American Airlines Pilots’ Union Raises Concerns Over ‘Spike’ in Safety Incidents

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The pilots’ union is alleging that American is compromising on safety protocols. The union said it has raised these concerns and the response from management has been “encouraging.”

The American Airlines pilots’ union said it has noticed a “significant spike” in safety and maintenance-related incidents. 

“While United Airlines is currently under public and government scrutiny, it could just as easily be American Airlines,” the Allied Pilots Association wrote in a memo to its members on Saturday. 

The memo went on to list a series of safety incidents, which included tools left in wheel wells and the removal of overnight maintenance checks unless the aircraft is due for scheduled maintenance. The memo also alleged that, amid a shortage of planes, there has been pressure to return aircraft to service to maintain on-time performance. 

Captain Dennis Tajer, an American pilot who is also a spokesperson for the APA, said the union had spoken earlier with management about its concerns. The union wants earlier involvement in the safety risk assessment process, and management’s response has been “encouraging,” Tajer said. 

“There are changes being made to safety processes that are legal but just because it’s legal does not mean it’s safe or smart,” Tajer said in a statement. 

The union also said it noticed greater intervals between routine aircraft inspections, and that American conducts abbreviated flight check tests when a plane returns to service after heavy maintenance or long-term storage. 

“Safety at any airline is a shared mission and it’s especially true at American. Our robust safety program is guided by our industry-leading safety management system,” American said in a statement. “It includes a multitude of collaborative programs — and regular touchpoints — with the FAA and all our unions, including APA, to further bolster our strong safety record and enhance our ever-evolving safety culture.”

Safety in the Spotlight

The airline industry has faced increased scrutiny over safety ever since a door plug suddenly blew off an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 in January. 

United, for example, has faced some criticism for a series of safety incidents in March. A panel fell off a Boeing 737-800, an engine emitted flames on a jet departing from Houston, and another plane slid off the runway in Houston. 

United CEO Scott Kirby sent a message to customers March 18 about the incidents, saying that safety was the carrier’s highest priority. The Federal Aviation Administration soon stepped up its oversight of United after the incident and said “future projects” might be delayed based on the agency’s findings. 

As a result of the increased oversight, United had to delay the launch of its flights from Newark to Faro, Portugal and Tokyo to Cebu in the Philippines. 

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