American Airlines Union Claims Threats for Safety Complaints

American Airlines Inc. was accused of “maintenance fraud” by a mechanics union that claimed complaints to management about aircraft being unfit for flight were met with threats of retaliation.

Union members, known as aviation maintenance technicians, “have been subject to ongoing pressure from AA management representatives” to keep planes in service by disregarding maintenance discrepancies and deviating from federally mandated standards and procedures, according to a complaint filed Thursday in Chicago federal court.

The labor group seeks an order blocking the American Airlines Group Inc. unit, operator of the largest airline by passenger miles flown, from threatening its mechanics with disciplinary action, staff reductions or otherwise harassing them or their union representatives.

American Airlines Group was formed in 2013 by the carrier’s merger with US Airways Group Inc. as a means of exiting bankruptcy.

Local 591 of the Transport Workers Union of America, which sued, represents about 3,500 mechanics and related employees at maintenance facilities in cities including Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York.

The union claims its investigation of disciplinary action against a Dallas-based mechanic led to the finding that members were being subjected to retaliation for reporting safety violations.

FAA Probe

The Federal Aviation Administration initiated an investigation last year in response to AMT complaints, the union said in court papers.

Tony Molinaro, an FAA spokesman based in Des Plaines, Illinois, confirmed there is an investigation and declined to comment further.

“We have the highest regard for, and a robust working relationship with, the Federal Aviation Administration,” an American Airlines spokesman, Casey Norton, said in an e-mailed statement. “We continually and consistently work with our regulators so that American’s maintenance programs, practice, procedures and overall compliance and safety are second to none.”

The FAA hasn’t alerted the airline to any “current critical issues or concerns,” Norton said.

The case is Local 581, Transport Workers Union of America v. American Airlines inc., 15-cv-00652, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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