The president of the Allied Pilots Association sent the following letter to union members Thursday that reminds them the pilots' union hasn't authorized any concerted job action and that any pilot efforts to slow the airline down must stop.
The move comes after American Airlines sent a letter Wednesday night to the APA warning that if pilots don't end actions that are disrupting its flights, it will take the union to court.
This is the letter in its entirety:
During the past several years, I have seen numerous references by our members to what they perceive as AMR management’s “tin ear” where pilot issues are concerned. The letter your APA leadership received late yesterday from American Airlines Senior Vice President-People Denise Lynn represents the latest example of this unfortunate characteristic.
A quick recap of recent events is in order. Last week an AMR spokesman made a reference in a video statement that management was ready to re-engage in negotiations. APA asked management to provide us with a written statement of their intent regarding negotiations. Management did so. I promptly replied in kind that the APA leadership was interested in re-engaging and we convened a special APA Board of Directors meeting on short notice. At the close of yesterday’s session after deliberating a variety of negotiating-related items, the APA Board of Directors affirmed the union’s support for the resumption of bargaining. Shortly thereafter, AMR management decided the time was right to issue a written threat to the APA National Officers and Board of Directors.
I’d also like to recap how APA responded to rumors of a potential sickout slated for Friday, Sept. 21. When we became aware of these rumors, APA Vice President Captain Tony Chapman issued a system-wide cease-and-desist “robo call.” Sick usage didn’t spike on the 21st and instead remained within historical norms, as it has all month. While we can’t attest to the validity of the rumors, the APA leadership certainly understood that a grassroots job action wasn’t in anyone’s best interests and we took preventive measures.
In her letter, Ms. Lynn expresses management’s “concern about mounting evidence that certain pilots are engaging in an unlawful, concerted effort to damage the Company.” She asks the APA leadership to issue a “clear denunciation of this illegal conduct” and states that management “will be forced to act quickly and aggressively” if APA does not “comply with this legal duty or if this unlawful conduct continues.”
To be clear, APA has not authorized any concerted job action and APA disapproves of any such illegal activity. If, as Ms. Lynn alleges, pilots are using their professional discretion to delay departures through unnecessary checks, frivolous maintenance write-ups (and late filing), slow taxiing to increase block times, and taking circuitous routings, that activity must cease immediately.
On a related note, as the APA Safety Committee addressed earlier today in a system-wide e-mail message, the AMR Certificate Management Office (which holds FAA oversight for the American Airlines air carrier operating certificate) is currently conducting specialized Operational Risk surveillance on the airline’s operations. This surveillance is focused on frivolous maintenance discrepancy reports, misuse of the approved Minimum Equipment List, lack of adequate maintenance, time escalations, mishandling of aircraft trim settings, crew rest and duty time, disruptions of airport ground operations and traffic flow, and falsification of maintenance discrepancy release statements. This specialized surveillance will remain in effect throughout the bankruptcy process.
There’s been considerable news media attention in recent days focused on American Airlines’ operational difficulties. In our conversations with news reporters, APA has emphasized the wide variety of factors that figure into the operational reliability equation, including the age of our fleet, the availability of spare parts and increased scrutiny of our pilots by the FAA. We have aggressively defended APA and its members against allegations that pilots are behaving inappropriately, and we will continue to do so. You can enhance our ability to defend you by continuing to file an APA Observer Report whenever you encounter an operational anomaly. Thorough documentation is critical.
If management seeks a temporary restraining order against APA, make no mistake—we will likewise defend ourselves vigorously. However, by being forced to defend ourselves in court, we’re diverting resources that your leadership believes would be more effectively deployed elsewhere. And with AMR in Chapter 11 restructuring, our legal advisers indicate that it’s highly likely management’s request for a restraining order would be granted. Based on the recent experiences of other pilot groups, it’s clear that we would be seriously disadvantaged if we are forced to conduct ourselves under a restraining order. There is no strategic advantage whatsoever for APA to be placed in that situation.
After discussing the ramifications of Ms. Lynn’s letter, the APA Board of Directors adjourned their meeting mid-day today. The prevailing sentiment of your APA leadership is that Ms. Lynn’s letter was nothing short of a “sucker punch” and will not enhance our ability to work with AMR management. The APA Board will reconvene on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. to discuss next steps in our pursuit of a contract commensurate with your status as professional aviators for a major U.S. carrier. As your advocates, your APA leadership needs to devote all available resources to that task in the coming days and weeks. A meaningful improvement in American Airlines’ operational performance is essential to keeping our focus where it belongs.
Thank you for your usual professionalism.