Pilots Union Rings Alarm Bells Around “Significant Spike” in American Airlines’ Safety Issues

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Apr 23, 2024

The Allied Pilots Association, the pilots union at American Airlines, has rung alarm bells over the “significant spike” they’ve seen revolving around safety issues at the airline.

This latest announcement comes as various airline companies, including American, have dealt with many public mishaps that have often resulted in planes having to make emergency landings.

Union Sounds Alarm

According to this pilots union at American, many pilots have seen more safety issues than normal recently. These safety issues include airplanes having fewer routine aircraft inspections than they should. This has happened because American has allegedly increased the time between when these routine inspections occur.

Two pilots in the cockpit of a plane.

Source: Blake Guidry/Unsplash

In an email to members, the union wrote that they have “been tracking a significant spike in safety- and maintenance-related problems in our operation.”


Nixing Maintenance Checks

The Allied Pilots Association has made many other claims about these safety issues. Allegedly, American has stopped many overnight maintenance checks.

Many American Airlines planes on the tarmac at a busy airport.

Source: Miguel Ángel Sanz/Unsplash

These checks used to be normal occurrences. However, now American is only allowing these inspections to happen if the plane is due for a maintenance check, or if it has been written up for needing special attention.

Common Mistakes

The union has also alleged that many mistakes made by maintenance have become quite common. For example, various incidents have happened where the crew has left behind their tools.

An American Airlines plane in flight in the air.

Source: Jan Rosolino/Unsplash

As a result, these tools have been found in wheel wells. Many items have also purportedly been left in what is considered the sterile area around parked planes at an airport’s gates. These issues have become common — and therefore, have become huge safety concerns.

Shorter Test Flights

After a plane has had a major fix or maintenance check, the union has stated that the plane no longer has a regular test flight to ensure it’s ready to return to service.

An American Airlines plane in the air in the daytime.

Source: Ross Sokolovski/Unsplash

Instead, American only allows these planes to go on shorter test flights. The same occurs for planes that have been in long-term shortage and are put back into service.

The Union’s Next Moves

Since releasing this email, the pilots union has made some moves to try to fix these safety problems. The union has already raised these issues with senior managers at American Airlines.

Many American Airlines planes grounded at an airport tarmac in the daytime.

Source: Miguel Ángel Sanz/Unsplash

This meeting reportedly went well — and the union officials are encouraged by how American responded to these allegations.


What the Union Is Saying

Dennis Tajer, a pilot and the union’s spokesman, came out to also clarify that this meeting between the union and American Airlines went well.

An American Airlines plane taking off with snowy mountains seen in the distance.

Source: Justin Hu/Unsplash

Tajer stated that “management’s initial response to our request was encouraging. We fully intend to do everything we can to assure that American maintains strong margins of safety.”


Will Things Change at American Airlines?

This meeting between union officials and senior American Airlines managers seems to hint that everything could very well be resolved in the near future. American could seriously make changes, now that this union has come forward with their worries.

Two American Airlines planes on an airport’s tarmac.

Source: Damian Hutter/Unsplash

However, the union has still asked its many members to report any issues they see. In an email, the union wrote, “We all understand that aviation accidents are the result of a chain of events — often a series of errors — and catching just one of those errors could prevent a tragedy.”


American Airlines’ Response

American Airlines has also responded to these safety claims. An airline spokesperson indicated that the airline company is always in contact with both unions and regulators.

An American Airlines plane at an airport tarmac with many workers and cars around it.

Source: Asael Peña/Unsplash

According to the spokesperson, this contact allows the company “to further bolster our strong safety record and enhance our ever-evolving safety culture.”


Will the FAA Investigate American Airlines?

Now that the pilots union for American has come forward with these safety concerns, will the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) step in to investigate?

An American Airlines plane up in the air in the daytime.

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While the FAA declined to comment on this recent situation, a spokesperson for the agency did state that airlines have their own systems for finding and fixing potential security problems.


Recent Plane Problems

Recently, many airline companies have been in the news left and right thanks to ongoing plane problems. This national attention began when an Alaska Airlines plane was forced to make an emergency landing after its door plug blew off in the middle of a flight.

An American Airlines plane on a tarmac at an airport near many other planes.

Source: Preston A Larimer/Unsplash

Since then, many planes — particularly Boeing planes — have had ample issues. These safety problems haven’t completely died down yet.


American Airlines Issues

American Airlines has also had some safety concerns with its planes recently. In March, an American Boeing plane had a flat tire that blew when the plane was taking off.

An American Airlines plane taking off with a city skyline in the distance.

Source: Donna White/Unsplash

March also saw an American Airlines flight make an emergency landing in Los Angeles after the pilot discovered a mechanical problem in the middle of the flight. This mechanical problem was never accurately revealed.