Fort Worth

AA Pilots Picket Outside Fort Worth HQ, Demand More Reliable Schedules

Pilots representative says the airline's published schedule is impossible to fulfill

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The world's largest airline has a growing problem with its schedule, according to union leaders representing pilots at American Airlines who say passengers and pilots deserve better including reliable schedules and a reliable airline.

Hundreds of pilots were lined up along Trinity Boulevard Thursday morning, holding picket signs in front of the company's Fort Worth headquarters that said "Our Passengers Deserve Better" and "We Have Earned It."

The union's leaders said the airline sells flights it cannot reliably staff and that the airline wasn't prepared to return to full operations coming out of the pandemic.

"We are as excited as anybody to get our passengers back in the air and do the job. The problem is we feel that the airline was not prepared for that recovery. And in particular, they publish a schedule that it was not going to be possible to fulfill," said Capt. John Owens, a pilot for American Airlines and the deputy chair of communications for the Allied Pilots Association.

Owens said the airline could do more to work collaboratively with pilots to resolve scheduling issues while still maintaining safety as the top priority.

The airline issued a statement Thursday morning saying they are in ongoing negotiations with pilots and are committed to reaching an agreement.

“American’s pilots participate in informational picketing periodically, which isn’t out of the ordinary and will not have an impact on our operation. We’ve put forward an industry-leading proposal that would provide immediate and significant improvements in pay, benefits and quality of life provisions for our pilots. We continue to meet regularly with the APA and are committed to reaching an agreement,” the airline said.

Owens added some of the solutions put forth by pilots are very basic and include publishing schedules that are actually possible to maintain while making sure pilots are afforded proper rest, have more notice of schedules and changes and that the schedules continue as planned.

"The situation we're facing is that the schedule has been so tightly wound and because of a backlog in the ability to train pilots we're always operating right on the edge of the margin of where it can no longer be done," Owens said.

NBC News reported over the summer that American Airlines said it could take up to three years to get back to full, nationwide capacity due to what it said was an ongoing pilot shortage.

CEO Robert Isom told investors that demand for air travel is at record levels, but that the airline's travel schedule remains impacted by supply chain disruptions and staffing shortages that worsened during the pandemic.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met with airline executives this summer to talk about summer travel woes and to ensure reliability after disruptions. Buttigieg also pushed airlines to improve customer service so that passengers impacted by disruptions could rebook their trips quickly.

The hundreds of pilots protesting in Fort Worth and in airports around the country were not scheduled to fly Thursday and the picketing is not expected to impact flight operations.

NBC 5's Lili Zheng and Ben Russell contributed to this report.

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