American Airlines is in a bitter fight with its mechanics, who still don’t have a new contract since the US Airways merger and still operate as separate work groups. The airline wants to do more maintenance work overseas (but less than United and Delta do) and move US Airways mechanics over to the less generous American health plan.
The airline got a temporary injunction against mechanics who have been engaged in a work slowdown, which led to the carrier cancelling approximately 4% of mainline flights in June.
One consequence of American running a less reliable operation is passengers getting stranded. When the airline blames weather they aren’t responsible for costs like hotel rooms and meals. So airlines have a long history of being less than forthcoming about the true reasons behind operational problems. For instance,
- United used to regularly list weather as the reason for delays on its united.com website but provide the real reason in writing at unitedcargo.com.
- WestJet actually told customers that they were cancelling flights because their destination airports were closed, when those airports were not closed.
At an employee question and answer session this week, a tape of which I reviewed, American’s CEO Doug Parker said that because of the job action by mechanics they’re starting each day with about twice as many aircraft out of service as usual and as a result they’re unable to recover from weather events the way they normally do. That means plenty of flights are being cancelled ‘due to weather’ that wouldn’t have had to be cancelled if they had the operation running right with planes ready to fly each day.
We are not starting with the right number of airplanes at the start of the day. Our goal was 35, that was a reasonable goal it’s what the company has done in the past, 35 airplanes out of service at 7 o’clock. …that’s a perfectly acceptable level, we can fly every airplane in the schedule with 35 out of service at 7 a.m. because we have enough spares to cover that.
What we’ve been experiencing for about 3 months now almost every single day the number of aircraft out of service at 7 o’clock in the morning between 55 and 60 or higher, numbers that we have never seen before even on individual days..we’ve been seeing every single day for the last 3 months.
That creates an enormous level of disruption in the airline, because when we started the day without enough airplanes immediately now particularly in the summer we’re cancelling flights to start the day.
That means we’re trying to re-accommodate customers on full flights. That hurts our D0. That means we have crews out of position immediately, not at the end of the day at the start of the day so we’re going to have trouble with legality toward the end of the day, and any other level of disruption.
That’s enough to cause a bad day but then when you combine that with any other kind of disruption like a bad weather day, we can handle bad weather days they come and they go, but if you already start with that the bad weather day even exacerbates.
Not only are customers being inconvenienced by huge cancellation numbers at American Airlines this summer, when their flights are cancelled weather is being blamed even though many of those flights wouldn’t have been cancelled without the job action by mechanics, according to the CEO of the airline.