Mechanics were pressured and threatened with termination by American Airlines management to cut corners on maintenance in order to get airplanes back in the air faster, a new lawsuit alleges.
Filed on Thursday in federal court in Illinois by the Transport Workers Union Local 591, the suit says that the Fort Worth-based carrier has “compromised public safety” and that mechanics have been threatened with termination when they have notified the Federal Aviation Administration about possible maintenance problems.
“AA-employed [mechanics] have been subject to increasing pressure to engage in unlawful and even fraudulent maintenance practices in order to keep AA aircraft in revenue service,” the lawsuit says. It asks the court for a jury trial, an injunction against American and punitive damages.
For example, supervisors have told mechanics not to perform lightning strike inspections even if they find lightning strike damage, the suit says. Mechanics are only allowed to inspect it if they saw the aircraft struck by lightning, it says.
“Throughout 2014, we have experienced an ugly corporate culture that seems to emphasize pushing planes back into revenue service over all other considerations,” TWU Local 591 President Gary Peterson said in a message to members this week.
The suit says that the FAA is currently investigating 21 complaints made by mechanics, who have said the company has pressured them to disregard federal directives on aircraft maintenance.
American spokesman Casey Norton said that American constantly works with the FAA on its maintenance program and procedures and that the agency has not alerted the carrier to any current issues.
“Our communication with the FAA is ongoing and frequent, and their oversight team has not alerted us to any current critical issues or concerns,” Norton said in a statement. “As has been, and will always be, the case, we welcome any feedback from the FAA that supports American’s unwavering attention and commitment to maintenance and technical operations excellence.”
The TWU and the International Association of Machinists, which represents US Airways mechanics, jointly filed for single-carrier status with the National Mediation Board in late July.
At the time, Peterson argued that a representation election should be held, which could allow other unions, including the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, to be on the ballot.
AMFA has previously tried to oust the TWU as the union representative for mechanics at American.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631