Pilots Screw the Customers in Battle with American

After spending two weeks in Spain, it was finally time to return home yesterday. Unfortunately I was flying American Airlines (AA), and got to experience first hand the disruptions American’s passengers are experiencing as a result of the labor battles between its pilots and management. If you have not been following the story, pilots have been calling in sick or finding minor technical problems in order to delay flights (frequently for an hour or more) in their effort to punish American for imposing a new contract on them through the bankruptcy court.

My American saga started with a 1 hour and forty-five minute delay in our departure time in Madrid which was enough to screw up my connection in Dallas/Ft. Worth to Phoenix. Fortunately American had re-booked me automatically on a later flight. I assumed our delay was due to the inbound pilot finding a minor issue in order to delay the inbound flight. Once we finally boarded, our pilot announced that we had a problem with the navigation system and said he called maintenance to repair and reboot the system. I have no doubt there was no problem with the avionics, but was a typical example of what the pilots are doing now. So the pilots games continued and we sat in the plane another 90 minutes before finally taking off.

Upon arriving in Dallas/Ft. Worth I noticed my original flight to Phoenix had not left, so I figured I would try to get on the earlier flight and try to get home on time. I had already spent over 12 hours in a plane and the sooner I could get home, the better. As I walked up to the counter and asked about changing to this “earlier” flight, the gate agent announced yet another delay on that flight. She said the pilots noticed a blemish on the pilots windshield and said they asked mechanics to inspect it to determine whether it was safe or if the windshield needed to be replaced. From behind me, I heard a woman start shouting, “Are you kidding me! What kind of game is this? Before you told us it was a avionics problem. Now 35 minutes later you are telling us there is a new problem? This is bullshit!” The gate attendant looked flustered, and said to me, “Do you really want to get on this plane with these people?” Quickly I said, “No. I’ll keep my later flight.” That flight was now 45 minutes late and the passengers had no idea when it would actually depart, or if it might be cancelled. Passengers were restless and angry with good reason. They were merely pawns in a battle between the pilots and the airline. My flight was scheduled to leave at 9:40 pm and we departed on time, while the “7:30 pm” flight departed 5 minutes after we left. I have no patience for the pilots union’s bold face lies when they have the audacity to say, “Our pilots first concern is for the safety of our passengers.” These are not safety issues! In the pilots mind this is about punishing American Airlines, but the reality is it is only punishing its passengers – its customers. American Airlines and its top executives will continue to get their outrageous salaries while only the traveling public suffers.

As I did an unscientific analysis of the departure boards last night, nearly 25% of all the departures out of Dallas/Ft. Worth were delayed or cancelled. While it may have made the pilots feel like they were giving American Airlines “their comeuppance,” in reality they significantly disrupted the lives of thousands of passengers. Until the pilots and management of American Airlines put the customer first, I will avoid American Airlines and recommend that my customers avoid it too.

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