St. Maarten Weekly News reports: American Airlines aborts non-stop flights from New York

POSTED: 09/24/12 11:53 AM

St. Maarten – Jeff Berger analyzed the situation at American Airlines in this weekend’s edition of his St. Maarten weekly news electronic  newsletter. He notes that the airline is a mess and that non-stop flights this winter from JFK in New York to St. Maarten are off the books. For non-stop flights, Berger advises his readers, check JetBlue.

This is his account: “Parallels can be drawn now between the experience of American Airlines passengers and timeshare owners at Pelican Resort. In both cases, it’s a saga — a long, drawn-out affair that isn’t particularly pleasant.

Briefly, the situation at American Airlines is this. The airline ordered lots of new airplanes and declared bankruptcy; draw your own conclusion about the relationship of those two events. It then decided it was paying its people too much money, so it cut salaries and benefits, which is nothing unusual since American has been doing that for the past 11 years.

Now it gets uglier. American decided it didn’t want to honor a contract signed not long ago with its pilots, so it went to court to void the contract and make unilateral changes. The court denied the request, so American updated the request after which the court honored it. American then imposed unpleasant changes on its pilots. When this happened, we wrote that the result could not be good long-term for American, which is also in “secret” negotiations with US Airways about a possible merger. (US Airways, which has been pushing the merger idea with American for some time, already has seen most of American’s unions — and those unions want a merger).

American’s pilots are professional, among the best in the business. They’re not about to do anything to compromise safety. However they are human beings and they can do a number of things to compromise the happiness of their airline bosses. Among those things are filing reports about mechanical issues even though the issues are minor, such as seats that fail to recline, a broken coffeepot, etc. When pilots file such reports, planes are delayed so mechanics can come aboard and fix them.

Beyond that, an unusual number of pilots have been calling in sick. The consequence of all this is that many flights on American Airlines are being delayed — on some days, almost half of all American flights have been delayed — and a lesser number have been canceled.

Bottom line, if you plan to fly American Airlines to St. Maarten or anywhere else, your in-flight experience may be a bit less than you expect in the near-term.”

 

In the same issue of his newsletter, Berger examines the disappearance of direct flights from new York to St. Maarten. “If you regularly fly on American Airlines’ nonstops from New York to St. Maarten and have tried to book lately, you may have discovered that nonstops are not currently available. The airline says that it has been re-jiggering its schedules to meet demand, but the reality is that the airline is a mess (see previous story) and its scheduling is being adversely affected by the actions of pilots more so then market demands.
American usually introduces winter nonstops from New York; it has had such flights for many years and normally, one would expect them to continue. Usually we’d say that the odds of such flights next year are 100%, but this year conventional logic is out the window. We don’t know whether American is going to bring back its nonstops this winter; until Friday morning’s double murder, we thought the odds were in favor of that happening, but things are way up in the air now.

If you want nonstops from JFK to St. Maarten, check JetBlue. They have been flying two nonstops daily, and that may increase. They also have a number of flights to San Juan with connections to St. Maarten, but connections back through San Juan can be a pain.”

Berger furthermore reminisces about a possible merger between US Airways and American Airlines. “If you think that merger negotiations are little more than a bunch of people sitting around a big table, you’d be wrong, of course. All of us realize that when major airlines discuss a merger as complex as this, lots of statistics, financial information, personnel data, route information, fleet data, and of course individual and corporate egos are involved.

The US Airways involved here is not the US Airways of old. America West Airlines, a well run and aggressive carrier, took over US Airways a few years ago, kept the name, and moved the carrier to America West’s hometown, Phoenix. That’s why call signs for flights often carry the letters AW and pilots talking to controllers identify their aircraft as “Cactus,” not “US Air.”

US Airways is proposing the merged carrier be called American Airlines and that it be based in Dallas — a clear nod to the egos already in Dallas, and to the fact that American is, by and large, a more well respected carrier then US Airways and one that doesn’t carry the old US Airways “baggage” related to its pre-America West stigma.

There is still more going on in these negotiations than you might think. Because the unions have already had discussions with US Airways and back the merger, you can safely assume that there is a lot of pressure being exerted in the background by employees to make this happen. No doubt pressure is being exerted on both carriers also from Washington DC.

American Airlines pilots are so angry with AA that they’re reportedly nosing around in Washington to see what steps might be necessary for them to go on strike. What the pilots are already doing and what they would like to do certainly figure into these negotiations.

Bottom line: far more is going on than simply meetings between designated hitters for both airlines. There’s a tremendous amount of heavy politicking, too.”
 

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