American Airlines safety program ends amid bickering with pilots
A lauded safety program at American Airlines has ended amid bickering between the airline and its pilots, a development that an airline official called "sad and incomprehensible."
The Aviation Safety Action Partnership was a joint program run by the airline, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Allied Pilots Association. Launched in 1994, it allowed pilots to report safety-related incidents for investigation without fear of discipline from American or the FAA. Aviation experts have praised it as an effective way to identify potentially dangerous safety lapses that otherwise might go unreported.
The program expired Monday after American and the union failed to negotiate its renewal. Each side is blaming the other for the failure to keep the partnership alive.
"The APA’s willingness to discard a 14-year program that has done so much for our pilots, our airline and our industry is impossible to understand," American spokeswoman Tami McLallen said.
Billy Nolen, an American pilot who works for airline management, said in a message to pilots that the program’s lapse was "sad and incomprehensible." Airline officials say the union had made unreasonable demands for additional immunity under the plan.
Union officials, meanwhile, alleged that the airline had begun to use the program to punish pilots, and they chafed against a proposal they say would have allowed the airline to label pilots as "reckless."
"Management, in this case, flight department management, has lost the trust of its pilots," union leaders said in an e-mail to pilots. "It is that simple."
American still has ASAP programs for flight attendants and ground workers. Pilots who wish to report safety incidents can still do so confidentially to the airline’s safety department, American officials said. Pilots can also report safety cases under a system operated by NASA.
The collapse of the program, which served as a model for the industry, is the latest casualty of deteriorating relations between American pilots and management. A proposed flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to China was scrapped last year after airline officials and pilots failed to negotiate an agreement to fly the lengthy route.
Contract talks with pilots have dragged on for two years with little progress. And pilots have opposed a bid by American to win antitrust immunity for an alliance with British Airways, which airline executives say is vital to compete on overseas routes.
"Given closer arrangements now being forged between Delta and Northwest, and Continental and United, [American] would be strategically wounded if labor is successful at thwarting" the alliance with British Airways, Daniel McKenzie, airline analyst at Credit Suisse, said in a recent note to investors.
AFAIK, Billy Nolen isn't a pilot with AA, but was an instrumental part of the program at UT that developed the software to run the ASAP program (and licensed it for free to airlines), and was brought on at AA when that program ended.
I agree, it is stupid and incomprehensible to shut down ASAP (even with the judge's actions in the Comair Lexington suit).