American Airlines Pilots Critical Of ‘America West 2.0’ Strategy 

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Summary

  • Concerns about serving crucial markets
  • Clash with pilot contract scope
  • Also the airline’s flight attendants seek better pay and are preparing to strike

The Allied Pilots Association President, Captain Ed Sicher, recently blogged his observations about the business model of American Airlines. Captain Sicher alleges that American Airlines is not serving its crucial markets and is reducing long-haul operations.

Concerned about scheduling and scope

One would think that after the Allied Pilots Association won a significant new post-pandemic contract last year, the American Airlines pilots would be happy. But as Captain Sicher shared,

“Unfortunately, the news isn’t good from our pilots’ perspective. Chief Executive Officer Robert Isom sees future profitability as dependent on growth opportunities in underserved domestic markets, with the crux of his business plan revolving around these marginal locations. In other words, the airline management team responsible for producing profit margins that badly lag those of Delta and United believes that opportunity beckons by taking on Southwest Airlines and the ultra low-cost carriers.”

It is well known that American Airlines is a premium airline with multi-class seating, and Southwest Airlines is a single-class airline with a unique boarding process.

Additionally, Captain Sicher is concerned about the pilot’s contract scope clause versus the new business plan. Mainline airline union members are paid more for flying the bigger jets than the regional unionized aircrew with fewer souls and freight aboard like the 76-passenger Embraer E175 pictured below – and usually shorter distances. Hence, mainline airline unions negotiate a scope clause to prevent lesser-paid regional aircrews from taking on their work.

Photo: Joe Kunzler | Simple Flying

As Captain Sicher explains,

“Section 1 of our contract is the foundation of our flying agreement, capping management’s ability to fly regional jets [RJs] while also limiting their ability to fly from non-hub cities to other non-hub cities with RJs (spoke-to-spoke). … The only ways out of this “square corner” the new business plan creates are absorbing one or more of the wholly owned operations, putting RJs on our seniority list, or attempting to renegotiate our Scope clause, and the latter will most certainly be met with virulent opposition.”

You can listen to Captain Sicher speak on this at 2:25 of the below YouTube clip.

Management lofty goals

Alternatively, listening to American Airlines’ CEO Robert Isom’s presentation, Isom stressed airlines are a “supply and demand business.” Isom also said American Airlines is “a changed airline” that has revived itself from post-COVID pandemic losses to an airline with improved customer experience, making “culture a competitive advantage” and a “thrive forever” mentality.

American Airlines Boeing 787-8 N819AN

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja also spoke about American Airlines being a “global hub-and-spoke network carrier.” American Airlines’ differences come from the different links, and it seems to want to focus on the United States Sun Belt that stretches from Southern California to Florida, like legacy airline America West Airlines.

Raja’s presentation from the selected slides shows that American Airlines may likely pivot to service that area. Additionally, Raja praised the reduced costs of regional jet operations.

America West History

The history of America West is that of an airline that began life on August 1, 1983, flying Flight 105 from Kansas City – Colorado Springs – Phoenix. According to awa-history.org, the airline would operate as “a full-service airline” with assigned multi-class seating, overhead bins, complimentary cocktails, and more.

America West Airlines Boeing 737-112

Additionally, America West Airlines had a hub at Phoenix International Airport (PHX) and attempted to operate as a Southwestern United States airline with some long-range connections. The old America West Airlines prided itself on customer service and a good workplace culture.

Headwinds from the flight attendants also

Gone unmentioned in this discussion is that the American Airlines flight attendants union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), has filed for release from the National Mediation Board (NMB) mediated talks and met with the NMB to make a case for release. However, if release is granted, there is a 30-day cooling-off period before any strike action to demand better pay and scheduling, which would raise costs for American Airlines.

Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) Members Picketing on Wall Street
Photo: Association of Professional Flight Attendants | Instagram

But when the pay scale starts at $27,000 per year, morale problems are created. According to RentCafe, the average rent in Dallas, Philadelphia, and New York City – three of America’s nine US flight attendant bases – exceeds $1,500 monthly. It is hard to make ends meet on a $2,250 monthly base salary that does improve.

Please let me know what your thoughts are. Please share in the comments.


  • American Airlines Tile
    American Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:
    AA/AAL

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Hub(s):
    Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Miami International Airport, New York JFK Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

    Year Founded:
    1926

    Alliance:
    oneworld

    CEO:
    Robert Isom

    Country:
    United States

    Airline Group:
    American Airlines Group

    Region:
    North America

    Loyalty Program:
    AAdvantage





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