Is this the end of American Airlines?

americanairlines.jpgCompanies that go into bankruptcy protection almost never come out the same way. Once in a while, that's a good thing. Sometimes it's a disaster. American Airlines is in the latter category. The carrier filed for Chapter 11 protection because it wanted to restructure its labor contracts - and the strategy had been largely successful. But all hell broke loose after a bankruptcy judge threw out the pilots contract. Basically, the airline has been sabotaged, with increased numbers of sick days and maintenance reports. That's why its on-time performance is running 54 percent; competitors are in the 80s. An American pilot tells the Dallas Morning News what's going on:

What you're seeing going on at AA is a lot like on your car. You normally ignore the minor squeaks or rattles and if you are going to get it fixed you wait until you get back home and have your local mechanic fix it. Now guys are writing those problems up and not on the inbound leg to DFW or MIA but instead when they see them on the outbound leg to OMH, MCI or PDX. If you ran your car like American Airlines has been running for the last two weeks if your car was leaking oil on the drive, write it up. Windshield wipers streaking, write it up. Shocks squeaking, write it up. Car pulls slightly to the left, write it up. Your wife would be thrilled.....until the bill came in. The other thing your seeing is guys that used to use their knowledge of the systems to keep it limping along or reset it are no longer helping out. Most of the time the fix is to just reboot the system and seeing if it does it again. Now guys get a message or the system doesn't preform as it should then instead of trouble shooting and seeing if it does it again they just write it up, "No Bucks, No Buck Rogers" is the saying.

This is roughly the equivalent of what happens when that one person in the office who knows how to fix everything suddenly quits. In a matter of days, perhaps hours, the whole place is in shambles. As for American, the last couple of weeks have been devastating. It's one thing to be late because of weather - it's another to be late because the pilots are pissed. The airline is basically dying before our eyes.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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