Video of American Airlines Supervisor Yelling at a Mechanic Was Leaked with an Agenda

The viral video of an American Airlines employee yelling at one of their mechanics turns out to be from back in November.

This not safe for work video is a snippet of a supervisor yelling at a mechanic over writing up items on an aircraft and then not fixing them, because the mechanic’s shift was apparently over. I didn’t cover the video when it was making the rounds at the beginning of the week because there just wasn’t enough context around it. For instance,

  • When did it happen?
  • Where did it happen? (From the accents my guess was Chicago O’Hare)
  • What flights were involved? What mechanical issues were discovered?

Now we know more about the video. Have a look if you want but not the profane language going in:

This video became newsworthy – even without additional context – because American’s operation is suffering while they’re in the midst of a contract dispute with their mechanics and ramp workers.

The world started paying attention to the issue once American went to mediation with its mechanics, more recently took its mechanics to court over the slowdown, and faced threats of a ‘vicious strike action…the likes of which you’ve never seen’.

Mechanics have even opened a passenger’s luggage to insert a union flyer.

Things have gotten more heated in recent months, but the issues — largely involving the amount of maintenance work American can contract with non-union workers to do, and the health insurance policy that legacy US Airways workers will be covered by — have been around for some time and so has the slow down. I wrote back in August of last year that unhappy mechanics were slowing down American’s operation.

Since the story about American and its mechanics has really just recently gotten play, and the video of the mechanic being yelled at was just uploaded to YouTube, I think most people mistakenly assumed it was a new incident. Instead it reportedly happened back in November.

“Every time you come down here, you write s*** up, and you f*****g leave,” the supervisor said.

…[Jason] Lopata said, a week before the incident, the same supervisor lashed out at him over a three-minute delay for repairs to another plane.

“The aircraft took a delay. I had a bunch of work I had to do on the airplane. It took a three-minute delay,” he said.

…Lopata posted video of the supervisor’s outburst on YouTube last week. He filed a formal complaint with the airline and the Federal Aviation Administraiton in November, accusing the supervisor of using profanity, and telling him “my job was not to find items wrong.”

“Nothing was ever done about it,” Lopata said.

The mechanic said, because American Airlines and the FAA didn’t take action, he posted the video online and reached out to CBS 2.

The mechanic reported the outburst to the company and the FAA but didn’t get satisfaction so he went public. At issue was “bubbling paint due to corrosion.” The supervisor has been “removed from duty” pending an investigation.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I’m not a strong union person. That said, my nephew (now an engineer) worked as a mechanic in 3 states: TN, AL, and TX, for various airlines. He doesn’t care what color a person is or where they are from. What did bother him is that there is a huge shortage of aircraft mechanics, so bad that the mechanical work is being outsourced to mechanics who don’t speak any English. This can be a real problem when it comes to reading manuals and interpreting updates. Whenever problems were found it usually wasn’t due to the incompetence of the foreign/outsourced mechanics, but the material lost in language translation.

    I’m sure more airlines would hire American workers, unionized or not, but if they aren’t here, they aren’t here. Maybe the airlines should start pushing for more awareness of the job availability to high school guidance- and career- counselors at the high school level, because the pay is really, really good. For that matter, the trade unions ALL need to do a better job at marketing themselves.

  2. @KimmieA — I’m also aware that there’s an airplane mechanics “shortage,” but that’s probably not AA’s problem. A job at AA is going to pay top dollar in the industry, so they can attract the necessary personnel. Of course, the problem of paying top dollar is that’s it’s then going to be cheaper to outsource many maintenance functions. That’s largely what AA’s competitors already do.

  3. What I got from the video was the employee waited to the end of his shift And stated these need repairs basically have the next person do it.

    If I am correct boss was prob really pissed seems like ongoing issue but should of reacted like that but emotions get the best of people
    Thoughts

  4. @Mike I agree with you. This engineer seems to be instigating these problems and now wants to play the victim. That he has done this repeatedly at the very end of his shift and then claims that he only works 8 hours suggests that he is intentionally waiting until the very last minute to do this or that he observed these issues earlier in his inspections and just delayed reporting it so he wouldn’t have to do the repairs himself. He hardly seems sympathetic given that he is going public with this and he sounds like a jerk in the video and interviews. I doubt his doing this is out of a concern about passenger safety

  5. Everyone should read the article that Bill cited from Vanity Fair. It is really interesting and scary.

  6. I agree with @KimmieA. Color doesn’t matter at all. If you don’t speak fluent American, there’s no way you can be trusted to read a manual or receive an education.

  7. Wow horrible video. The AMT is a POS and knew what he was doing. I do believe the mechanic was trying to purposely down the aircraft. I deal with this everyday and there are good mechanics and not so good mechanics.

  8. It’s funny they post videos when it’s time to go and talk about up coming contracts. Dude totally set that supervisor up with that bullshit but he fell for it. I know a lot of guys in the field and this is standard procedure for cry ass mechanics. I was also a mechanic and glad I got out of it. Mechanics make good money and could bust a little more ass to help the company. Bc trust me most of them would not make it in a non-union shop. I realize I’m broad stroking all mechanics but those know who they are and will only hurt the airline more.

  9. In general, I side with the union workers.
    I am a surgeon; physicians are one of the few professions left in which the Owner & the Worker are the same person. I own my practice, employ all of my office girls, run the business… yet, at the same time, I am also the only one who generates revenue for the business. None of my employees can bill for their time or their services; only I can.
    Being both “owner” and “worker” gives me a rare perspective.
    And, like I said, I typically side with the workers.
    Plus, as a frequent passenger of AA, I definitely want the mechanics to have everything they want and need to do a good job.
    However, this video doesn’t really show that the mechanic’s interest in safety was being ignored. His “supervisor” doesn’t express anger that the mechanic has identified issues; he expresses anger that the mechanic hasn’t fixed the issues.
    It’s hard to know in these situations: is the mechanic truly a good mechanic being bullied? Or is he an inferior mechanic who blames his poor performance on others?
    Unless one is also a mechanic and has worked with this guy for months, then one can’t know the difference.
    Some of his behavior suggests, to me, that the mechanic does have an agenda.
    With the “3 minute” thing; IMO, a good employee would explain management’s “side”, even if he didn’t agree with it.
    Most adult work place problems aren’t black and white, good guy / bad guy.
    The mechanic might have said something like, “3 minutes sounds trivial. Passengers’ lives are in my hands. To me, 3 minutes is nothing compared to an air incident that kills 60 people. But passengers often complain about late departures & the FAA might penalize airlines who are often late. So it’s a tough situation. In theory, everyone agrees that safety is first. But in the day to day grind, I feel that my supervisors get caught up in the pressure for on time departures and safety gets taken for granted. As a mechanic, this is stressful for me. That’s why I went public with this: passengers need to know that this issue exists.”
    Something like that would suggest that the complaining mechanic has insight, has an honest agenda for presenting this video, and is truly motivated by a desire to maximize safety.
    A couple of my patients fly for legacy airlines. Plus, I have gotten to know some of the helicopter pilots that bring our trauma patients to us. From all of them, I have learned that the flight crew has the authority to say “go” or “no go”.
    I know this because I once chewed out a helicopter pilot; she’d refused to fly a patient to my hospital. That patient died because he didn’t get to me in time.
    That pilot talked back to me, which was considered unacceptable – she got in trouble for talking back to the surgeon. But she made a good point: there was bad weather, if she had flown, the entire crew of the helicopter could have been killed. That included 4 young people, at risk to save the life of a 76 year old.
    I think mechanics should have the same authority. I assume that they do; if not, that’s concerning.

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