American Accuses Mechanics Of Causing Delays & Cancelations

Filed Under: American, Unions

Update: American Airlines has won their court battle against mechanics.

Things just got serious…

American’s labor issues

As I noted at the beginning of the year, this is going to be a tough year for contract negotiations between American management and their employees. American’s flight attendant contracts become amendable as of December 2019, while American’s pilot contracts become amendable as of January 2020.

Beyond that, American has been having consistent problems with their mechanics union, as the American and US Airways mechanics aren’t even on a single contract yet. So this has been an ongoing point of contention.

In my opinion American management is going to have a rough year of negotiations:

  • American management gave employees an unprompted pay raise hoping it would generate goodwill; in reality it’s just going to make their negotiating more difficult, as they didn’t ask for anything in return
  • With Doug Parker having bragged about how American will never lose money again and about how they’ll achieve a minimum of a three billion dollar profit every year, the unions will no doubt want their share of that as they negotiate

American is taking their mechanics to court

American Airlines has just filed an injunction against TWU-IAM, which is the union representing their mechanics.

American management claims that the union has tried to “illegally gain leverage in contract negotiations by directing a coordinated and deliberate illegal slowdown focused on the maintenance operation.”

They go on to say that “125,000 customers have been affected by 650 flight cancellations and more than 1,500 maintenance delays as a result of this slowdown,” and that “the odds of this being random as opposed to concerted activity are less than one-in-one billion.”


As an update to this, a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against mechanics, pending the July 1, 2019, trial.

American’s letter regarding their TWU-IAM injunction

Here’s the full letter American sent to employees regarding this injunction:

We are incredibly proud of our Tech Ops and Fleet Service team members. We are eager to deliver an industry-leading contract. Unfortunately, the union has chosen to illegally gain leverage in contract negotiations by directing a coordinated and deliberate illegal slowdown focused on the maintenance operation.

To date, 125,000 customers have been affected by 650 flight cancellations and more than 1,500 maintenance delays as a result of this slowdown. The data shows the odds of this being random as opposed to concerted activity are less than one-in-one billion.

Today, we filed for a preliminary injunction against the TWU-IAM Association, the TWU and the IAM to stop this illegal activity so we can all get back to running our operation as efficiently as possible.

Most importantly, we remain steadfast in our commitment to reach an industry-leading agreement to benefit all our hardworking Tech Ops and Fleet Service team members. We’ve proposed a contract that is the absolute best in the industry. As proof of this, we’ve offered alternatively to sign a contract with language identical to any other US airline if the union prefers.

While we await direction from the National Mediation Board (NMB), we will continue to care for our Tech Ops and Fleet Service teams. Because current contracts provide different pay rates for holidays and maintain different recognized holidays, we have approached the union to approve a parity plan for both recognition of the holiday and holiday pay. This parity plan would provide 2.5x their hourly pay for all those working on this Memorial Day holiday. Additionally it provides all TWU-IAM team members, on a day off on Memorial Day, holiday off pay equal to their regularly scheduled hours. We hope the TWU-IAM will agree.

Thank you to our team members who continue to give 100% every single day. We appreciate everything you do to care for our team members and customers, and to help your airline thrive.

TWU-IAM’s response to American

Here’s how TWU-IAM has responded to American, which interestingly doesn’t deny any of their claims:

It is unfortunate that American Airlines has chosen to abandon negotiating with its employees and instead go straight to federal court. The airline is frustrated with the Association for refusing to allow more of our maintenance and repair work to be outsourced to South America, China and Europe. We are also standing strong against cuts to our medical benefits and retirement security. Our members value American Airlines fliers and work hard every day to ensure they have the best experience possible.

The association is ready and willing to get back to the bargaining table at any time and negotiate a fair joint collective bargaining agreement, but to do so would take a willing partner. We would much prefer to be at the negotiating table than in a legal battle brought on by American.

Bottom line

While I think American has some rough labor negotiations ahead of them with pilots and flight attendants, perhaps it’s the mechanics situation that’s most challenging. Delta and United do more outsourcing of maintenance work than American does.

So while American would be happy to have similar maintenance contracts to Delta and United, American mechanics want more. I can’t blame them for wanting to maintain what they have, though I also can’t blame management for needing to be competitive with Delta and United.

I guess we’ll see how this plays out

  1. I’ve noticed all the planes are full everywhere I fly these days, at least on popular routes, and the airlines are making money hand over fist by cramming in slim line seats and charging for everything except soft drinks. At least for plebeians like me who have to buy the cheapest tickets (by corporate policy).The unions want a piece of this action. Buckle up, it’s going to be a rough ride!

  2. US-based airlines are so cheap! I don’t think it’s a good idea for AA to go up against its mechanics… Good luck replacing them.

  3. American seems to be making a profit right now. Why not share that with the workforce who made that happen (I’m sure Doug Parker thinks he deserves all the credit for any success).
    Grumpy flight attendants I can live with I guess, but I’d rather not have disgruntled maintenance crew!

  4. Agree with @Nick0_Jas. Share the love and the profits. These are the people that keep AA planes from falling out of the sky.

  5. I’m not management or union leaning but the workers better not overplay their hand. It’s very early in the process to be utilizing these tactics. Remember, AA likes to play follow the leader, i.e., DL and UA.

  6. I’d like to correct one point in your story. The mechanics had to agree to work on each other’s metal in exchange for the pay raise.

  7. I flew from DFW to BNA yesterday, somehow our plane had pressurization issues. After 45 minutes to an hour the mechanic finally made it to our gate at Terminal D to reset the switch. While I was pleased to be on my way it sure felt like someone must have set it earlier to need a reset. My take whether correct or not holds maintenance responsible for the entire delay. Now I know why United and Delta have more contract maintenance folks..

  8. By all means, we want American Airlines to outsource every possible critical aircraft maintenance task to the absolute lowest possible cost, foreign worker. After all, it’s what Delta and United do! What could possibly go wrong with having all of American’s aircraft maintenance done in Uganda, Honduras or Pakistan? While we’re at it, why not replace the experienced US pilot crews with cheaper options from Uzbekistan and Nigeria, too? After all, we love cheap fares!!!

  9. I’m not sure that going even farther to piss off the mechanics is a good idea. Just see how that went when Southwest went to war with the mechanics.

  10. Douggie is pretty down to Earth. I’ve had him on several flights I’ve worked in and out of DFW. He attends a lot of FA new hire graduations, including mine, and the company is pretty darn transparent. If they wanted to outsource anything they’d let us know. IAM-TWU came out of nowhere with this outsourcing talk – and BTW it’s not foreign outsourcing to China or wherever, we are talking about minor stuff like ABM doing the de-icing in Chicago. The unions really suck the pride out of workmanship at AA with their pointless grievances, drawn out negotiations and propaganda. They represent an old and tired workforce of baby boomers, but we all get suckered into paying their dues.

  11. Lumping TWU maintenance bases with line stations is a bit unfair. Unfair like during shared sacrifice in 2003, we have 5 paid holidays-yet management has 11 at the same base! CEO Parker was euphoric when the merger happened but delivered one thing out of 5 on promises to mechanics-and is willing to give flight attendants and pilots due process-yet takes mechanics unions to court! This tells us that we don’t matter in his plans! The new contract promises jobs for us old guys, but sells out any future American Citizen mechanics. It is like saying “Hey this is a great contract-but don’t expect your kids or grandchildren to ever work here as mechanics!” Look up the new Maintenance Base they are building in Brazil and ask yourself if they are translating the maintenance manuals to Spanish as Americans sleep?

  12. I’d like to point out something here
    Took a pay cut for 15 years making half the money the other airlines were making and now they want to award us for the same pay as everyone else.
    And if you compare apples to apples it’s not even close and they made 3 billion dollars last year

    I’m glad I’m a team member

  13. if this isn’t a sad excuse for your troubles and poor performance, i hope you at least mention this to your passengers as a legitimate reason for delays/cancellations instead of lying or leaving us completely in the dark

  14. 40 years ago, American Airlines executives decided to take safety shortcuts. The result was the crash of AAFlight 191, and 272 American Airlines passengers died because of it.

    This year, executives who cut corners with maintenance on their planes have killed hundreds of passengers and crews at Ethiopian, Atlas and Lion Airlines.

    Pay the damn mechanics, and fire the CEO.

  15. Mechanics are tring to get back benifits they gave up concessions before 2003 so AA wouldn’t file bankruptcy which they did anyway. 5 sickdays,
    5 Holliday’s, 5 vacation days and 17% pay plus work rule changes, Froze pension, which they tried to just take. Also got profit sharing dropped then shrunk after us air took over.

  16. Meanwhile, passengers are paying the price for AA’s and maintenance’s pissing contest.
    Two flights today, 2 set of maintenance issues. One was resolved with a 1 hour delay. The 2nd flight out of DFW was canceled due to maintenance issues leaving us stranded 550 miles from our destination. Not happy travelers!!!

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