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!!!

  17. In May 2019, a friend and I booked a 14-day (August 27 – September 9) trip to Bayeux, France (via CDG) and England from August 27 – September 9 flying American Airlines. We dutifully reported to PHL airport 2 hours before our departure time which was scheduled for 9:10 pm on August 27. While waiting at the departures gate, we started to hear announcements about the plane being delayed, even though it was there at the airport, but being stocked and maintenanced. As we waited and waited, the next announcements, now about midnight or so, reported that the crew had “timed out” (a new expression I had never heard) and that they had to get another captain. More time went by. At 3:30 am, a pilot walked into the area and boarded the plane. Everyone clapped and cheered. We have now been in the gate area about 7.5 hours, but we were finally going to leave, or so we thought.

    As we continued to wait at the gate, at about 4:00 am, the pilot and the crew de-planed and we were moved to another gate. We assumed they had to use a different plane at this juncture. The crew boarded the new plane at the new gate, and about another 1/2 hour passed and the passengers finally boarded the plane. Yea!! It was about 4:30 am at that point, but we were finally on our way! We fastened our seat belts, the plane pulled away from the gate and headed to the runway. We were all waiting for the roar of those engines to take off, but instead, the captain came on the PA system and announced “Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to announce that this crew has timed out (that term again), we are returning to the gate, and this flight is now CANCELLED. Please claim your luggage at Baggage Claim and book yourself on another flight.” WHAT???? After all this time, we were just DUMPED!!! You now had 300 people who, given any future choice at all, will never book on American Airlines again.

    We returned to the gate, deplaned to find only ONE ticket agent available to rebook 300 livid passengers at 4:45 am. Many passengers had children and had already missed other connections to final destinations which included cruise ships. How do you get on your cruise ship when you have missed it??? My friend and I took one look at this furious group of passengers trying to rebook with the one poor ticket agent and we decided that going to the departures gate outside of airport security was probably a better option. So we first went to baggage claim to retrieve our luggage as instructed, and then went to the original departures desk where you check your luggage when departing – where we had started some 12 hours earlier. It’s now about 5:00 am, and we only have a few people in the line ahead of us. Finally, we get to an AA ticket agent who got on her computer and said ok, here’s what I can do for you. I can book you on a 10:30 am flight to Detroit, MI (what? – that’s 1500 miles in the wrong direction) and then you will have a 4-hour wait in Detroit for a Delta flight, #96 to CDG. Honestly, we wanted to cancel the entire trip at this juncture, but we chose to stick it out and accepted her option. We flew to Detroit, waited another 4 hours in Detroit, and finally boarded Delta flight 96 at 4:00 pm on August 28 to CDG airport. This was 23 hours after we had left home the previous day. Delta 96 arrived on time at CDG, but we had lost a full day of our vacation. In Philadelphia, we had each been given 2 meal vouchers which were not good in the Detroit airport where we waited 4 hours for the Delta flight and where the vouchers would have really come in handy.

    Besides the inconvenience and total loss of one full vacation day, we also suffered financial losses which were NOT covered by our trip insurance because the delay was the airline’s fault and not due to our illness or bad weather. We each paid $400 for trip insurance which only covered flight delay and paid us each $100 which was automatically triggered when the delay exceeded 4 hours. We each had a $100 check in the mail when we returned home on the 9th. However, our other financial losses included $400 paid to a driving service called Daytrip who was scheduled to pick us up at CDG and drive us 165 miles to our hotel in Bayeux, near the Normandy beaches, which was our final destination. We also lost an additional $193 that we had prepaid for our first night in the Bayeux hotel. Both of these fees were non-refundable because we were not able to give 24 hours cancellation notice as a result of the American Airlines delay out of PHL.

    I had to rebook a new Daytrip pickup when we arrived at CDG, finally arriving in Bayeux, at about 1:30 pm on the 29th of August, totally exhausted, and approximately 35 hours after we had left our homes in Philadelphia on the 27th of August. We had had NO sleep. So, given any future travel plans, is it surprising that I will probably not book with America Airlines again?

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