American Flight Delays Add Risk of Travelers Booking Elsewhere

American Airlines (AAMRQ) flight delays stretched into a seventh day as pilots continued reporting higher numbers of mechanical issues, raising the prospect that passengers will begin switching to other carriers.

Pilots are taking a “conservative mindset” in asking that any potential mechanical questions be resolved before flying, Tom Hoban, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, said today in an interview. American has cited those requests as a reason for turmoil in its schedule since Sept. 14.

American’s 48 percent on-time arrival rate since Sept. 16 trails the 87 percent at Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) and 83 percent at United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL), according to, an industry data provider. The slowdown follows American’s voiding of its pilots’ contract last week and imposition of new terms to help the AMR Corp. unit restructure in bankruptcy.

“If it goes on for a day or two, people work around it,” George Hamlin, president of Hamlin Transportation Consulting in Fairfax, Virginia, said in an interview. “If it persists or get worse, then the booking away will begin in earnest and, once gone, it’s difficult to get back.”

American apologized to top-tier members of its frequent- flier program in an e-mail today, after posting a similar message on its website earlier this week. Michael Trevino, a spokesman, declined to comment on whether passengers would move to other airlines from Fort Worth, Texas-based American.

The airline canceled 550 flights from Sept. 14 through Sept. 23 and cut capacity through October by as much as 2 percent in response. American also has added maintenance, reservation and airport workers to provide more reliable service, Trevino said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at

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