Tuesday, November 29, 2011

AMERICAN AIRLINES BANKRUPTCY -- ANOTHER UNION PROBLEM

Today I received a nice letter from the "President -- Aadvantage Loyalty Program," American Airlines' frequent flyer program. On 09/12/2011, some readers will have read my post regarding how an American pilot and a couple of friendly flight attendants I met in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, helped me get an American flight out on the 6th day of being stranded after 9/11/2001.This was the good side of American Airlines and I'm sure there are more good examples. However, there is a bad side that is a "union story" that is worth telling as a part of "the other side of unions (not the hyped romanticized side)" that I've contemplated writing, but have been late in doing so. Frankly, the AA story is a minor one compared to the big union picture, but it's significant, especially at this point in time.

For years, I flew often on American Airlines to Latin America, Europe, and within North America. The service was usually good to excellent, except when there was no service or delays. And, these were more frequent than chance problems would have been expected to cause. The normal excuse was "maintenance problems." More than a few times, in the Dallas hub, I commented to an agent "it surely seemed they had too many maintenance problems." The agent would politely acknowledge my comments but not expound.

One flight, which was a very important one for me, was so announced as delayed for maintenance. I approached an agent and asked, "OK, what is really going on here? If American has so many maintenance problems, maybe we shouldn't fly." The agent looked straight at me and said, "sir, you've been here before, what do you think?" I told him that I suspected crew problems, knowing the activism of their unions." I also said that I expected to eventually see a crew approach the gate entrance and we'd fly in time....if I decided to stay. I said, "you have union problems, right?" He said he'd be fired for agreeing, but he then said, "Yes, pilots. They are probably trying to call in a crew now." Eventually, a crew did arrive.

I flew that flight but switched to Continental for most destinations after that.

You may ask, is this important? No, not as a singular issue, but it is emblematic of one part of the dysfunctional nature of our economy, our businesses today. Most citizens never experience this and won't know what the essence is if they do have the experience.
Moreover, it is illustrative of the foolhardiness of President Obama for catering to unions. Of course, he does so to assure he has the voter bloc, not for the good of America, which is undoubtedly one of his last thoughts. Now you know why I wrote this. If you've read this far, thanks for doing so.

3 comments:

  1. Joe,
    I'm an AA pilot. Did the agent offer where the crew was? You imply that somehow it is the pilots' fault/attitude and that is a result of the pilots' union. Had you followed up, you likely would have found the original crew was either delayed or stuck out with a broken jet, neither of which is within the pilots' control.

    I will say, your article is convenient given AA management's bankruptcy filing and the "out-of-the-woodwork" experts who want to lay mismanagement's multi year blunders on the pilots.

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  2. Thanks sincerely for your comments. I want such feedback and critique, but get less than I would expect. Sorry if I offended you and pilots, but just tried to relate the story as I experienced it. In this incident I don't remember any follow-up, but it was one delay in many that broke my longtime loyalty to American. The agent's comment "it's pilots" was logged in my memory. As stated, I enjoyed good service and I could have said exceptional from flight crews, as I did in my post of 9/12-2001 on my escaping Guadalajara after 6 days. I traveled enough that I got to see a few crew members fairly frequently enough to acknowledge each other. Always pleasant.
    Now perhaps a bit of confession. If you read other of my writes, it is obvious that I am not a big supporter of unions. I know very little about pilot's unions or others in your industry, in fact. Before I expound a bit, let me say I can understand and respect your comments re management blunders. Don't know how you characterize one of AA's CEO's Robert Crandall, but my characterization, albeit from limited contact, would not be favorable. So be it.
    As for unions in general, my experiences are negative...very much so...big "trade unions!"I will soon post a preview of what I am preparing for a book I am trying to write. My experiences have shown me that the big unions care little about their people. They have become the big businesses themselves and operate primarily for political clout. My experiences range from thugs destroying my car at age 19, to watching Lewis's UMW destroy coal for years, followed by Abel's USW of A destroy steel and then the UAW eat it's young and destroy the Detroit 3. I had an extortion attempt in my company (workers were OK, not management), and after 12 years contracting in Mexico to a great company, the PEMEX union caused destruction of the company, plus others. I published that story in The WSJ a year or two back. There's more, but I've overdone it here. I DO appreciate your feedback and respect your commentary. I'd be pleased to know your thoughts on other posts if you read them. I think I have some informative stuff coming, but have been a bit slow recently. Got excuses, but excuses don't get it done!

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  3. To AA pilot: With all due respect I feel less apologetic for telling my story of AA and relaying the comment about pilots' and the delayed flights.
    After learning more about the Chapter 11 filing of AMR and the negotiations with unions that broke down prior to the filing, it seems that the pilots' union gave AMR a deal the could refuse. If reports are true, and must be assumed to be, a demand of 10% increase upfront and 7%/year continuing is a non-starter in the market today, and in the economic conditions of the industry. To me, one who has observed unions for many years, this was very misguided and ignores reality. Surely, the pilot union leadership should have more information from which to make their demands than we laymen know, but this smacks of the same misguided excesses that caused the auto industry to move south to escape the UAW. It must be expected that the airline industry is about to rationalize with one of the bigs going into Chapter 7 --- AMR? That would be a sad event. Sorry, but this is reality.

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