American pilots to picket at O’Hare
Sun-Times Media Staff and Wire Reports September 20, 2012 3:40PM
American Airlines pilots including First Officer John Koss picket at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, September 20, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 22, 2012 6:23AM
As American Airlines and American Eagle say they will cancel 300 flights nationwide this week to cope with a high number of pilots reporting sick and an increase in maintenance reports filed by crews, the airlines’ pilots will be picketing at O’Hare Airport Thursday afternoon.
That’s 1.25 percent of the 24,000 flights that were scheduled by the two airlines, which are owned by AMR Corp.
“Only a handful will be affected at O’Hare due to cancellations,” said Mary Frances Fagan, spokesperson for American Airlines. “All those passengers will be re-accommodated on other flights. and we expect no signifcant delays.“
In a statement, the Allied Pilots Association says management is now “unilaterally implementing new terms of employment that adversely affect pilots’ working conditions, compensation and retirement security.”
The union says management is using bankruptcy “to extract far more value from the pilots than what’s needed to successfully restructure American Airlines,” according to the statement.
APA spokesman Dennis Tajer said pilot sick calls, cancellations and delays are not “beyond the norm.”
The two airlines had already canceled 249 flights nationally this week by Wednesday afternoon, a flight-tracking service said, suggesting that cancellations might far exceed American’s estimate. At least three flights from O’Hare had been canceled as of late Thursday morning.
AMR said Wednesday that it canceled the flights in advance to avoid inconveniencing passengers. Earlier this week, American said it would cut its schedule through the end of October by up to 2 percent.
American has seen an increase in flight cancelations since early this month, when a federal bankruptcy judge allowed the company to impose new pay and work rules on pilots. The pilots had rejected the company’s last contract offer in August.
Each day this week, American has canceled more flights than any U.S. airline, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.
By late Wednesday afternoon, American and Eagle had canceled 73 flights, more than the next five airlines combined. They canceled 104 flights on Tuesday and 72 flights on Monday, FlightAware said.
In a note to operations managers, American said it was telling frequent fliers why it’s been experiencing cancelations and delays. It is letting customers fly standby for earlier flights at no extra charge, and giving crews more leeway to hand out light snacks to delayed passengers.
The company said it’s also offering overtime and adjusting work schedules for reservations and airport employees, and is moving maintenance crews to where they are needed most.
AMR is trying to slash annual labor costs by about $1 billion as it reorganizes under bankruptcy protection. Eight of its nine union labor groups ratified cost-cutting contracts, with pilots the lone holdout.
The union’s Tajer noted that “we do have an aged fleet.”
“If there’s a malfunction going on we have to report it in our log book and a maintenance professional” has to carry out an inspection, which could lead to a delay, Tajer said. “You can’t just make something up.”