Wednesday, February 10, 1999

Judge orders
pilots to return
to work

American cancels 900
more flights today

From staff and wire reports


A federal judge today ordered American Airlines' pilots to stop their sickout that has forced the carrier to cancel 2,500 flights since Saturday.

"The job action that's being taken is inappropriate and has to stop," ruled Judge Joe Kendall in Dallas.

"If you looked up bad labor relations in the dictionary, it would have an American Airlines logo by it."

AMR Corp., the parent of American Airlines, sought the order this morning because it said the union was illegally encouraging pilots to call in sick, undermining talks toward a resolution. The job action began Saturday after the two sides failed to resolve pay and job issues linked to AMR's purchase of low-fare airline Reno Air Inc.

Kendall chided both sides. "It's silly for us to even be here," he said. "It's like killing a gnat with a sledge hammer."

Before the judge's order, American Airlines cancelled more than 900 of today's flights, about 40 percent of its daily schedule of 2,250 trips, as more pilots called in sick or refused to work overtime.

Among today's cancellations were four of six round-trip Hawaii flights. American was down to just two round trips from Dallas. Its four other Hawaii flights -- Los Angeles-, San Francisco- and Chicago-Honolulu and Los Angeles-Maui -- were canceled in both directions.

An estimated 200,000 passengers have encountered travel delays since Saturday due to the pilots' dispute with management.

Talks stalled last Friday in a dispute over when pilots from the recently acquired Reno Air would be upgraded to the pay scale received by American's pilots. The next day, many American pilots began calling in sick and refusing to fly voluntary overtime.

The number of cancellations has escalated each day, with more than 800, or about 37 percent, of the airline's flights knocked off yesterday's schedule.

In Hawaii, American scrapped two round-trips yesterday and three on Monday.

So far, the airline has been able to accommodate its Hawaii passengers on other airline's flights.

American is advising customers who aren't sure about their flights to check with reservations, either in Honolulu at 833-7600 or at 1-800-433-7300.

If they know the flight number, they can get details on the Internet at, under "gates and times."

Though the purchase of Reno is the source of this dispute, ill will between the pilots and the company has been festering for years.

In the early 1990s in an attempt to stem losses, American Airlines closed three hubs and furloughed 610 pilots, while at the same time leasing its empty airport gates to Reno Air and Midway Airlines Inc. and selling frequent-flier miles on the smaller carriers.

American pilots saw the move as a way to shift work to their lower-paid counterparts at the smaller airlines. The distrust was highlighted by jokes among crew members that AMR stood for "American, Midway, Reno."

"I think that this is a confrontation that has its roots in things that have happened in the past, and I think that (AMR chairman and chief executive Don) Carty seriously underestimated the residual anger that was there with the pilot group," said Holly Hegeman, an airline analyst for PlaneBusiness.

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