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Concerns Continue For American Airlines

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – American Airlines is doubling down on accusations that recent on-time performance issues are pilot related.

It blamed recent delays on an increase in pilot maintenance write-ups, along with pilot sick calls. American spokesman Bruce Hicks was blunt. He put recent delay problems at the feet of the pilots, whose union is a holdout in agreeing to the company’s proposed terms in bankruptcy court.

“There’s significant increase in maintenance write-ups by our pilots, many of which are coming right at departure time,” he told CBS 11 News late Thursday. Hicks claims a recent spate of late gate arrivals are not only due to the late maintenance write-ups, but also because of pilots missing due to illness.

“And our sick leave is up; it’s up over 20% year-over-year comparisons, and has been throughout the year significantly higher than prior years.” Pilots deny a 20% figure, claiming their figures are closer to 7%.

Allied Pilots Association spokesman Capt. Tom Hoban calls American’s claims “finger pointing,” adding, “Its shows you’ve got a lot of sick airplanes out there, not sick pilots. Our sick usage year-to-year and month-to-month has been within a percentage point all along here; so this allegation that there’s an organized sick-out by the Allied Pilots Association is patently false.” He added, “On top of that, the airline is deliberately undermanned as pilots; we’re 400-500 pilots short that we need to fly the current schedule.” Both sides claim to have the flying public’s best interest at heart.

But how is the public taking it? Edgarella Bridges of Detroit, Texas, admitted having some worries as she waited for her American flight at DFW International.

“Yeah I have, I was concerned this week because I have to be a couple of places this week and I fly American, but so far I haven’t had any problems.”No worries, though, for Linda Cowan of Austin. “No, as long as I’m here on time, I’m good.” The Lasley family of Fort Worth put Mrs. Lasley’s parents on a connecting flight to Miami. Phil Lasley said while his in-laws always worry about the timeliness of air flights, he wasn’t. “I checked online this morning and everything was on time. And we haven’t experienced any issues at this point.”

But travel professionals claim they’re hearing from worried clients. Catherine Banks is with Legacy Travel of Plano. “They’re wanting to move to another airline. Now the practicalities of that are hard to do because once you’ve got the ticket the airline has your money and they’re not going to just hand it over to another airline.”

Even travel agents aren’t immune to delays, she says. “I myself experienced a significant delay. On Saturday my flight was four hours late so it took me all day to get somewhere that I should’ve been shortly. So we’re definitely hearing more and more as each day goes by.”

American is apologizing for passenger inconveniences. Still it is canceling what it Hicks called “a number” of flights and is rescheduling passengers in an effort to streamline the operation and reduce costs.

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