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.
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.