Hundreds of American Airlines flights were canceled this week and hundreds have been delayed after an increase in maintenance write-ups, the airline and pilots union say.
Rumors circulated this week that a higher than average number of pilots were calling in sick, causing the delays and cancellations. While the airline and pilots disagree over an increase in sick calls, both groups now agree that maintenance write-ups are the cause of cancelations. They are also both pointing the finger at each other as to why there is a sudden increase in maintenance issues.
"You've got a lot of sick airplanes, not sick pilots right now," said Tom Hoban from the Allied Pilots Association. "There's a bit of a perfect storm right now as far as maintenance."
American said its shifting more mechanics into position to deal with all of the extra maintenance reports they're getting from pilots. The company is also canceling flights ahead of time to minimize the inconvenience for passengers.
"We've been running a good airline through this year, until this time," said American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks. "So, what's changed? Nothing. Our fleet's the same, maintenance, everything's the same, except for these write-ups."
In the past, pilots have talked about plans to disrupt American's schedule.
Three years ago, a previous pilot's union president told NBC 5 that the union was actually conducting drills to systematically cause problems with flights, if contract talks broke down.
Right now, pilots are working without a contract. Hoban admits that pilots are writing up any and all management issues to cover all of their bases. The union believes any sort of effort to cancel or delay flights is the action of individual pilots angry with management.
The union has different leadership than in 2009. When NBC 5 investigative reporter Scott Friedman asked former union president Lloyd Hill if the planned tactics were a threat, he said, "No, and if I were the company, I wouldn't be underestimating what's going on," said Hill on Feb. 24, 2009. "It could be many things, and I'm not at liberty to discuss all the things we're planning, but use your imagination, it could be any number of things."
When asked if he'd tell the American pilots not to fly certain routes on certain days or shut down certain routes at certain times, Hill replied, "You're using your imagination. All those things are a possibility."