American passengers in war of words crossfire

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by JOSH DAVIS and REBECCA LOPEZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on September 21, 2012 at 10:35 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 22 at 2:45 AM

DALLAS -- It's been a frustrating week for some American Airlines passengers. On Friday, the airline canceled 32 flights at D/FW International Airport.

American blames a big part of the cancellations on frustrated pilots calling in sick and reporting maintenance write-ups at the last minute before departure. The union that represents American's pilots, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), fired back late Friday, saying pilots "can’t ignore serious maintenance issues that could easily turn into safety risks."

“American Airlines chose to reject our contract and the operational procedures and protections that go with it," said APA President Keith Wilson. "Understandably, our pilots are taking a prudent and cautious approach in their operational decision-making process."

To that, American spokesperson Andrea Huguely said the airline follows a FAA-approved maintenance program that "provides the assurance that our customers, and our people, reach their destinations safely thousands of times a day."

"No one at American is questioning normal maintenance write-ups and we must ensure that our safe operations continue each and every flight," Huguely said. "However, for the past 14 days, we have seen unprecedented pilot maintenance write ups, many at the time of scheduled departure, which is having an impact on our operation."

Caught in the middle are the passengers like Wendy Levy, who waited 24 hours for a connecting flight.

Levy flew in from Chicago on Thursday and found that her connecting flight was canceled for mechanical reasons. She got stuck at the airport. After a long wait, she finally got her connecting flight to Colorado.

"I thought it was going to go well, and it seems like it was," Levy said in a cell-phone video she took aboard the flight.

But then it was delayed again.

"Now there are people walking back and forth," she said in the video. "They say that there are screws loose."

The delays are beginning to wear on her.

"Even if they went on strike, they'd be more prepared," Levy said. "Because then you just know: Your flight's not going, make other arrangements or stay home."

The pilots union said they're not trying to slow the airline down, but that American's fleet is too old and there aren't enough mechanics to fix the problems.

Levy isn’t buying that.

"It seems too coincidental to me," she said. "I think it's unfair to everybody that is on this flight."

Levy said all the talk of maintenance problems and slow downs is scaring customers like her away.

"They can't run a business like this," Levy said.

She wasn't alone.

"The woman next to me missed her grandmother's funeral," Levy said. "I mean, that's just sad."

Levy said she's a frequent American Airlines flyer and has a lot of miles, but won't book on the airline again until she feels the issues have been resolved.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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