American Airlines’ union pilots will be picketing Thursday at DFW International Airport as they push for a new contract with the carrier, but they aren’t ready to walk off the job anytime soon.
The Allied Pilots Association is bringing in dozens of pilots to DFW International Airport, American’s biggest hub located just miles from the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, for an “informational picket” to put public pressure on the company to come to a deal after nearly two years of talks.
The union representing about 13,400 pilots is pushing for better scheduling and tools to make flying more efficient, which they say could reduce the number of delays and cancellations that have plagued American Airlines during peak travel periods. Pilots say erratic delays and cancellations are causing an increase in fatigue calls among pilots.
“We are already looking at the heat of the summer and spring break when this recovery takes the full course,” said Allied Pilots spokesman Dennis Tajer.
“Do we have the efficiencies and the acumen and the IT to take the positive energy of what we did over Christmas and turn it into positive results going forward?”
The protests come the same day that American Airlines is set to announce full-year and fourth-quarter earnings.Airlines across the country have been troubled by cancellations and delays since the demand for air travel surged in the spring and as carriers tried to bring back workers who were furloughed and on leave.American’s operating performance rank is the best it’s been since at least 2017, at least through October, according to federal data.
American ranks fourth among major airline networks for on-time arrivals, getting 81.2% of its flights to the airport on schedule, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. American still ranks behind Hawaiian Airlines, Delta and Alaska, but so far it’s besting competitors United and Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, which has fallen near the bottom of the pack and is ahead of only Allegiant.
But pilots say they have borne the brunt of a tumultuous travel recovery where moderate weather events and other hiccups have turned into mass cancellations that stretch for days and days.
On top of that, pilots and flight attendants this year have complained about troubles getting hotel rooms and hot meals. Tajer said scheduling shortfalls put far too many pilots on call for flying that cut into time off with family.
- Dozens of pilots have signed up to hold signs at the drop-off area of Terminal C at DFW.
- It will be a smaller demonstration than pilots staged in January 2020, when hundreds lined up shoulder to shoulder at the drop-off area to Terminal D to lobby for a new contract.
- But that last demonstration was before the COVID-19 pandemic had been declared, and this time they are hoping to limit exposure.
- American has been in active negotiations with pilots as recently as Tuesday.
- Leadership for the union recently agreed to push for a shorter-term contract of one or two years that focuses on a smaller set of demands, including higher pay.
- A shorter deal would allow the two sides to get some immediate contract improvements and then focus on another deal in 2023 or 2024.
- Lindsey Martin, a spokeswoman for the airline, said the informational picket isn’t expected to have an impact on the carrier’s flight operations.
- She added that the company is committed to reaching an agreement.
“We have made meaningful progress recently and are discussing proposals that would deliver pay raises, enhanced profit sharing and benefits, and significant quality of life improvements to the pilots of American Airlines”Martin said in a statement.
- American Airlines and pilots are a long way from an actual labor breakdown.
- It would take months, if not longer, before pilots cold actually strike.
- Because airline strikes are prohibited by federal law, the pilots union would need to declare an impasse and then the two sides would have to fail in arbitration and mediation.
- Then pilots would only be allowed to strike after approval from the National Mediation Board.
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