More turbulence for American Airlines as cancellations continue

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 13 at 10:34 AM

DALLAS — Flight cancellations and delays continued for a third consecutive day at American Airlines, angering customers and prompting some to promise never to return.

“This is my last time I’ll fly American,” Julie Line insisted after American canceled her flight from Kansas City to Dallas.

“It was a disaster,” she said while trying to board a flight at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. “Not very pleasant.”

The Fort Worth-based carrier said it will cut its schedule for the rest of September and October by up to 2 percent due to “a number of factors,” including staffing troubles with its pilots, according to the airline.

“The schedule adjustments we are implementing will ensure we provide our customers with reliable service while minimizing any impact to their travel plans,” said airline spokeswoman Andrea Huguely in a written statement.

Over the past three days, the airline has been forced to cancel or delay hundreds of flights. On Tuesday, 54 flights had been cancelled by the evening. Overall, nearly half of the airline’s flights have been delayed, according to flight tracking services.

The cancellations come a few days after American imposed new cost-cutting terms on its pilots — including outsourcing more flying jobs to other airlines and terminating one of the pilots’ retirement programs in November.

Pilots rejected more generous terms in the last contract offer from American, which has been under bankruptcy protection since November.

“The pilots are very definitely putting a lot of pressure on American,” said Denny Kelly, an airline analyst and retired airline captain. “You simply follow all the rules — the federal rules, the company rules, the union rules — and by doing that, you can almost shut the airline down.

Allied Pilots Association spokesman Tom Hoban said Monday that the union neither sanctioned nor supported a sickout.

“That being said, you’ve got 8,000 pilots that are witnessing a handful of senior executives at American Airlines that have chosen in a very deliberate manner to dismantle and destroy their profession,” Hoban said. “To say that the pilots at AA are not happy would be the understatement of a lifetime.”

The timing could prove troubling for the carrier as passengers start to book their tickets for the holidays.

“People now are starting to shop for Thanksgiving,” said Rick Seany, with farecompare.com. “They do have a choice, so these airlines need to get their act together.”

Meanwhile, other carriers, including Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, say they are paying attention to the developments at American.

“We don’t take any joy in that whatsoever,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told News 8 in an interview. He said his carrier isn’t changing its capacity for now, but may make adjustments to schedules and routes depending on what American does.

“If they do make some changes, then clearly we’ll be in a position where we can respond, and probably have some opportunities we can pursue,” Kelly said.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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