Credit where credit’s due — American’s operational performance is improving. Will that stick, though?
American Airlines’ September Performance
As noted by @xJonNYC, American Airlines reported that during the month of September their on-time arrivals rate was 82.9%:
- This includes mainline and regional flights
- This is using the “A-14” metric, referring to planes arriving within 14 minutes of scheduled arrival time
How does this compare to other months for American Airlines?
- It was their best monthly on-time performance in nearly two years, as the last time they beat that was in November 2017
- It was their seventh best monthly performance since the merger between American and US Airways in 2013
- This was a 4.5 point improvement over September 2018 and a 7.8 point improvement over August 2019
American notes that each point of improvement accounts for an additional 1,924 flights arriving on time.
American Airlines also notes:
- Their on-time departure rate was 75.2%, though this is using a “D-0 metric” (which means departing exactly on time, which is a really dumb thing to make high priority)
- 98.1% of flights operated without cancelations
What Can This Improvement Be Attributed To?
By all accounts this is a significant improvement, both compared to the same period last year, and compared to the previous month. I would guess some of the factors involved may include the following:
- In early September the busy summer travel season starts to wind down, so the airlines have a bit more slack in their schedule
- American retired their last MD-80 in early September, and those planes were known for their maintenance issues
- All things considered September was a reasonably good month for weather (we lucked out with Hurricane Dorian, for example)
Then there’s what’s quite clearly the biggest factor here — it seems that American mechanics weren’t misbehaving and intentionally delaying flights, as they had been doing for the late spring and early summer.
Did American Suing Their Mechanics Work?
American has been having huge issues with their mechanics union. Talks broke off between management and the union in April, as they weren’t able to agree on a contract. This caused American mechanics to intentionally delay flights, so American took them to court:
- In mid-June a judge issued a temporary restraining order, demanding that mechanics not interfere with American’s operations
- However, American still had a bad rest of June and July, so it doesn’t seem like that worked
- Then in mid-August American won their court battle against mechanics, and stuff does seem to have improved since then
It was said that management and mechanics were supposed to resume negotiations September 16-19, though I never heard anything more about that.
So while I’m sure the court ruling played at least a part in the improved performance, I’m not necessarily sure that directly can be credited for all of the improvement:
- Mechanics had been delaying flights and turning down overtime for months, so could they have just gotten tired of that and didn’t want to keep losing the overtime pay, realizing their strategy wasn’t going anywhere?
- A mechanic intentionally sabotaged an American plane, which is about 10 steps too far, so could that have made mechanics realize they were playing with fire?
Regardless of what this can be attributed to, I certainly hope American’s operational performance continues to improve. The airline still needs a management change, but this at least solves one major issue I’ve had flying with them…