Is American Airlines Pressuring Their Pilots To Cut Corners In Favor Of Keeping A Tight Schedule?


Everyone likes to get to his destination on time but we all would like to actually get there safely which might be in contrast to what American Airlines management has in mind, keeping schedule performance as first priority.

AAmerican B767

A recent memo of American’s COO set off alarm bells with the pilots union as they interpret it as ‘pilot pushing’ which might lead to compromising safety regulations if followed.

Unions of all varieties love to cry foul at every given opportunity so this whole matter should be taken with a grain of salt but at the same time we’re talking about American Airlines here so maybe the claims aren’t as far off.

You can read the entire story from the Chicago Tribune (access here).

The head of American Airlines’ pilots union has warned that management’s strategy to “speed up” some flight plans could “compromise the margin of safety” if everyone isn’t careful. …

What set off the APA’s Carey was a July 12 memo from American Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom that said, “For critical flights, our dispatchers and pilots will work together and utilize ‘speed up’ flight plans to reduce delays involving crew duty times where necessary.”

To Carey, this sounded a lot like “pilot pushing,” pressuring pilots to accept less than optimal conditions at a boss’s behest. It’s a practice as old as professional flying itself. It’s what led pilots to organize in the first place decades ago and is the reason the government has restrictions on matters such as flying hours in the name of safety.

The goal may be to help ensure that passenger connections aren’t missed and American’s network operates smoothly. Another concern is to keep pilots from exhausting their allowed on-duty hours, which would require crew replacements and lead to more delays.

“American Airlines’ operations are clearly over-scheduled, and management is now resorting to improvisation,” Carey said. “Don’t let management’s schedule-planning mistakes become your next crisis.”

And just like that — poof —the reassurance for passengers from the cockpit that the pilot thinks lost time can be made up en route to minimize a delay is no longer as reassuring as it once was.

I have a hard time believing that a pilot would take management directions to the point where his own life and that of the passengers would be in danger but looking back at famous airplane accidents, often corporate decisions to cut corners has played a deciding factor in the disaster.


It’s important to have integrity in the system that is supposed to ensure the safety of air travel and aircraft operation. A few days ago I wrote about the very thin profit margins that airlines have which makes it understandable that management tries to operate as profitable as possible but it shouldn’t be at the cost of safety.

Maybe it all has been taken a bit too far out of context after all and it’s not what the COO had in mind when he wrote that memo so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for a moment here.