American Airlines Group Inc.’s pilots union, an early backer of the carrier’s merger with US Airways, blasted the return of “toxic” labour relations, a substandard product and violations of their contract.
American executives can no longer rely on the excuse that they need more time to bring everything into order since the two companies merged in December 2013, the Allied Pilots Association board of directors said in a March 4 letter to Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker.
Many of the airline’s middle managers are “misaligned” with Parker’s call at a recent leadership conference for better labor relations that will bring all employees in line with a push to make American the best airline, the letter said.
The missive may herald the first schism between the merged American and its unions, which broke with previous management during the airline’s bankruptcy to support then-US Airways CEO Parker in his bid to combine the carriers. The bankrupt American was known for poor labor relations that kept the pilots and management from reaching a new contract in 10 years of talks.
“The pilots of American Airlines will not remain silent as we witness the rebirth of the toxic culture we fought so hard to eradicate,” the APA letter said.
“The new American Airlines product is outright embarrassing and we’re tired of apologizing to our passengers,” it read. “We hear from many valuable corporate clients and premiere status passengers that the product is not what they’ve come to expect from American Airlines.”
American executives are “well aware” that a cultural change is needed, company spokesman Casey Norton said in an interview Sunday.
At recent meetings in Dallas, Parker told thousands of managers that the airline must take better care of its employees as part of taking care of customers.
“It’s all about getting middle management to listen to front line employees and place value in the feedback they give us, because we are intent on making American a fantastic place to work,” he said. The airline has spent more than $3.5 billion on wage and benefit increases since the merger and $3 billion on improving products and services for customers, Norton said.
It’s paying $4 billion a year for new aircraft and $100 million on new human resources programs and technology.
The union letter accused American of ‘deliberately’ violating contract terms and agreements, as well as aviation regulations set by the federal government on crew scheduling, air operations and labor relations. Specifics weren’t provided.
APA is “exactly right” to raise the issues in its letter, Norton said. “These are all things that are incredibly important to us. We’re only two years into a five-year integration. Nothing is going as fast as we’re wanting.”