Thousands of people were exasperated and upset by the cancellation of more than 3,000 flights at American Airlines this week, and the loudest complaints came from the airline's own employees.
The pilots union took out full-page newspaper ads that asked, "Why is American Airlines Failing Its Customers?"
Flight attendants have renewed a campaign against stock bonuses for top executives.
There's nothing new about rocky management-labor relations at American, but this week's events have driven an even deeper wedge between executives and front-line workers.
American canceled 595 flights on Friday, bringing the running total to about 3,080, and said about 200 more flights would be lost today. The airline said it expected to be back to normal operations by late this afternoon.
Seven flights leave Salt Lake City International Airport to places such as Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit and St. Louis. While all seven were canceled on Thursday, two flights departed from Salt Lake on Friday, airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann said.
Flight cancellations delayed Kris Ahmann, her husband and two children of West Haven, Weber County, from returning home from their vacation in Cancun, Mexico.
The family left the Cancun airport on an American Airlines flight to Dallas. From Dallas they were supposed to fly to Salt Lake City, but the flight was cancelled.
"Since we have two small kids, we got a hotel and meal voucher" Ahmann said.
On Thursday, they were supposed to board a 9 a.m. flight to Salt Lake. But that was canceled. They then scheduled an 11 a.m. flight, but it, too, was canceled. The family finally left Dallas at 4 p.m. Thursday and got home at 8 p.m.
Ahmann said her work schedule is flexible and her boss was understanding. There were more work complications for her husband, who teaches aircraft maintenance at Hill Air Force Base.
"My husband had to rearrange his schedule," she said.
The cancellations started Tuesday, when American yanked 300 planes out of service to bring them up to federal safety standards on wrapping electrical wires to prevent fires.
The airline thought it had done the repair work two weeks ago, when it scrubbed more than 400 flights, but the FAA said the wiring still wasn't properly secured and stowed in wheel wells.
Chairman and Chief Executive Gerard Arpey said he took responsibility and that neither American's mechanics nor the FAA were to blame. He said the company would hire a consultant to help it comply with FAA safety rules in the future.
Arpey said the cost including vouchers to appease unhappy customers, overtime for maintenance crews and lost revenue would run into the tens of millions of dollars. An analyst with Standard & Poor's estimated it could easily top $30 million.
The cancellations also threatened to cost pilots money, since they only get paid for hours they fly. But on Thursday, the company and the Allied Pilots Association cut a deal that lets pilots get paid for their lost shifts if they were available to fly once the planes were fixed.
The pilots union has emerged as the most vocal critic of the company's performance this week.
The union took out a full-page advertisement in USA Today on Thursday, accusing the company of failing its customers. The ad showed a man dressed like a business traveler, sitting on a cot and scowling off into the distance.
The ad copy noted recent surveys that have rated American poorly for cancellations, late arrivals and customer satisfaction.
Scott Shankland, a first captain and spokesman for the union, said the ad was intended as a wake-up call for American's leaders. He said the MD-80s were safe, but "the cushion that keeps you safe is smaller" because of cutbacks to maintenance.
"This management team is driving reliability down to a point where it will drive customers away," Shankland said.
The union, which represents 12,000 pilots at American, said Friday that pilots would demonstrate against the company in nine cities Tuesday to highlight what it called poor performance and customer service. Near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the union also put up a billboard sounding the same themes.A spokesman for American, John Hotard, said, "We're disappointed that any union would choose negative tactics in a direct attempt to harm the company," he said. "It's energy better spent strengthening the company."
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