Because of an editing error, a story yesterday misidentified the organization representing American Airlines pilots. It is the Allied Pilots Association. (Published 1/2/90)
DALLAS, DEC. 31 -- American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights in the last three days because of crew shortages caused by a pilots' sickout, a spokeswoman said today.
The Air Line Pilots Association has denied there was any organized job action and has told its members to comply with a federal court order barring a slowdown.
American spokeswoman Mary O'Neill said 267 flights were canceled today because of crew shortages. An additional 364 flights were canceled because of insufficient crews over the weekend. Several hundred more flights were canceled because of weather.
American, the nation's largest airline, schedules about 2,300 flights daily worldwide. Cancellations jumped dramatically in the last days of the month as reserve pilots completed their allotted flying time. Federal law limits the number of hours commercial pilots can fly each month.
"We've tried to cancel these flights in advance as much as possible and contact these passengers before they leave their homes and hotels," O'Neill said. "We're trying to place them on other American flights."
The union, which represents the carrier's 8,700 pilots, has expressed unhappiness over lack of progress in their 14-month-old contract talks. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Jan. 7 under the supervision of federal mediators.
A union spokesman said bad weather drained American's supply of reserve pilots, but he also blamed the airline's confrontational stance.
"In at least two of the last six years, American has had trouble making its Christmas schedule," said Bill Walters, an APA spokesman. In past years, the carrier has come to the union for help, he said. "They didn't do that this year," he said. "Instead, they chose to take us to court."
Last week District Judge John McBryde ordered the pilots not to engage in any activities that deliberately interfere or slow down airline operations.
With the start of a new month Tuesday, American will have more reserve crews available. "We're anticipating only 48 to 50 cancellations tomorrow," O'Neill said.
American said a record 529 pilots called in sick on Christmas Eve, about 200 more than normal. Since McBryde's order, the number of American pilots out sick has remained around 500 per day, the airline said.