Did The APA Pilots Union Slander American Airlines On National TV?

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.

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.

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.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. glad you are reading the air travel consumer report and citing DOT statistics. 🙂

  2. It might be a lie, but I don’t think it meets the legal definition of slander.

    FWIW, if we followed everyone’s recommendation on airlines after they had a bad flight, I don’t think there would be a single airline in the world people would fly.

    Having just flown six segments in the US and Europe on everything from BA to Ryanair, including dealing with a tube strike and the absolute meltdown of some airports, I can say that things went pretty well, all things considered. But if you have the opportunity to get FastTrack at any European airport, either through status or purchase, I highly advise it. Add it to your ticket now, if you can, as some airports are not making it available close in. Get Global Entry or TSA Pre or Clear on any credit card you can for the US, or just pay for it. Avoiding one missed flight is worth the price.

  3. My personal opinion … MOST of the issues at my airline are ATC related.
    *6 hour blocks from LAX-JFK that should be 4.5 hours.
    *Weather re-routes that make us fly 500 miles extra to avoid 120 miles
    *Long waits for takeoff an 20-30 miles of in-trail spacing in perfect weather.

    I think most the blame should be on ATC. They are costing the airlines billions.

  4. SMR,
    to your point at 8.42 EDT on 22Jun22, ALL of the following airports are on ground stops:
    BOS BWI DCA EWR IAD JFK LGA and PHL and MIA has departure delays due to “compacted volume”
    LGA EWR DCA and BWI have cancellations so far between 15-20%.

    Ground stops have been going on in the NE for hours.

    One horrific night of delays will lead to days of additional cancelllations.

    It simply is not realistic to expect airlines to have the staff to recover from being unable to operate into some of the business airports for hours at a time.

    If ATC is unable to manage flights given the expected summer weather, either mandate reduced capacity or don’t get on airlines if they have to sit on the sidelines for hours and then can’t recover for days.

    The APA – whose members most directly work w/ ATC -need to understand the situation their employer faces and push for fixes rather than trash their employer.

  5. Most airlines are having trouble these days but AA long since convinced me to fly elsewhere.

    Why does no one talk of how to fix this mess? With fewer crew to fly planes routes need to be permanently dropped, prices should climb. I tell my boss frequently that if I don’t have the time then a job won’t get done; if it needs to be done then either bump other tasks or hire another employee. Why is the airline industry any different? Quit forcing employees to burn themselves out and quit subjecting the consumer to cancelled flights. Just drop routes so travelers know what their options are.

  6. In other N. Texas aviation news (given that American is headquartered in Ft. Worth), the City of Dallas and Delta have settled a multi-year lawsuit has been approved by Dallas City Council involving Dallas Love Field airport which will provide Delta with its own gate. The lawsuit stems from Southwest’s purchase of United’s gate leases at Dallas Love Field airport which threatened to end Delta’s sub-lease of gate space. Delta sued saying that the City of Dallas is required under federal law to accommodate airlines that do not have leases but operate as well as to provide access to new airlines that wish to begin service at a federally funded airport, which Dallas Love Field is.
    At the time, Delta operated flights from Love Field just to Atlanta and has been able to continue to maintain those flights (up to 5/day) ironically using the 717 aircraft that Delta bought from Southwest and were originally used by AirTran which Southwest acquired but then disposed of – and which still bear AirTran’s FAA registration numbers (similar to an aircraft’s “license plate”)
    The federal appeals court for Texas told the City of Dallas it needed to come up with a deal to accommodate Delta. While the litigation has proceeded, Delta has been using one of the 18 gates Southwest uses at Love Field, giving Southwest or any other airline the highest percentage of gates at any federally funded large airport.
    Delta originally asked, citing federal law, to add to its 5 Atlanta flights, with new service to NYC, Los Angeles and other Delta hubs.
    The City of Dallas has established that full usage for a gate at Love Field is 10 flights/day which Southwest meets at its 18 gates. It is likely, therefore, that Delta will add at least 5 flights/day. At the fabled “gate 15 at Love Field” Delta and Southwest combined were operating up to 15 flights/day making it one of the most productive airport gates in the world but limiting the time that Delta could have access to the gate.
    Delta is the second largest carrier at Dallas Love Field, although Alaska also serves the airport under a DOJ settlement from the American/USAirways merger. ALK has underutilized its two gates gained from the DOJ settlement and the City of Dallas is taking control of one of ALK’s two gates and awarding it to Delta.

  7. @ TIM DUNN

    A lot of the 717’s that Delta has came from TWA . TWA had a purchase order in for them right before they went under , TWA had about 10 on property before it shut its door. Delta took TWA’s order and the leases on the ones TWA already had.

  8. “Slander”? Doubtful……more like being Truthful and stating the obvious. Management would prefer to place all Delays/Cancellations on Weather and not their incompetence. Believe the Pilots. The current AA CEO Isom is proving he is far from fit to run the Operation, steps below Parker and He was a disaster.

  9. @timj
    The Delta 717 fleet reached over 90 aircraft, about 2/3 of the 717s that were produced but the majority of what Delta flew were from Southwest and retained the AirTran registration.
    Delta and Southwest both win in this deal; Southwest retains full access to the 2 gates it obtained from United while Delta gets to expand at Love Field in advance of the 2025 date when Southwest is free to fly to other airports in N. Texas (which might lead to new air service at another DFW area airport as well as seeing WN at DFW). All Love Field leases end in 2028 so Delta will be on good ground to retain a presence at Love Field. American could also take over the remaining gate AS operates in 2025 since AS still isn’t publishing a schedule enough to utilize its gate.

    Love Field saw about 1000 WN pilots picketing yesterday so it isn’t just AA pilots that are unhappy. Maybe it is the heat in Texas.

  10. These clowns never learn. The only real solution is for AA to drastically pull back flying and lay off a couple thousand of these overpaid prima donnas…starting with their union leadership.

  11. At least it appears some of you understand. This is not the fault of the pilot’s and flight attendants who greet you as you get on and off the plane. This is not the fault of the gate agents or the baggage handlers or mechanics.

    This is the fault of the worst airline executives maybe of all times running airlines. No, it is not just AA and Southwest. All airline employees are burnt out as someone mentioned above and the managers you see when you request to speak to one. The people at fault are the managers you do NOT see and CANNOT speak to who are throwing all their employees under the bus through years of over-scheduling and understaffing.

    Try to be kind to the next airline employee you see, because THEY are the people working hard to keep the airline despite everything upper airline management is doing to make their jobs impossible.

    I have never seen airline executives so incompetent and incapable of running airlines and delivering quality products as I do now, and I can tell you most of my co-workers who do not work at headquarters agree. Most of us are just trying to hang on until we retire and hope there is an airline left to travel on. Imagine working in a career you love most of your life and then in the twilight of your career, the most inept management team possible comes and makes you dread going to work every day. We love our airline and our passengers even if our execs do not, and they care even less about us than they do about their passengers because they have to pay us. Passengers don’t have to deal with their awful decisions five days a week like we do!!

    I have worked for a long time and the current airline execs are the worst I have ever seen. We are being pushed to our breaking points and our execs do not care. We used to be bummed out when our airline would cancel routes, but now we are relieved because our execs do not give us enough employees to work the flights.

    Let me repeat, airline execs do not care about their front line employees. They even stopped sending out the anonymous employee surveys every year because the feedback kept getting worse from what I have been told.

    Instead of trying to do a better job, their solution is to stop asking us how they are doing!

    I am surprised the delays and cancellations are not worse that they are. Those of you who do not work for airlines, have no idea how bad it actually is. Really!

    I hear a lot of middle managers are knowingly violating union contracts and telling workers to just ‘grieve’ it like Gary said. This is a big deal. What kind of people knowingly violate contracts over and over and just shrug their shoulders? Good people or bad people? They know the employee will most likely win the grievance, but they know it will take months, so they force the employee to do something in the meantime and they deal with the penalties later, YET, management fully expect employees to follow the contracts when it suits them. That is not the behavior of ethical people, is it?

    Gary, I really think you should consider doing interviews or writing a book with input from employees across all workgroups. You might be shocked at how great headquarters employees think the company is working in their palace and how bad the frontline employees think their company is.

    It might cost you your frequent flier account and you would have to keep employee id’s confidential, but I bet the book would be a best seller. I would talk to you. People love to read about airlines and people like drama. This would have both. If you will not, maybe Ben will.

  12. @ An Employee-

    So well said! Bravo! I’m an international flight attendant and my completely full flight to London Heathrow cancelled last week due to the pilot shortage. I signed in for my trip and saw that the Captain and First Officer positions were “Open.” The relief pilot was there, and the flight attendants boarded the plane, set up the cabin and the galleys, and waited onboard hoping that a captain and co-pilot could be found somewhere. A Captain was added to the crew list, but no first officer could be found, so around midnight, the flight cancelled. Fortunately, the purser held off boarding the flight, it’s worse for everyone, passengers and crew alike, if they board, and then they’re told they have to disembark because the flight is cancelled.

    Then, crew schedule didn’t release us right away, presumably in case we were needed to work other flights, and we had to wait until we got the okay to get off the plane. Once we got off around 12:30 am, we made our way through the over 300 people or so at the gate waiting in line for rebooking. Oddly enough, they all seemed calm, I was expecting mutiny out there, but I guess by that point they were exhausted. Two agents were at the podium to to deal with hundreds of people. Who knows what they do with so many people at that late hour, there were no more flights to London that night, and the morning departures to London on the carriers that fly it could potentially be full themselves.

    At the next gate over, the flight to São Paulo was delayed for over 3 hours, and there were hundreds of people waiting, I don’t know the situation with that flight.

    I got home at 2:00 am, and we wouldn’t get paid for the trip that cancelled unless we make up the hours by flying something else. The return flight from Heathrow operated somehow, so we got paid for that automatically, but I only got 3 hours call out pay for the cancelled flight, because I couldn’t make up the hours, I had another trip and I didn’t want to risk losing that trip if something happened with the trip I picked up to make up my hours.

    This is far from an isolated incident, this is just to give you an idea of what’s going on out there.

    I have never seen morale so low at the airline, and no one sees any light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone feels like upper management just doesn’t care.

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