American Airlines gave employees across the board raises without insisting that the pay changes be part of a contract. The airline says that’s made it harder to get mechanics to agree to a contract. American mechanics have already gotten much of the money they’re going to get with a new contract, so there’s less incentive for employees to agree to rules changes the airline wants.
The carrier is offering terms they say are more costly than what United and Delta have with their mechanics, so a common refrain from management has been that they would happily sign either the United or Delta deal today.
On the other hand American does want to outsource more maintenance work going forward. Even if it won’t wind up costing any union jobs or hours, unions are loathe to agree to it out of fear it reduces their leverage in the future.
Over at over at employee forums and town halls, maintenance workers express their frustrations. Anecdotally there are reports that some of American’s recent operational challenges stem from maintenance slow-walking addressing of issues with aircraft.
From the flyer’s perspective, though, should we care? We want happy employees because that means a smoother operation. The scariest thing is disgruntled mechanics. But what about outsourcing, should it matter to us whether employee union workers do heavy maintenance or whether it’s done by shops abroad?
- Airline travel is safer than ever, and that’s worldwide not just in the U.S. Maintenance work abroad in most of the world is extremely safe. In fact in one ranking there’s only a single US carrier among the world’s 15 safest.
- Indeed the safest airlines around the world have their maintenance done throughout the world.
- Cheaper maintenance is better. It’s expensive maintenance than an airline might be more inclined to skimp on. The less expensive maintenance is, the easier it is to buy more of it.
I’m more worried about lapses in regulatory oversight where government inspectors get chummy with the people they’re around all the time in the U.S. and don’t call out their friends for maintenance problems. Outsourcing has a higher bar, both in terms of distance and scrutiny.