Much-lauded American Airlines safety program likely ends next month
By TREBOR BANSTETTER
A much-lauded safety program for American Airlines pilots will likely end next month, airline officials said, after a breakdown in negotiations to renew the program.
The Aviation Safety Action Partnership, which began in 1994, allows pilots to report safety-related incidents for investigation without fear of discipline from American or the Federal Aviation Administration. Aviation experts have praised it as an effective way to identify potentially dangerous safety lapses that otherwise might go unreported.
The current program was scheduled to expire in January. The FAA extended it as American negotiated a renewal with the Allied Pilots Association.
But those talks haven’t produced a new program, despite several extensions. Pilots have argued that in some cases, the company unfairly disciplined pilots even when an incident was accepted for review under the program.
Airline executives countered that the program has worked well. Airline officials proposed creating teams to review every event and offered to eliminate discipline for lapses that did not involve reckless behavior by the pilot.
On Friday, the company informed pilots that the FAA would grant no more extensions.
"Proposed changes to address [union] concerns have not been accepted," airline officials said in the memo to pilots Friday. "Absent an agreement, as of Oct. 13, you will no longer have the protections afforded by the ASAP program."
American officials said they would establish a confidential hot line for pilots in lieu of the program.
The program’s demise would come after months of intense scrutiny of safety on the nation’s airlines. American grounded 300 MD-80 jets for emergency inspections in April after the FAA raised concerns. Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, was fined a record $10.2 million for allegedly flying Boeing 737 planes without inspections for potentially deadly fuselage cracks.
Relations between American and the pilots union have deteriorate in recent years. The two sides have been negotiating for a new pilot contract since 2006, but little has been achieved at the bargaining table.