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American Airlines Crews Say Lodging Is Lacking On The Road

An airplane on a tarmac.
LM Otero
/
Associated Press
In this Dec. 2, 2020 file photo, an American Airlines Boeing 737 Max jet plane is parked at a maintenance facility in Tulsa, Okla.

Passengers on American Airlines have been dogged by flight delays this summer, and now flight attendants and pilots say the airline is failing to secure hotel rooms, sometimes forcing employees to sleep in airports.

Unions for flight attendants and pilots filed grievances this week with American, charging that the company is violating its contracts and putting employees in danger.

“We have flight attendants sleeping in airports and outside of baggage claim due to the company not providing hotel accommodations in a timely manner,” said Julie Hedrick, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

Hedrick said the company has failed to provide “suitable” hotel accommodations and transportation after situations such as delayed or canceled flights. She called it a recurring problem that is affecting crews’ ability to get required rest.

APA President Eric Ferguson filed an official grievance claiming both a lack of adequate lodging and transportation between flights.

“The Company is failing to book the lodging, unreasonably delaying in booking lodging, and/or canceling booked lodging even though pilots still needed it,” the grievance reads.

Leaders of the Allied Pilots Association (APA) said they get reports of pilots waiting hours for a hotel, being put up in unsafe hotels or told to walk to hotels in the middle of the night. The union said the situation could lead to violations of federal rest rules designed to prevent pilots from flying while fatigued. APA said the issue is not just about taking care of employees, it's about protecting passengers.

In a statement, the airline said, “Taking care of our crew members while they are away from home is a priority for American. We are looking into the concerns raised by APA and APFA.”

Union officials said the lodging and transportation problems have gotten worse as air travel has bounced back to about 80% of pre-pandemic levels.

Busy airports and full flights have also inconvenienced passengers.

American and Southwest Airlines each struggled through thousands of flight delays in June, according to tracking service FlightAware. The carriers blamed a rash of summer thunderstorms, but unions cited labor shortages after carriers convinced many workers to quit during the pandemic.

Haya Panjwani contributed to this report.
Got a tip? Email Haya at hpanjwani@kera.org. Follow Haya on Twitter @hayapanjw.

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