American's ASAP May Fall Victim To Contract Bickering
A program called ASAP, for "aviation
safety action partnership," has since 1994 provided American
Airlines pilots amnesty from company and FAA discipline when they
voluntarily report safety-related incidents for investigation. The
program's success has inspired other airlines to initiate similar
plans, and American's mechanics and dispatchers now have similar
But now, renewal of the ASAP program for American Airlines
pilots uncertain, due to a dispute between the airline and its
pilots union. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the Allied
Pilots Association alleges that in some cases, the company has
unfairly disciplined pilots, even when an incident was accepted for
review under the program.
That, they argue, has made pilots wary of participating and
could eventually increase the chances of safety breakdowns.
The cases at the center of the dispute involve incidents which
were accepted for review under the ASAP program, but also reported
by an outside party. Such cases are exempt from the amnesty rule,
but the union claims there has always been a "gentlemens'
agreement" that pilots who came forward would not be disciplined,
an agreement the union claims the company has now violated.
American tells the paper such cases make up only about two
percent of all ASAP incidents reported, and that of all the
incidents in question, there were only five pilots disciplined. In
all cases, says the carrier, that discipline was limited to a
letter placed in each employees file, where it was to be removed
and destroyed after two years.
The paper reports union President Lloyd Hill wrote a letter to
American CEO Gerard Arpey on January 24, in which he said,
"Attempting to force safe operations through punitive discipline is
an ineffective approach long abandoned by experts in aviation
safety." Then, perhaps conscious of the erratic performance of
stocks lately, he added, "Allowing American Airlines to adopt such
an approach vastly increases the risk to shareholders of a
The ASAP program for pilots at American will expire February 7,
unless agreement is reached for renewal. Tom Westbrook, the union's
vice president, stresses that the ASAP program issue is separate
from difficult negotiations currently underway for a new pilots
As ANN has reported, the
current union leadership won last year's election on a promise to
work aggressively to restore the pilots' profession at American,
including substantial wage increases to return inflation-adjusted
pilot salaries to levels of the early 1990s.