American Airlines: Some Signs of Improvement

[Editor’s note: See updates below]

It’s been a rotten few weeks for American Airlines, what with thousands of delayed flights, angry headlines (“Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly American Airlines”), a rash of improperly secured seats on 757 aircraft that nearly upended some travelers and – perhaps the lowest blow – an advertisement mocking the proud airline’s problems on upstart rival Spirit.

The ad, which appeared only briefly on the discount carrier’s website, trumpeted, “We let low fares loose, not seats!” But things may be changing.

How Bad is It on American?

Delayed Planes Statistics Improve

Yesterday, American’s ongoing spike in delays and cancelations began to ease, and so far today (4 p.m. EDT), American’s tardiness statistics were significantly lower than Southwest’s:

  • American: 16 canceled flights, 200 delays
  • Southwest: 25 canceled flights, 698 delays

UPDATE: By day’s end, Southwest had 42 canceled flights to American’s 16, and Southwest racked up 968 delayed flights compared to 414 for American.

However, not all of American’s problems are so easily solved.

47 Planes to be Inspected for Loose Seats

According to a statement released by American spokeswoman Andrea Huguely, the airline’s investigation has revealed “the root cause is a saddle clamp improperly installed on the foot of the row leg.” She adds, “These clamps were used on only 47 of our 102 Boeing 757 airplanes.”

UPDATE: Late Wed. evening (Oct. 3), an American spokeswoman said, “all necessary repairs have been made” to the 48 aircraft affected and all are now back in service.

Meanwhile, air travel analyst Rick Seaney points out that, “Airlines can deal with bankruptcies, mergers and short-term labor issues and survive with a good chance of thriving; the one exception is any perception that they may be unsafe.” UPDATE: In its latest statement about aircraft ‘fixes’ the American spokeswoman also notes, “We never have, and never will, compromise the safety and reliability of our fleet.”

To Book or Not to Book on American

Pilots and Strike Authorization Vote

In another development, the union for American’s pilots are expected finish voting on whether to authorize their union to call strike; the results on that are expected to be known sometime this week but it’s not clear if the union will release the results. Nor is it clear when or even if a strike would ever take place if authorized. According to media reports, authorization can be used as leverage in negotiations with management and Americans pilots have agreed to resume talks with the airline this week.


Published: October 3, 2012