Just weeks after the last operational meltdown of American Airlines the airline could be in for much more trouble over the coming holiday season as both cabin crew and pilots are in short supply.
The carrier has offered rather large payment incentives to crew willing to work over the holidays but the pilots union has already rejected the offer, saying the airline needs to make more permanent changes to it’s scheduling system.
Trouble is definitely brewing and this doesn’t bode well for travelers who have booked a trip on American to visit their loved ones this year.
As CNBC reports crews aren’t exactly happy with the incentives despite the carriers generous offers.
American Airlines pilots union has rejected the company’s offer of as much as double pay for working trips around the holidays, a measure aimed at avoiding a repeat of recent mass flight cancellations.
The Allied Pilots Association’s board of directors voted against the premium pay of at least 150% and double pay for picking up open holiday trips. The union said late Tuesday that it wants more permanent changes to how the airline builds its schedule. The labor union is in the middle of contract negotiations with the airline. …
Vowing not to repeat the disruptions, American has reached deals for bonus holiday pay throughout the airline, which employs more than 100,000 workers. The carrier will pay flight attendants triple for trips between Nov. 23 and Nov. 29 and Dec. 22 and Jan. 2, and also for perfect attendance between mid-November and Jan. 2. At minimum, flight attendants who work trips over those periods will get 150% of their pay.
“We are, of course, disappointed, especially since we have holiday pay programs in place for all other frontline groups at the company,” wrote Kimball Stone, American’s senior vice president of flight operations, and Chip Long, vice president of flight operations. “But we will continue to look for opportunities to work with APA to support you during the holidays, as well as explore our options to maximize availability of existing premiums” under the collective bargaining agreement. The pilots’ contract still allows for the company to assign 150% pay to certain trips when staffing is tight. …
Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union, told CNBC that the extra pay was “lazy” and “a clear admission you mismanaged the airline.”
Flight attendants could also get up to triple pay for working holiday trips and having perfect attendance. Additionally American is also offering $1,000 holiday attendance bonuses to ramp workers, mechanics, dispatchers and others.
This situation isn’t even exclusive to American Airlines, according to the CNBC article Southwest Airlines has already made similar offers to their crews as well.
Here is what happened in late October / early November when American last saw their operations implode:
Pretty much all U.S. carriers have faced these kind of issues over the past year especially as many of them have reduced their workforce in light of the pandemic after traffic collapsed during the first six months. Then demand shot up again and airlines found themselves on the short end of the stick, unprepared to provide adequate staffing to cope with the volume of operations.
As the article mentions the union is unhappy with the conditions at American Airlines and rather than agreeing to a one off bonus payment patchwork they want to negotiate a long term contract that would fix what pilots and their union representatives see as endemic issues in American’s roster system. If the unions and the company won’t come to an agreement I can very well imagine many pilots going on a silent strike and just call in sick which elevates the problem even more.
For the traveler this means a bumpy road ahead. Despite still being Executive Platinum with American right now I probably wouldn’t like to base my holiday travel on an airline that has such issues looming over their wings.
If I were to advise a family member I’d probably say book United or Delta right now even though there is never any guarantee what might happen along the way. In the very least brush up on your travel insurance and see to it that there are some alternatives available such as a backup ticket on miles that can be cancelled free of charge depending on your tier level with the program.
American Airlines pilot union is currently in negotiation with the company to fix longstanding disputes over working conditions and the busy holiday travel season is making it ever more complicated. The airline is short staffed and with demand at it’s peak AA offered rather high incentives to pilots (and flight attendants) which the union has already rejected to build up the pressure.
Travelers should be wary of this situation and carefully consider which airline to fly over the upcoming holidays. Thanksgiving is traditionally the peak travel period in the U.S. but this problem could like stretch further into later December as well, impacting Christmas holidays as well. It’s a mess!