new contract terms were imposed on pilots through the airline’s bankruptcy process, we started seeing lots of flight cancellations — over 5% on Sunday, again over 5% of the schedule on Monday, and already quite a few for today.

I didn’t even get into the really poor on-time percentage being logged by American’s flights, which weren’t unduly affected by weather.

It certainly seemed like something was ‘up’. Which was also confirmed in comments I was reading on the post and elsewhere, such as reports of 20-plus minute times to taxi, and planes even being beaten out by tugs moving faster than they were.

Sky Talk gets a comment from the airline’s pilots union:

“No one at APA has either sanctioned or supported any kind of ‘job action’ or sickout. It is illegal to do so,” said APA spokesman Tom Hoban. “That being said, you’ve got 8,000 pilots that are witnessing a handful of senior executives at AA that have chosen in a very deliberate manner to dismantle and destroy their profession. To say that the pilots at AA are not happy would be the understatement of a lifetime.”

The author calls that a “resounding no” but I read it as anything but — of course we’re not doing that because it would be illegal if we were, but of course there are lots of unhappy pilots and American would deserve it if we were doing that…

No, not a denial at all.

Meanwhile I saw a link in a post at to a discussion by American pilots over at a pilot forum with a lot of ‘wink, wink, nudge nudge’ over how they’re slowing down the airline.

Here’s a sample of the comments (bolding is mine):

How is the operation running? Just wondering how the metal is moving over there.

A bit sluggish…4 canx today at DFW for lack of crews. Many delays and canx this week.

Did u see what the company is imposing? I dont blame AA pilots

Withholding of enthusiasm is not a job action. Neither is taking time off if one is unfit to fly. It is hard to run an operation when you crap all over your frontline employees.

And as always, the way to go is follow the FAR’s to the letter, as well as company rules… like giving T-storms 20 nm space, thorough pre-flights, conscientious write-ups, economical taxi and flight speeds, meticulous check list procedures, no-fault go-arounds, etc etc etc. Of course, fatigue is a hot-button topic w/NASA and the FAA. Got to wathc those mental health issues too. And it’s a good time to finally get that carpal tunnel surgery.

Well ya know sometimes you have to double check that flight plan. Especially on those RNAV departures. You don’t want to cause a potential mid air collision. Safety first.

Instead of DIRECT anywhere, just request “FLIGHT PLAN ROUTE”!

For you lawyer types, The burden of proof rests with the company to show a work slowdown is taking place?

I don’t see how a judge can “punish” the pilots any more than he already has…It’s not like they can send the Sheriff over to every pilots house and lead them to work in handcuffs. Whatever the cause, poor operational performance will force the hand of the creditors. What they decide to do remains to be seen, but I’d think a merger would provide more value than a fire sale.

Bloomberg reports that American is cutting capacity by 2% for the rest of September and October as a result.

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. Sitting on the ground at DFW currently due to a maintenance delay; an air conditioning unit has malfunctioned. Seriously?

  2. I was on an AA flight from MCO-MIA last Tuesday that took 25 minutes to taxi to takeoff at MCO and 20 minutes to taxi in upon landing at MIA. On top of a maintenance issue for a generator that they placarded (which I was OK with), the delay caused me to miss my connection and my meeting that afternoon. American’s my favorite airline, but if the pilots slow me down, then I can’t use them for work. Period.

  3. So what we have with the legacy airlines in America is:

    – AA in bankruptcy, with staff gaining a poor attitude due to negotiations

    – UA in complete integration disarray, with poor morale all around and an us vs. them attitude between the two merged companies, add to seemingly poor leadership from above.

    – DL withholding communication with customers and making changes to their policies, procedures, and (potentially) their FF program format.

    It almost seems as though there really isn’t anyplace for the American business traveler to go…except US Airways? Maybe an in-depth comparison of these issues and an analysis as to which legacy airline truly is the best in the United States at the moment?

  4. Just to add, what does the various airline alliance airlines think of their United States counterparts?

  5. I hope there are a lot of regional airline pilots looking to move up to the “big time.” I for one would be happy to see those guys given a chance and these guys punished for biting the hand that has fed them so, so well for so long.

  6. It seems to me that this would be a great time for someone like JetBlue or Virgin America to push hard for business travelers…but they don’t seem to want to poke the bear…

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