American Airlines has announced that it will shutdown its pilot base in San Francisco. The carrier blames a serious shortage of pilots due to retirements for its decision. Vice president of flight John Hale broke the news to the pilots on Thursday, saying that the decision wasn’t made lightly. It comes with much regret and after intense talks and strategic analysis. Unfortunately, this hard course of action is the best for everyone involved in the long run.
The airline’s San Francisco base has been understated in recent years as the carrier has adopted a keystone element of strategy focused on its hubs in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth. Meanwhile, it’s axed two routes from the San Francisco hub to Boston and Honolulu this year as part of the strategy. Since the end of August, 240 pilots have retired, while 368 have done so this year. This is more than three times as many as in 2010.
Hale explained that, as many of the pilots know, the recent increase in retirements has left their staffing levels so short that the reliability of their timetable is at risk. They have been unable to reach a bridge deal to allow them to temporarily ease the crunch, so they have to find another way to ensure the reliability of their operations. Because of this, the airline is focusing its resources on where they are needed most and organising its forces around the keystone strategy. The current environment of the economy also leaves the carrier facing tough choice about where and how money should be spent. The closure of this pilot base will save substantial reserve and management costs.
American airlines tried to negotiate temporary steps outside of the current contract for its pilots to ease the staff shortage issue, including incentives for pilots who would fly more hours. The Allied Pilots Association, however, took the position that any relief should be in a new contract. President Dave Bates scheduled, on Tuesday, a special meeting of the union board of directors for tomorrow afternoon, which is in case the two sides reach a tentative deal. He told pilots that airline management has indicated a concerted effort to conclude the negotiations this week. Therefore, he added, the union and management will continue bargaining through the weekend.
Meanwhile, American Airlines has revealed that it will offer fewer seats for its late autumn and winter schedule. This will include services that are available during the crowded weekend for Thanksgiving. As a result, the carrier says capacity will dip 3% year-on-year. The reductions come even though the airline was seeing advance bookings on par with the same period last year. A spokesperson said that the capacity cuts will come through cancelling certain flights – many for less busy days like Tuesday and Saturday. There could also be some equipment changes with aircraft, they added.
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