American Airlines Cancels Flights as Pilots Call in Sick

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By Chris Isidore

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — American Airlines canceled 250 flights this week and will cut capacity by up to 2% through the end of October, as pilots unhappy with their labor contract have started to call in sick.

The pilot’s union had a new labor agreement imposed on it by the bankruptcy court after rank-and-file pilots last month rejected the tentative deal that their union, the Allied Pilots Association, had reached with management. Members of other unions at American, representing flight attendants and ground workers, have ratified their own concession deals with the airline.

Airline spokesman Bruce Hicks said the airline is not aware of any organized job action by the pilots. But he said there has been an increase in the number of pilots calling in sick. There has also been an increase in flight crews filing maintenance reports on their aircraft, which is causing flights to be canceled.

The airline normally flies about 1,700 flights a day. The increase in flight cancellations started on Sunday. Hicks did not have details on the number of flights canceled each day. But he did say that the 250 canceled flights were canceled in advance by the airline in order to give customers time to change their travel plans.

The pilot’s union was not immediately available for comment. A message to members from union President Keith Wilson on the union’s Web site Tuesday stated, “The pilots of American Airlines are angry. While AMR management continues paying lip service to needing a consensual agreement with us, their punitive approach of extracting far more value than they need is hardly conducive to reaching a consensual agreement.” The union’s site also advised pilots that ” If you are unfit to come to work, protect yourself with a doctor’s visit or some other kind of supporting documentation.”

American Airlines parent AMR filed for bankruptcy in November, 2011, citing the need to cut labor costs in order to be competitive with other carriers that have already gone through bankruptcy, including United Continental, Delta Air Lines and US Airways.