American Airlines said they will cancel 300 flights this week to cope with a high number of pilots reporting sick and an increase in maintenance reports filed by crews.
Fort Worth-based AMR said Wednesday that it canceled the flights in advance to avoid inconveniencing passengers. Earlier this week, American said it would cut its schedule through the end of October.
"As a result of a number of factors, including an increase in maintenance reports filed by pilots, as well as levels of sick leave usage that have been running higher than historical norms for some time, we are reducing the rest of our September and October schedule by approximately 1 to 2 percent," said Bruce Hicks, spokesperson for American Airlines.
American has seen an increase in flight cancellations since early this month, after a federal bankruptcy judge allowed the company to impose new pay and working rules on pilots.
The Allied Pilots Association fired back Thursday against insinuations that the sick calls and maintenance reports were a result of last week's action in federal court.
“First of all, there is no job action of any sort that is organized, supported or sanctioned by the Allied Pilots Association. Any allegation that there’s a sick-out is a bold-faced lie. Period. And they know it," said First Officer Tom Hoban, spokesperson for the APA. "APA independently tracks the airline’s operational performance. We have verified that pilot sick rates have not deviated from normal historical rates. We have likewise verified that crew cancellations remain at normal rates."
Hoban went on to say the airline furloughed pilots and mechanics last year and that created an insufficient number of pilots able to be scheduled and increased mechanical delays.
Hicks said Thursday afternoon that Hoban's claims are untrue and that sick calls are up 20 percent year over year, that the inventory of spare parts is at the highest level in years and that pilot staffing is "adequate."
"Our pilot staffing - without the recent actions regarding maintenance write-ups and the continued increase in sick time - is adequate to meet our scheduling needs and recalling pilots from furlough would not be needed," Hicks said.
Passengers, meanwhile, hope they don't continue to get caught in the middle.
“I hope it doesn’t cancel my flight,” says American Airlines passenger Richard Kinney. “Don’t impact the passengers, because you know what, if it’s not for the passengers, you wouldn’t have a job."
"We apologize to all of our customers for the inconvenience this has caused. We understand how irritating and unfortunate this is in interrupting or delaying their travel plans. We appreciate their patience and hope for their understanding," Hicks said.
NBC 5's Kendra Lyn and Ray Villeda contributed to this report.