DALLAS — Union leaders say pilots will push American Airlines for more pay and schedule changes that they believe will reduce chronic flight delays at the world’s biggest airline.
Daniel Carey, president of the Allied Pilots Association, said Monday that pilots will seek industry-leading wages when their current contract is due for renewal in January 2020.
American’s 15,000 pilots are working under a 2015 contract that granted them immediate raises of 23 percent plus another 3 percent each year. In 2017, American granted additional raises — 8 percent on average for pilots and 5 percent for flight attendants — that cost close to $1 billion over three years and angered some investors.
Carey also said the union wants American to reduce its practice of shifting on-duty pilots to fill in for others who call in sick, can’t legally handle a flight because of crew-rest requirements, or other reasons.
Rescheduling is a frequent subject of complaints among American’s pilots. Carey said it leads to delays or canceled flights. American’s operation, he said, “is not running as well as it should be.”
Through August, nearly 24 percent of flights on American and American Eagle have arrived at least 15 minutes late, the worst record among the four largest U.S. airlines, according to government figures. American is on pace for its lowest on-time rating since 2014.
Airline spokesman Matt Miller said the company and the union have worked together “to improve the lives of our 15,000 pilots over the past several years and we are eager to build on that relationship” in negotiations.
Miller said the company’s scheduling practices comply with federal rules and contracts with pilot and flight attendant unions. He said pilots are only rescheduled when there are disruptions, including bad weather.
“We understand the impact this can have on our pilots and we always try to balance that impact with the impact to our customers,” he said.
American’s management faces negotiations with pilots and, shortly after that, flight attendants, as its profit is falling due to higher fuel costs. This year through September, Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines Group Inc. earned $1.1 billion, down 41 percent from a year ago. The airline’s stock has dropped 31 percent since the start of the year.
“Sentiment on (American) may be as bad as it’s been since the shares started trading in 2013. To some, the situation feels hopeless,” Wolfe Research analyst Hunter Keay wrote recently in a note to clients.
Keay blamed the bearish outlook on thin profit margins, high debt and lack of free cash flow. He also called on American to fix its operation, even if it costs money.