A Look Inside The American Airlines Mechanics Union Dispute

One of the biggest aviation stories, in addition to the 737 MAX grounding, is American Airlines’ dispute with their mechanics’ union. Unfortunately, these disputes have led to some consequences for the airline and for travelers. Here is a look into the ongoing dispute between the mechanics’ union and America’s largest airline by fleet size.

American Airlines
American Airlines is locked in a dispute with their maintenance personnel. Photo: American Airlines

The role of US Airways

The roots of this dispute started when American Airlines merged with US Airways. When the airlines merged, American Airlines mechanics and US Airways mechanics operated on separate contracts. Now, the mechanics and the airline have reached a sort of impasse, because they cannot reach a compromise. In particular, now that American Airlines is a very successful airline, the mechanics want better concessions.  

US Airways
When US Airways and American Airlines merged, their mechanics unions operated under different contracts. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

During this dispute, there were some concerns regarding the union’s stance. In particular, some comments made by the TWU president raised a few eyebrows. Here are just some of the remarks:

The court fights

American Airlines sued the union back in May. The idea here, from American’s side, was that mechanics focused on interrupting American’s services. Some of the affected action, according to the airline, involved taking aircraft out of service when unnecessary, etc.

Well, the mechanics denied these allegations. They simply stated that they were doing their job.

American mechanics
American claimed their mechanics were intentionally disrupting operations. Photo: American Airlines

The judge issued a temporary restraining order against the mechanics, although, the mechanics maintained their innocence. Nevertheless, the court case continued, and now, a few days ago, the court case was resolved.

American Airlines
American’s court case came to an end in August. Photo: American Airlines

A permanent injunction

The courts granted a permanent injunction to American Airlines. Basically, this gives American Airlines some court backing in the assertion that the mechanics are playing unfairly in terms of these contract negotiations.

American Airlines
A mechanic at work for American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

The court order also means that the union has to work to keep their members from engaging in any kind of activity that would deliberately and adversely affect American’s operations. However, that does not mean American’s mechanics cannot take out planes that actually are unsafe to fly.

American mechanics
American’s mechanics are still allowed to service aircraft and remove them from service if they are legitimately not fit for flight. Photo: American Airlines

What’s next?

Hopefully, an agreement. Any kind of friction that can lead to strike action or operational disruptions can have an impact on passengers. Most passengers do not have any skin in this game. Thus, the airline does face some negative public reaction due to issues with operational reliability.

AA 787 exterior
American Airlines already faces some negative reaction in terms of operational reliability. Photo: American Airlines

As for the unions, it is unclear if they have overplayed their hand on this one. We will have to see exactly how, or if, a deal comes together. It took Southwest Airlines about seven years to get an agreement.

Whether or not this injunction will make a difference to American’s operations is yet to be determined.

How do you think this situation will end? Let us know in the comments!