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American Airlines pilots picket at LAX, deny causing flight delays


Scores of American Airlines pilots are picketing at Los Angeles International Airport today to protest accusations by the carrier that they are deliberately causing flight delays and cancellations over minor maintenance issues.

"The pilots are tired of being falsely accused of taking an improper labor action," said Capt. Dan Hall, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Assn., which represents American pilots. "There is no organized or sanctioned effort. These are legitimate maintenance related delays."

Hall, who has been with American 28 years, blamed the problems on a reduction in maintenance brought on by the financial difficulties of American, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year.

Hall noted that about 1,000 American mechanics have been laid off nationwide and the owners of aircraft that American leases have complained in bankruptcy court that their planes are not being properly maintained.

He added that the airline has closed a major maintenance facility, its fleet of planes is aging and there is a shortage of spare parts.

"There is increased scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration of the airline's operations right now," Hall said. "No pilot is going to be willing to put his or her career on the line" by raising false maintenance issues.

During the past week, American -- the largest carrier at LAX -- has experienced dozens of delays at the airport and has had to cancel roughly one in four flights per day, according to Flightaware, an aviation website.

The airline blames the cancellations and delays on a surge in requests for maintenance work by flight crews, an increase in pilots calling in sick and poor weather around Chicago.


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-- Dan Weikel

Photo: American Airlines pilots march at John Wayne Airport in Orange County in 2008 as part of a worldwide protest to highlight their differences in contract negotiations with management. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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