February 14, 1999
Union head issues plea for pilots to return to work
Web posted at: 3:53 p.m. EST (2053 GMT)
DALLAS (CNN) -- The president of the Allied Pilots Association issued a "personal plea" for the union's pilots to end their sickout against American Airlines, as disrupted schedules continued to strand fliers on Sunday.
The plea by union President Rich LaVoy came after U.S. District Judge Joseph Kendall on Saturday found the union, LaVoy and union Vice President Brian Mayhew in contempt of court for not obeying his order to get the pilots back to work.
LaVoy said the union was "absolutely serious" about complying with the judge's order.
"I want to make a personal plea to all of our pilots: the (union's) leadership needs your help in complying with the order," LaVoy said in his statement.
"We need to get this airline back up and running at full capacity, and we need to do so quickly," he said. "Please clear the sick list immediately and resume your normal schedule."
LaVoy said negotiations to end the labor dispute would resume on Monday at 1 p.m. CST.
On Sunday, fewer stranded American fliers were milling around the American terminal at the airline's hub, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, because many had called ahead and learned their flights were canceled.
"This is almost like a ghost town right now," American passenger service agent Peter Insalaco told CNN.
Baggage handlers, some of whom depend on overtime at busy airports to make ends meet, were also impacted by the pilots sickout.
"It's affected us because there's really no overtime right now. There's no extra work because the flights just aren't coming in," said baggage handler Lowell Etkin.
An airline employee says American's hub terminal is 'like a ghost town'
The airline canceled 550 flights for Sunday, and announced about 250 more cancellations through Wednesday. That brings the total number of flights canceled since the sickout began just over one week ago to about 6,300. Over half-a-million passengers have been affected.
American spokesman Chris Chiames told CNN that after the sickout ends, it will still take two to three days for the airline to return to normal operation. Chiames said the job action has already cost the airline at least $67 million.
The dispute stems from American's purchase of a small carrier, Reno Airlines, in December. The pilots, legally forbidden to strike, are protesting pay discrepancies affecting 300 Reno pilots.
The Reno pilots are paid roughly half the salary of American pilots, and the American pilots fear this could lead to an overall erosion of pay. The airline says it plans to integrate the Reno pilots into the American salary structure, but not as quickly as the union is demanding.
"When you realize this dispute is about the pilots wanting more money retroactively for flying the same airplanes to the same places merely because American bought a small airline many have never heard of, and you have been sleeping on the floor with your kids for a couple of days in some airport 1,500 miles from home, it's hard to see the pilots as mistreated," Kendall wrote in his contempt order.
Kendall scheduled a hearing for Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. CST to allow the presentation of evidence and calculate "what the appropriate fine, under the circumstances, should be."
He ordered the union to deposit $10 million into the court registry by Tuesday. He ordered LaVoy to deposit $10,000 into the registry and Mayhew to deposit $5,000.
"From evidence that is on the record, it is clear that damages from the canceled flights will be substantial. From the Court's understanding, it will be eight figures," Kendall wrote.