“Our concern as managers is customer reliability, not safety.” — LGA AA Manager (non-Flight Department) statement to an AA Captain during a pilot pushing event on Oct. 12, 2018
As shocking as the above statement is, it may not come as a surprise. With AA scheduled to the ragged edge, many managers are taking it upon themselves to test our resolve and begin pilot pushing. They’re doing this to compensate for not providing us with the tools and facilities to do our jobs for our passengers, crew, and airline.
That statement was what an LGA AA manager told one of our Captains last week as she tried to intimidate him to board and take an aircraft that was not airworthy or fit for our passengers. The cabin was littered, including an empty wine bottle rolling on the floor and flotation vests having migrated out of their containers (the latter a common occurrence on the E-190).
The manager then assembled a group of like-minded managers, who peppered our Captain with disrespectful questions about his level of experience, and dismissed his safety concerns.
Pilots are familiar with the everyday challenges to Captain’s Authority out on the line. Most of those can be handled by the quiet, dignified insistence that the problem will be corrected before the airplane will move.
But once in a while, a challenge is so egregious that it must be publicized so that pilots will be forewarned of its existence. Such a challenge is now ongoing at LGA, which appears to be “on point” in management’s apparent desire to bludgeon pilots into acquiescence to D-0 at the expense of safety and customer service.
The offending manager even went as far as to state that she knew a certain Chief Pilot very well, insinuating that she would leverage the Captain via her friendship with his direct supervisor.
Fortunately, our Captain was calm, strong, and professional as he asserted his authority to ensure the safety of flight – confounding the gang’s attempts to prioritize schedule over safety.
This is blatant pilot pushing. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
We are writing to inform you that, after navigating some of the most complex and difficult airspace in the world, and landing and taxiing at one of the world’s most challenging airports, you cannot relax once you set the brakes at LGA. Management has created an institutional challenge to your role as the last line of defense of the safety margin and the quality of the American Airlines product.
We are also receiving reports that management has directed gate agents to verify high cabin temperatures with a thermal sensing device, and challenge the Captain’s decision to delay boarding in order to make it safe for occupancy. Predictably, this has resulted in friction between pilots and gate agents.
Management lauds “working together” with “fellow team members” and “validating the trust,” but creates divisive policies that put us at odds with one another over something as simple as cabin temperature. Please keep in mind that agents are fellow union workers, and they are only doing what they are directed to do by their managers with the same intimidation and threats of punishment as we are. So, engage them calmly and professionally when you are defending our passengers and crew from being boarded onto unsafe, uncomfortable, or inadequately cleaned aircraft. Our passengers, your crew, and our airline depend on you as the backstop against absurd management policy-policing and misguided D-O obsession.
We retain the same authority that we had 50 years ago, although it is less popular to exercise it today, and it is frequently challenged by those outside our flight decks. Always remember that a calm, professional, and respectful demeanor can be maintained, while still exercising the authority necessary to do the right thing for our passengers and crew.
Our thanks to the pilots who brought these issues to our attention.
We remain hopeful that the Flight Department will be as protective of Captain’s Authority as APA pilots are, and that they will take corrective action to prevent further pilot pushing and intimidation.
In closing, the following is from the AA Flight Department regarding PIC authority (posted to aapilots.com on June 27, 2018). Pay particular attention to the closing paragraph.
Authority and responsibility of the PIC
We want to emphasize up front that we fully recognize and support 14 CFR 121.533, which states in part:
Each pilot in command of an aircraft is, during flight time, in command of the aircraft and crew and is responsible for the safety of the passengers, crewmembers, cargo, and airplane.
Each pilot in command has full control and authority in the operation of the aircraft, without limitation, over other crewmembers and their duties during flight time, whether or not he holds valid certificates authorizing him to perform the duties of those crewmembers.
Furthermore, the Department of Transportation (DOT) extends the Pilot In Command authority as the airline representative for matters regarding safety and security of passengers, crew and aircraft during the preflight and boarding process.
APA Captain’s Authority Committee