FAA & Airlines


Dec 21, 2002
FAA radar targets airline
Safety oversight up at American

Aviation regulators have stepped up their safety oversight of American Airlines, a measure that typically follows a carrier''s slide into financial difficulty.
The Federal Aviation Administration uses the enhanced inspections to ensure that safety is upheld and that corners are not being cut.
The president of the airline''s flight attendants'' union, meanwhile, told members during his hot-line message that unless the airline can obtain $1.8 billion in annual labor concessions, the union ``has reason to believe that the timing for an AMR bankruptcy may be sooner rather than later.''''
AMR Corp. owns the airline.
''''There''s no concrete, firm, drop-dead bankruptcy date that we are aware of,'''' said Rick Musica, Miami vice chairman of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. But, like the company has said, losses like these are just unsustainable. It''s in our best interest to have something in place should it get to that point.''''
American was burning through $5 million a day when it announced in January that its 2002 losses totaled $3.5 billion.
The airline has suffered amid weak demand for business travel, cut-rate fares and competition from low-cost carriers. At the same time, its costs are among the highest in the industry.
On Monday, FAA spokesman Christopher White confirmed that the heightened oversight of American had begun but declined to say when.
''''The FAA has systems in place that alert us to potential economic problems at airlines, such as an approaching failure or bankruptcy or other economic difficulty,'''' White said.
When that happens, safety inspectors continually monitor such key areas as maintenance programs and personnel, records and reporting systems, management of company and manufacturer manuals and training programs, he said.
They also issue weekly reports, sent to headquarters in Washington, D.C.
''''So what we are doing is making sure that the planes are still being maintained in accordance with regulations and that training continues in accordance with regulations and that everything is being recorded appropriately,'''' White said.
FAA cabin-safety inspections will also be increased, according to the flight attendants'' union.
The airline said its commitment to safety hadn''t changed.
''''We continue to meet or exceed FAA requirements and look forward to continuing to demonstrate this on an ongoing basis,'''' American spokesman Todd Burke said.
APFA leaders, meanwhile, met in Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday with American Chairman Don Carty and, separately, with members of American''s other labor groups, the Transport Workers Union and Allied Pilots Association.
American has asked for $340 million in wage, benefit and work-rule concessions from flight attendants, $620 million from TWU workers and $640 million from pilots.
''''We all have one goal in mind,'''' Musica said. ``That''s to see this airline succeed.''''
Last week, APFA union leaders and legal advisors met with management to discuss the airline''s financial situation.
At the same time, the TWU -- saying the company hadn''t proven that it needed such steep cutbacks -- rejected concessions.
Today, the airline is expected to present the TWU with a more specific proposal.
''''We''re glad with the progress we''re making,'''' American spokesman Bruce Hicks said. ``It needs to continue to move, and move rapidly.''''
APFA spokesman George Price echoed that thought. Union members, he said in the hot-line message, ''''must move quickly'''' to protect their contract from a bankruptcy judge and AMR''s creditors.
''''An AMR bankruptcy filing,'''' Price said, ``would only make this difficult situation worse.''''