Deny thy boardroom and refuse thy chiefs,
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn on-time,
And let the Cactus purchase you!
Sorry. For those joining our program in progress, "Cactus" is the callsign of US Airways, who are now in merger talks with the airline I fly all the time, American. Today American's pilots are trying to make that merger happen more quickly, but they have come to bury American, not to praise it.
American's pilots, who spurned management's "last best" offer before the company went into bankruptcy protection, have gotten surly that management has gone ahead with its rule changes anyway. Pilots picketed outside O'Hare yesterday, while coincidentally finding an unusual number of "maintenance problems" over the past few weeks that caused flights to be delayed or cancelled. This has dropped American's on-time rate to 54% and prompted a nervous but defiant Air Line Pilots Association to deny in a statement yesterday that this is a work action:
One area of increased operational unreliability we have observed is in mechanical delays, which isn’t surprising. Although American Airlines operates the oldest fleet of any major U.S. carrier, management has decided to furlough a large number of mechanics and close one of its largest maintenance facilities. Management also decided some time ago to reduce its inventory of spare parts.
In addition, management halted the recalls of furloughed pilots late last year, which has resulted in an insufficient number of pilots to maintain the schedule properly.
It’s also important to remember that management chose to reject the APA-American Airlines Collective Bargaining Agreement, which served as an operating manual for our pilots. Management’s action has generated significant uncertainty for our pilots with respect to employment protections and operating rules, which are now under management’s unilateral control.
APA members are experienced professionals who conduct themselves as professionals under whatever circumstances they encounter. Any negative impact on our airline’s operational integrity is of management’s own making.
I'm going to watch this closely, particularly while finalizing plans to visit the UK next month. I'm outbound from Atlanta on British Airways, and getting to Atlanta isn't a problem at all if American cancels tons of flights; but returning from the UK might be. Now, where did I put my Tums?
Update, 10:49am: The president of American's frequent-flyer program has just sent an email announcing some changes to the company's schedule through October: "We are proactively reducing the rest of our September and October schedule by approximately one to two percent. These schedule adjustments will enable us to provide our customers with more reliable service while minimizing impact to travel plans. Additionally, we are increasing staffing of maintenance, reservations and airport personnel to offer you more flexible travel options." Let's see how that affects my trip.