American Airlines pilot leaders say a meeting with top company executives left them discouraged about prospects for a real change in culture at the world’s largest airline.
The glum outlook followed talks Wednesday with Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker and his lieutenants about the airline’s operational performance, employee benefits, scheduling practices and long-term financial and balance sheet concerns, said the Allied Pilots Association, the union representing 15,000 American workers.
“To characterize the APA board of directors as underwhelmed by management’s lack of any apparent plan for the long-promised culture change would be a gross understatement,” according to a message posted on the union’s website. “In discussions after the meeting, the board consensus was that management’s dismissive response cast considerable doubt on prospects for lasting change.”
The assessment reflects increasing labor skepticism with Parker’s plan, voiced in meetings with managers and investors, for American workers to make a “leap of faith” in accepting that the airline industry has fundamentally changed and American must shift with it in order to succeed. Part of that includes “a race for the best employee relations in this business,” he has said.
“Driving this culture change is our priority and it is about showing our employees, including our pilots, that we have their backs and we are here to support them,” said Joshua Freed, a spokesman for American Airlines Group Inc. “We are more committed than ever to getting this right.”
The airline already has begun work on improving hotel accommodations for pilots and flight attendants and employee break rooms, and gaining better access to jump seats or cabins used by off-duty crew members, he said.
The union, an early backer of American’s merger with Parker-led US Airways, met with the CEO in March to voice their concerns about a “rebirth of the toxic culture we fought so hard to eradicate.” APA leaders said they left that meeting still uncertain of how Parker planned to remedy the issues.
Parker presented his “leap of faith” strategy to thousands of American managers at meetings in February, and to investors and analysts at an aviation conference in March.
“Our goal is to go make American Airlines the airline with the best employee relations in the airline business,” he said on March 8. “And we’re going to get that done. We got a long way to go but we’re going to do that.”
The APA and other unions at American broke with previous management during the airline’s bankruptcy to support Parker, who at the time was the CEO of US Airways, in his bid to combine the carriers. Union leaders reminded Parker at a March 14 meeting that “the promise of a healthier corporate culture” was a key reason for that support before the 2013 merger.
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This article was written by Mary Schlangenstein from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.