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Management Again Trying to Fix Its Failures on Our Pilots’ Backs

Poor planning on management's part does not constitute an emergency on our pilots’ part.

Enhancements to American Airlines' network must be planned and executed with competence. Unfortunately, the latest new service to Delhi, India, has already led to a series of contract violations and egregious abuses of our flight crews.

First, American Airlines failed to obtain Russian overflight permission, leading to a much longer than planned return flight. Management then knowingly violated Section 15 of the contract by placing one Captain and three First Officers on a flight scheduled for more than 16 hours in duration. These flights require two Captains and two First Officers, yet management disregarded this requirement, knowing full well the return flight segment would exceed the contractual limits. Then, in an effort to correct that error, management removed the extra First Officers and placed those pilots in recovery obligation. APA rejects the notion that management's obvious failure to plan allows it to disregard our contract and likewise rejects that those failings should fall on the shoulders of pilots who should never have been assigned the sequences in the first place.

To compound these blatant errors, just this morning, Crew Scheduling called out an entire reserve crew — pilots and flight attendants — and assigned them to deadhead to Bangor, Maine, to sit reserve in the middle of the night for days on end just in case the Delhi flight ran into delays on departure and needed to stop in Bangor to re-dispatch in order to continue on to JFK. Our contract does not permit airport reserve, let alone airport reserve away from base — period, stop. This action is nothing more than an extra-contractual liberty taken by Crew Scheduling in an effort to counteract previous failings (again, related to American Airlines’ failure to obtain the proper overflight permits). This action cannot stand.

The LGA Domicile Reps, our Negotiating, Flight Time/Duty Time, and Contract Compliance committees, and APA Legal all immediately sought to end this illegal practice. By early this afternoon, and only after APA called out this blatant contractual violation, Flight Operations management intervened and resolved the problem, and for that I am grateful. But in reality, no such intervention should ever have been required, because the assignment should never have happened.

These contract violations illustrate a fundamental lack of respect for our pilots and our contract that is tolerated, and perhaps even encouraged, by some members of management. They also illustrate sorely lacking quality control and accountability for those tasked to run the airline day-to-day. Whether a function of incompetence or willful disregard, it is readily apparent that things must change if this airline is ever going to achieve meaningful success. Management must exercise its duty of care for our pilots, passengers, and fellow employees.

On Sept. 23, the APA Board of Directors approved a resolution, R2021-38 Rev 1, titled “AA Management Replacement” stating:

BE IT RESOLVED the APA Board of Directors believes it is in the best interest of the American Airlines shareholders, employees, the communities it serves, and the traveling public for the management team members who control the American Airlines operation be replaced[.]

Will senior management respond as required to meet this and the many other challenges remaining ahead, or will it continue looking outward for places to grow while ignoring the fact that the foundation is fractured? To date, it unfortunately appears that senior management is unwilling to do what is necessary to right the ship, choosing to ignore the constant failings happening below them. What is clear to any observer, however, is that the current path, which has thus far led to consistent failure and industry-trailing results, will never make American Airlines the envy of the industry. Management must proactively engage with APA in a manner that it has yet to do since courting labor to gain our support for the American Airlines-US Airways merger, and time is running short.

As always, APA stands ready and willing to do its part to ensure American Airlines’ success for the benefit of our membership, the flying public, and the airline’s investors. APA has offered multiple solutions that will achieve the successes we expect as professionals. The time for doing it “the old way" or "the way we've always done it” should have been abandoned a long time ago.

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