Cranky on the Web: American’s Labor Problems

American Airlines says mechanics are causing delays. Now, a judge could force the union to pay for itDallas Morning News

This article came out before the trial began, but it’s going to be something you hear about a lot this summer. American’s operation is a mess, but it’s not all about labor issues. There are the problems from the MAX grounding as well as the awful storms that have hit the airline’s hubs hard. (I’ll have more on this Monday.) But the labor problems are real, and they are causing delays and angering travelers. I don’t know that most travelers would think to blame the labor issues, and even if they did, it’s hard to know how many would even side with labor. In general, everyone just wants this to stop.

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11 Responses to Cranky on the Web: American’s Labor Problems

  1. flyplayne says:

    Might have been an interesting article, however, since I have an “ad blocker” in place, the Dallas Morning News has seen fit to block my access to the article. That is, unless, I want to pay $100/year and up, to  access their site. NO THANKS !

  2. Tim Dunn says:

    American can and likely win the battle against labor slowdowns but they aren’t going to win the war. There are two unions involved in representing a massive multi-workgroup.
    At the core of the problem is the fact that Parker courted labor in order to wrest control of American from AMR during bankruptcy and merge it with USAirways but there were and still are way too many ground employees relative to American’s revenues. AA cannot expect to get labor peace when a key tenet is to reduce the number of future jobs and future union revenue.

    The end of this saga won’t be in a court but rather in the marketplace where competitors continue to grow in traditionally strong AA markets as AA’s finances deteriorate relative to the industry. The irony is that AA is shifting its network focus to its largest hubs – DFW and CLT – but those are where labor discord is highest and where weather problems quickly destroy the operation faster than before. It doesn’t take too long for those tens of thousands of passengers to decide not to fly AA again because of their bad experiences – and those bad experiences are being shared by corporate travelers which are happy to take their business (along with their coworkers elsewhere). AA’s hub at DFW is spread across a larger area geographically than any other hub in the US (perhaps the world) and it takes a massive commitment from every employee to make it work in the best of circumstances; an unhappy workforce won’t hold together AA’s operation when the slightest external forces impact it.

    With $40 billion in passenger revenue per year, American cannot afford to lose valuable connecting passengers when Delta and United are all aggressively competing for small and medium sized cities that have to connect to the global transportation system through one or more hubs. Add in the local traffic at AA’s hubs and the increase in competitive capacity and AA’s network is under far greater competitive poaching than any other airline’s. Labor might be part of the problem but failure to quickly address that issue alone will lead to a continuous but certain leak in valuable revenue in AAs most valuable markets.

    AA has been pretty responsible in removing MAX capacity from its system months in advance; how much they are losing in advance booking is unknown but the MAX issue has little immediate term impact on AA.

  3. Sam says:

    @flyplayne

    Are you serious? Professional journalists want to get paid for their work? The nerve!

    • flyplayne says:

      You’re probably right, journalists should get paid. My objection is how the Dallas Morning News chooses who can/cannot read their newspaper. I would think that a subscription is required and that subscription probably costs money that is used to pay employees [journalists?]. I use 2 ad blockers and think that if the Dallas Morning News got together with ” U Block Origin”, their online newspaper could be temporarily “unblocked” for that one instance. Other sites have this option. Decided to “search” for labor unrest at American Airlines and found 10 other choices on the 1st page alone. There were also 9 other pages to look at. And, if worst comes to worst, one of my sons flies for AMR in Dallas. I’ll just get his take on the situation. I guess advertising has its place, but I seem to remember an old saying – “Advertising is the art of lying in order to sell a product or service”. If I want something I’LL look for it , and not be subjected to a bunch of distracting ads for things I DON’T want.

    • grichard says:

      He’s not saying they can’t withhold the site from people who use ad blockers. He just doesn’t want to pay what they’re asking to read the article.

      I don’t kid myself that I’m entitled to journalists’ free labor, but that doesn’t mean I always want to buy what they’re selling.

  4. Christian says:

    Unpopular as it may be, I side with the unions here. The employees have taken it on the chin when times were bad. Now that American has been raking in the big bucks for some time and Parker has declared that AA will never lose money, the people that have gone without a new contract for years are supposed to take one for the team yet again? That seems a lot to ask.

  5. Trent880 says:

    Was there a time when American didn’t have industry leading labor problems? Maybe the 70s?

  6. Jason says:

    AA has had an internal culture issue for the past decade. Having talked with numerous insiders and personal experience interviewing for a corporate role, I know its toxic. There are some pockets and improvement over the past few years but it’s not good overall.
    Without getting into the details of the contract, it’s hard to take sides. The company claims to have offered a contract equal to it’s direct competitors, but the union appears to want more. The rhetoric from the Union is disgusting and unprofessional.

  7. Rod says:

    There is a major morale problem within AA. Parker and his crew just don’t get it. The synergy that existed at the merger is gone. In a publication a few weeks back (Skift) the writer simply said “something is very wrong at American.” The true leader at AA was Scott Kirby. When he left everything started to slide. Badly. The front line agents have technology issues, HDQ people have no direction, and there is still a disparity between US and AA management styles and cultures. The employee survey was a real joke. They asked for opinions, but didn’t want to hear any of it. I’m not sure what needs to happen. We sit back and wait. Meanwhile DL and UA continue to climb.

  8. DesertGhost says:

    One thing I can tell you from observing other labor disputes (especially in sports) is this: The less you are hearing about the negotiations in the media, the closer the sides are getting to an agreement. Serious negotiations are rarely carried out in public.

  9. jonsail says:

    I was able to click and the link an read the article w/o being a subscriber.

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