Will American's Computers Fail Next?
Ambassador Program Not the Solution
U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal recently expressed concerns about the reliability of aging airline IT systems. In a letter to the CEOs of Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines, the lawmakers cited the impact of outages on customers.
“Now that four air carriers control approximately 85 percent of domestic capacity, all it takes is one airline to experience an outage and thousands of passengers could be stranded, resulting in missed business meetings, graduations, weddings, funerals, and other prepaid events,” they stated. The lawmakers further noted that “we are concerned with recent reports indicating that airlines’ IT systems may be susceptible to faltering because of the way they are designed and have been maintained.”
Against that backdrop of congressional scrutiny, American Airlines management has set a deadline of October 1, 2016, to transition to a single Flight Operating System (FOS) for all of our pilots. FOS, the Legacy American Airlines system for managing crews and airplanes, dates back to the 1970s. Given what occurred with the computer systems at Delta, Southwest, and United during the past year, it’s reasonable to expect schedule disruptions and other problems during the transition. American Airlines is already experiencing operational reliability problems, as evidenced by the airline’s June performance. Only 72.4 percent of our flights reached the gate within 14 minutes of scheduled arrival time, putting us in last place among 12 U.S. carriers.
Management’s Ambassador Program, consisting of Legacy American Airlines pilot volunteers training Legacy US Airways pilots on how FOS works, was supposed to facilitate the transition. However, I recently learned that some of the instructional materials management intends to use in the Ambassador Program are not compliant with our contractual agreements, including the JCBA. This puts pilots volunteering to serve as instructors in the position of effectively aiding management in violating these agreements at the expense of their fellow pilots, which I cannot and will not endorse. Therefore, APA has withdrawn its support of the program, and I urge all pilot instructors to carefully consider whether their participation is appropriate under these circumstances.
The APA Negotiating Committee and management have engaged in discussions about how to proceed, and APA has proposed a series of solutions to the problems involved in the transition to single FOS. These discussions have not been productive to date, but APA remains hopeful that management will recommit to productive discussion shortly.
We will continue to keep you informed as developments warrant.
Captain Dan Carey