American Airlines threatens to take pilots to court
FORT WORTH, Sep 28, 2012 (Menafn - Fort Worth Star-Telegram - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --American Airlines threatened to take its pilots union to court if its members continue to disrupt flight operations and acknowledged that the delays are damaging revenue.
The Fort Worth-based carrier told the Allied Pilots Association that it needs to keep its members from upsetting American's schedule by filing last-minute delays and taxiing slowly to the gate. Hundreds of flights have been delayed throughout the system in the past two weeks.
The union denied organizing or supporting the disruptions, then blamed management for not adequately staffing the schedule and for failing to properly maintain the aging fleet.
"Within 24 hours of being asked to return to the bargaining table, they threaten legal action," union spokesman Tom Hoban said. "This is akin to being sucker-punched."
In a letter sent to the union Wednesday, Vice President Denise Lynn called the work slowdown illegal and said the airline will file for an injunction if the pilots continue to damage operations.
"This unlawful conduct is taking the form of discretionary pilot actions including such things as delaying departures for unnecessary checks, increased and late-filed maintenance write-ups, increased block times due to slow taxiing, and circuitous routings," Lynn wrote.
"The conduct at issue is inflicting economic damage on the company," she complained. "It is frustrating and alienating our customers and it is driving unnecessary work and significant stress for other employees."
American canceled about 5 percent of its scheduled flights, or 100 flights, on Thursday afternoon, with a third of those at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, according to FlightStats.com.
The day before, it canceled around 55 flights, but close to 250 had delays over 45 minutes, giving American an on-time-arrival rate of 61 percent, the website said.
With almost two weeks of delays and cancellations, American's revenue is likely to suffer as customers choose different airlines, said Ken Malek, managing director at Conway MacKenzie, a financial-turnaround and crisis-management firm.
"The high-value business travelers, who are very in need of on-time departures and arrivals, typically book their flights within a week or less, so I think the impact is going to be fairly immediate," Malek said, adding that the spike in delays and maintenance issues is statistically significant.
American's Lynn said that the airline does not want to sue the union but that "appropriate steps" must be taken to protect the carrier and its customers. If the carrier goes to court for an injunction against its pilots, it won't be a first.
In 1999, American and the union argued over the integration of Reno Air's pilots into its workforce.
When negotiations broke down, pilots held a sickout. The job action forced the carrier to cancel 6,700 flights, costing American 225 million. A federal judge ruled that the sickout was illegal and ordered the union to pay American 45.5 million in damages.
Last summer, US Airways filed a complaint alleging that its pilots union was conducting a work slowdown as contract negotiations were dragging on. A federal judge issued an injunction against the union, directing pilots to stop "slow taxiing, writing up all maintenance items [and] calling in fatigued."
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631
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