Mechanics at American Airlines have been negotiating their contract (and have been out of contract) for years. Work slowdowns for maintenance concerns, however, make the carrier safer, even if inconvenient.
Work Slowdowns Hampering Operations
Reports have come in from frequent flyers and videos flood the web; American Airlines summer of pain has certainly begun. The mechanics have stated that the busy summer season will not be pleasant and have delivered on that promise. While we will have to wait for June’s on-time arrivals, anecdotally it seems to be taking effect, just check a departure board near you.
More Maintenance Increases Safety
While American Airlines mechanics displeasure may cause concern about safety, it shouldn’t. Mechanics from the two unions representing American workers are still performing work on aircraft, in fact, they are performing more of it. Tires that could have made a few more landings are switched earlier, more repairs generally are being made – that makes American Airlines safer. Other work that might have waited until aircraft sit idle overnight are instead repaired during operations hours, but nonetheless are repaired and in this case, sooner rather than later.
It just takes longer.
Mechanics don’t have to work overtime to get the tasks accomplished if they don’t want to, that prolongs delays and exacerbates the problem. While it may seem counterintuitive for a group of workers upset with their pay to turn down additional income, it makes their position stronger.
Passengers Don’t Like It
The real test comes from passengers that are less attuned than our audience to the ongoing struggles within American Airlines. A former colleague of mine, oblivious to the mechanic contract struggle, mentioned that he recently took a trip from Midland, TX to Pittsburgh via Dallas and instead of arriving at 10 PM, landed at 5 AM the next day. He was not amused and American handled it poorly.
Others have taken to the internet to display their discontent. Their stories are anecdotal, yes, but June’s on-time performance will tell the story. It’s a shame we don’t have real-time reports to demonstrate just how efficient (or in this case, inefficient) mechanics have been.
Nor Do Some Employees
Videos have surfaced with mechanics and managers in strong exchanges. Commenters have added that while they understand the struggle of their fellow employees, the consequences of those actions fall on the shoulders of gate agents, flight attendants, and call center employees who deal with upset customers.
Management certainly doesn’t like it either. In fact, last week American won a court order against the mechanics for slowing work that was “devastating” the airline – and that was filed in May, not June where the cracks are really beginning to show. Bloomberg published the following:
The slowdown has forced American to cancel 722 flights in the 23 days since it filed the original lawsuit last month, the airline said. The number of affected passengers has escalated to 11,000 daily, or more than 175,000 since the original May 20 filing, it said.
… the union’s “illegal conduct has dramatically escalated and has become devastating to the airline’s operations, customers and employees,”
The very thought of upset mechanics may frighten some passengers, but in this instance, they are using safety as a defense and doing more maintenance than may be absolutely required at that time. They are punishing management with both delays (to do the work), maintenance costs that would be incurred eventually in an expedited fashion, and the costs of delays like overnight accommodation for passengers and meal vouchers. While it’s not fun for passengers, working outside of their contract for the last few years probably hasn’t been fun for the mechanics either.
What do you think? Is American Airlines safer to fly because of the work slowdowns? Do safety slowdowns make you feel more or less comfortable flying American?