American On-Time Arrivals Fall to 54% as Delays Spread

American Cuts 300 Flights
American Air is cutting 300 flights as maintenance issue reports swell. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

American Airlines’ on-time performance tumbled to 54 percent amid flight cancellations and delays that the carrier blames on a pilot shortage and increased maintenance issues.

Almost 800 flights failed to arrive on time yesterday, including 291 that were late by more than 44 minutes, according to, an industry data tracker. Only 37 percent of flights arrived within 15 minutes of schedule on Sept. 17, when there were 1,070 delays, FlightStats data showed.

The results fall short of American’s 74 percent on-time rate in August, according to FlightStats, and the 83 percent industrywide average this year through July as tracked by the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It defines on-time arrivals as being within 15 minutes of schedule.

Disruptions began Sept. 14 as the unit of bankrupt AMR Corp. began imposing new contract terms on pilots to help with its restructuring. After dropping 250 flights from Sept. 14 through Sept. 17, American trimmed systemwide seating capacity as much as 2 percent through October.

Bruce Hicks, a spokesman for Fort Worth, Texas-based American, declined in an interview earlier today to discuss the airline’s recent on-time performance.

“There have been substantial disruptions,” Hicks said. “The numbers speak for themselves.”

No Action

The airline and the Allied Pilots Association have been at odds for years, failing to reach a labor agreement in negotiations that began in 2006. Pilots’ rejection of American’s final concessionary contract offer prompted the carrier to seek court authority to void their existing agreement and impose new terms.

While pilots are voting to authorize a strike, the union legally does not have the right to stage a walkout now. There is “no job action of any sort that is organized, supported or sanctioned by” the union, APA said in a statement today.

The union rejected the airline’s claim that increased sick calls contributed to the schedule cuts.

The union “independently tracks the airline’s operational performance,” according to the statement. “We have verified that pilot sick rates have not deviated from normal historical rates. We have likewise verified that crew cancellations remain at normal rates.”

Flight cancellations for Sept. 18 through 23 will total 300, according to American, which stood its ground on the causes of recent disruptions.

They “are primarily due to the significant increase in maintenance write-ups by our pilots, many right at the time of departure,” Hicks said in an e-mailed statement. Sick-leave usage by pilots has been up more than 20 percent year over year and “has been elevated for months,” American said.

The APA joined unions for American flight attendants and ground workers in reaching contract agreements in April with potential suitor US Airways Group Inc. The accords are contingent on a merger.

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