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September 27, 2012

American threatens legal action against pilots

American Airlines is threatening legal action against its pilots union if pilots continue to slow down the company's operations.

Late Wednesday, the Fort Worth-based carrier said senior vice president Denise Lynn sent a letter to the Allied Pilots Association asking the union to take steps to keep its members from disrupting American's operations by filing last-minute maintenance delays which have caused hundreds of flights to be delayed across its system the past two weeks.

In the letter, Lynn said it is illegal for pilots to engage in a work slow-down and the airline will file for an injunction if the pilots continue to hurt its operations.

"This unlawful conduct is taking the form of discretionary pilot actions including such things as delaying departures for unnecessary checks, increased and late-filed maintenance write-ups, increased block times due to slow taxiing, and circuitous routings," Lynn said in the letter. "The conduct at issue is inflicting economic damage on the Company; it is frustrating and alienating our customers; and it is driving unnecessary work and significant stress for other employees."

American has cancelled close to 90 flights, about 4.5 percent of its scheduled flights, so far on Thursday with a third of those at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, according to FlightStats.com. On Wednesday, the carrier cancelled a little over 55 flights but close to 250 flights had delays over 45 minutes giving American an on-time arrival rate of 61 percent, the website said.

The APA board of directors is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss possible negotiations with American. On Wednesday, the union board reaffirmed its support to reengage management at the bargaining table, but that was before the letter from Lynn was sent to the union.

After receiving Lynn's letter Wednesday evening, the board is likely to reverse course and recommend not restarting negotiations, said APA spokesman Tom Hoban.

"Within 24 hours of being asked to return to the bargaining table, they threaten legal action," Hoban said. "This is akin to being suckerpunched."

"It’s finger pointing that they’re engaging in because they failed to man this airline properly and failed to fix maintenance issue," Hoban added.

Lynn said the company does not want to sue the union but that it "must take appropriate steps" to protect American and its customers.

"I hope that we can put this recent behavior behind us and turn to the critical task of operating a more efficient, competitive airline in the interests of all economic stakeholders, and begin the joint task of finding common ground for a new pilot agreement," Lynn said.

Keep reading for the full letter that was sent to the APA.

-Andrea Ahles

Dear APA National Officers and Board Members:

I am writing to express my concern about mounting evidence that certain pilots are engaging in an unlawful, concerted effort to damage the Company. This unlawful conduct is taking the form of discretionary pilot actions including such things as delaying departures for unnecessary checks, increased and late-filed maintenance write-ups, increased block times due to slow taxiing, and circuitous routings. This behavior has been accompanied by statements from pilots indicating that the activity is intended to “send a message” to the Company to express displeasure with AMR management, the Court’s Section 1113 decision and the absence of a new consensual agreement with the Company.

As I am sure you are aware, following the Second Circuit’s decision in the Northwest Airlinescase, there is no longer any question that “self-help” of this sort is unlawful. This conduct is also seriously misguided, as it threatens the financial and operational prospects of the Company just as the Company is in the process of righting itself after a decade of losses and competitive disadvantages. All of American’s customers, creditors and employees, including the pilots, have an interest in seeing these reorganization efforts succeed. The conduct at issue is inflicting economic damage on the Company; it is frustrating and alienating our customers; and it is driving unnecessary work and significant stress for other employees. If this conduct continues, it will diminish the value of the Company and the ultimate return to our creditors.

Accordingly, I ask that you communicate immediately and unambiguously with your members that such work actions are unlawful and that any individuals engaging in such activities will be subject to both Company and APA discipline. I ask that you communicate this message both publicly and in any other private forms or channels of communication used by the APA for disseminating information about bargaining and/or strike preparedness. I also ask that APA refrain from communications that could be misconstrued by line pilots as support for disruptive activities.

Your clear denunciation of this illegal conduct and your willingness to use APA discipline against those who nonetheless engage in it are necessary components of APA’s responsibility to do all it reasonably can to prevent such activity, as the Railway Labor Act requires. We will be forced to act quickly and aggressively as permitted by the RLA if APA fails to comply with this legal duty or if this unlawful conduct continues. If we do not see an immediate, measurable improvement in our operations, we will have no choice but to seek appropriate injunctive relief.

We do not want to pursue this legal remedy; however, with the operation continuing to suffer for more than a week now, we must take appropriate steps to protect the Company and the many constituents who depend upon it. I hope that we can put this recent behavior behind us and turn to the critical task of operating a more efficient, competitive airline in the interests of all economic stakeholders, and begin the joint task of finding common ground for a new pilot agreement.


Denise Lynn


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T Lang

So if an airplane has a maintenance issue the airline is telling it's pilots not to have it looked at? I wonder what the FAA will say about that?

Ron K

AA is right. I took a Flt last weekend and just before boarding the Gate Agent says the flt is delayed because the Pilot wants to change some seat cushions!1 Really seat cushions? What a joke. Dare say anything to the Pilot after Boarding and I'd either be thrown off the flt or he's delay it longer for some BS. Even the gate agent said that she hope he likes the color or he may delay it further.


T Lang: You and I both know real maintnence issues will continue to be reported and corrected AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE. Now quit trying to spread hysteria.

Lance Cullen

If there is a problem with an aircraft the public needs to know, Apparently American Airlines is only interested in the Dollars and not their customers safety, The FAA should take action against American Airlines by grounding their entire fleet and force them to preform maintenance safety chrcks and impose heavy fines on all vsafety violations found that American Airlines is trying to hide from the FAA and the American people who buy tickets.


Right....the people who do not fly the 30 year old airplanes are telling you to stop with "unnecessary checks" as they put it. However, the FAA expects any item whether it be a light bulb, coffee maker, etc, to be written up in the maintenance logbook. Do you wonder why they have a $167 million dollar fine from the FAA for maintenance violations hanging over their head? Or why an entire fleet of s80's was grounded because of non compliance with the FAA?

Air Bird

It used to be " Went Broke but left on time " now it's " Went Broke and didn't leave ".

Don Scott

Go A/A. Those guys have the best job in the world. Take it away from them if they want to play games that endanger the company. Fire them immediately!!! Also, make them bring a Dr.'s note for sick calls.


I'm sure the APA isn't sanctioning this slow down. Sueing them will do absolutely no good. AMR is just reaping what they sowed. Another airline that fails to understand that the pilots are the ones who make the money.


Maybe the courts should just run the airline. AA's management can't count money and now they can't take care of their people. They spend more time in court's than they do at the airport.

What do you expect the pilots to do after you strip them of their contract.

They pilots are just doing their jobs now and NOTHING more.

AA employee

Just for the record, these "maintance issues" did not start to happen until the day after the court imposed new work rules on the pilots, becuase they did not come to an agreement ealier. If these are truly issues, then that leaves me to beleive one of two things. Either all the planes had issues at all at once, or the pilots had been neglecting maintance checks for all this time. And many of these issues could be found by the pilots ealier and fixed before the scheduled departing time.


What the heck has happened to a once great airline in the past ten years. The corporate headquarters' CEOs have apparently flushed themselves down the aircrafts' toilets!


I was on a flight last week delayed twice for so-called maintenance issues. The second one was obviously false, with a pilot coming over the intercom and claiming that there was a rear door left open on the aircraft as we taxied to the runway. He took us back to the gate for the alleged problem to be fixed.

The flight attendants just rolled their eyes. They knew it was a lie. And this after a one-hour test of an allegedly busted fuel line - which magically wasn't broken after all. The pilot also had announced to a corridor full of boarding passengers that the plane was "broke."

Very unprofessional. Note to pilots: this doesn't make us like you, or sympathize with your cause.


You are right Scotty - the pilots are the ones who make the money, and so much money they are driving the carrier into bankruptcy. By the way, the plane doesn't leave until the mechanic fixes (real) problems, the flights attendants are there to do their job, the bag handlers load the bags, the agents get the passengers ticketed and checked-in, etc., etc. In other words, it takes more than a pilot to get the plane in air. All the other employees are just as important, just as important (repeated for emphasis), in getting the job done.


Before this struggle between company and pilots I chose AA as often as possible. No longer. I don't care who is right or who is wrong. I'm the consumer and if both parties are as selfish as they appear to be then why should I fly with them? Neither party has demonstrated what it takes to compete as a business in today's world. Those companies that have adapted will find a way to continue to prosper no matter the circumstances they face. They'll prosper because their people will work toward common goals. And when they succeed those good companies who prospered will share the fruits of everyone's labor. I work for such a company competing in a very competitive, mature industry. The last 2 years have been the best on record for us. The AA's of our industry have, or are in the process of, falling by the wayside. So too will it be for all of those fighting among each other to bring AA down from within.


Union sanctioned doesnt really mean that much in this high tech world.
Sometimes a wink and a nod do just "fine".


WE are fed up with AA....I will be flying Southwest EVERY chance I get from now on....don't know why I didn't do this earlier...THEY ARE GREAT!!

Randy Watson

Many seem to be missing the point that these RECENT maintenance requests are false reports meant to make the company look bad. Passengers on these flights need to ask to speak to the pilot to let them know how you feel about being used in this battle. Pilots are the highest paid non-supervisory employees in the industry, but are greedy for more money. AA is not the perfect airline, but why should the pilots be permitted to jeopardize the jobs of other AA employees? Very sad.

Ramjet, Roger A.

That APA spokesman Hoban is sounding more like “Baghdad Bob” with each TV news appearance, and he counts on the general public’s unfamiliarity with airline procedures. Here’s a Reader’s Digest Condensed Version.

Each aircraft type has a document called a minimum equipment list (MEL) that details all the items in the aircraft, and what must be working (at a minimum) for the aircraft. Items that are deferred from immediate repair are classified as A, B, or C, with varying timeframes being allowed for repair, C being the longest. Some items are true “no-go” items, meaning they must be fixed before further flight.

The crux of the problem here is that the MEL allows a captain the final say, in that they can treat a normally deferrable A, B, or C item as if it were a true “no-go” item, and that ability is precisely the thing that some of AA’s captain are abusing to “send a message” to management, and doinking Customers and other employees in the process. We’re not talking about deferring wings, engines, critical avionics, or true safety-of-flight items here—we’re talking about minor items that could (and were) routinely deferred prior to their contract being tossed. And now, they have their feelings hurt by AA’s cease and desist memo—why, the very –nerve- of AA management. [Rolling my eyes]

Here’s what I see happening. APA will continue this nonsense; AA will seek (and be granted) an injunction; some APA folks will ignore it; and eventually APA will get another multi-million dollar fine that will leave them broke. As the APA's expenses continue, their members will get an “assessment” to cover those costs, which will really irk their members.

Be careful for what Ye ask for as Ye may receive it.

casual observer

I'm assuming the APA has an extra $45 million in the bank to cover these "newly discovered maintenance concerns." Funny how history can repeat itself.


Irresponsible! I don't want to fly with any pilot playing games like this.


Pilots are spoiled brats. If they can't get what they want through legal means, they will cheat and break the law. AA has been through this before and the pilots union was spanked badly and fined by a federal judge. Pilots, get ready to be spanked again like little boys.


Friends. It's not about safety as far as these pilots are concerned. It's about slowing down just to get AA attention.

If you had ever worked in the airline industry as I did for 20 years you would know. It's just the games they play. They all do it.

It is hard for me to understand why the pilots would want to hurt their own livelihood at a time their company is sinking.

They better hold their britches because many of them are getting ready to see how a $ 000 pay check feels. And they deserve it.

Those union bosses could care less about those flight crews.

George P. Burdell

I'm switching to Delta and Southwest, at least until this is over. The pilots are doing a good job angering the passengers while management can ignore them. Pilots can vote to strike and vote to hold their breath, but they violate the Bankruptcy Code if they act on it. So, they've tried an end run, and it's just driving revenue away.

Jamba juice

Fire them!


The pilots are glorified taxi drivers. For years thy have been pompous and all about themselves. They have alienated themselves from the other unions. Do they really think the public believes these problems just started? Do they think we are naive enough to believe they are concerned about our safety? The way they have "spun" these recent write-ups as a concern for our safety is an insult to anyone's intelligence. This is and always has been about them! This coming from a person who comes from family of union employees at AA (retired and active).

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