American Airlines pilots union spokesman Dennjs Tajer went on CNBC Squawk Box Wednesday morning and made a number of claims against the airline. Some of them are true – like American not keeping pilots current during the pandemic despite receiving government subsidies in order to do so – and then there’s this claim: that the federal government is advising employees not to book travel on American.
— Ross Feinstein (@RossFeinstein) June 22, 2022
This seemed like something I’d have heard about if it were true. And, as I pointed out on Twitter, American Airlines has city pair contracts with the government. There are circumstances where employees can book away from those contracts, but there’s no movement to terminate.
To back up the statement, the Allied Pilots Association provided the following memo. Someone sent an email to some government employees suggesting they not fly American.
— Allied Pilots (@AlliedPilots) June 22, 2022
Passengers all around the country get off of an airline after a bad trip and tell their friends, colleagues, or subordinates not to fly that airline. That’s a far cry from a decision by the government that its employees cannot fly American.
In any case, American’s on-time performance and flight cancellations this year certainly wouldn’t warrant this kind of recommendation! During the first quarter of 2022 American had better overall on-time performance than United, Southwest or JetBlue. (American Airlines mainline beat Alaska mainline as well, and American’s performance was better than Frontier and Spirit also.)
According to the Bureau of Transportation statistics, American’s first quarter cancellation rate was 4.74%, compared to 4.65% for United, 4.2% for Southwest, and 5.81% for JetBlue. It’s higher than it should be, but not a reason for ‘the federal government’ to recommend traveling ‘anyone but American.’
There are legitimate gripes that pilots at American Airlines have, from a limo desk that fails to book ground travel for employees during irregular operations to mid-trip changes for reserve pilots in violation of their contract (where pilots are just told to “grieve it”). Employees at the airline have good reason to expect better. There’s no reason to make up wild claims like “the U.S. government” has said not to book travel on the airline.