D/FW AIRPORT -- Leaders of the Allied Pilots Association accused American Airlines Thursday of throwing a sucker punch by threatening legal action just as the two sides were inching back to the bargaining table. A union spokesman said he can't see negotiations restarting anytime soon.
Travelers and travel agents feel punch drunk from getting caught in the middle.
Travelers, like Barbara Tenbroek of Allen, who arrived at the airport early Thursday morning for a flight to her wedding in Los Angeles.
"[I] got here at 7 a.m. for a 9:20 flight on American," she told News 8.
Tenbroek said passengers boarded the plane, then were told it had maintenance problems.
"They had us leave the plane and told us they would bring a new plane," she recounted.
She got on the new plane just past noon, and waited about 30 minutes.
"And they said, 'Now there's another issue and we can leave the plane,'" Tenbroek said.
She left the new plane, and then left the airline. She booked another carrier. She was also planning on flying American with her husband-to-be on their honeymoon in Rome. She changed those plans Thursday.
"Business is one thing, but when you have hundreds of people that need to get some place..." Tenbroek said. "And I've always trusted American, I've always only flown American. So it's very, very difficult for me."
Travel agents are also struggling with uncertainties created by a spike in delays and cancellations of American flights.
"We're advising a lot of [customers,] if it's something where they really have to be there, go the night before," said Robbie Elliott of Travel Corp in Fort Worth.
The company continues to blame pilots for taking sick days and reporting routine matinence problems moments before take off.
"We have some of our pilots who are disrupting the operation," said American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks.
He said American told the Allied Pilots Association that if it didn't fix the delay problem, the company would ask a judge to fix it.
"If this doesn't stop, we're left with no choice but to go to court," Hicks said.
Pilot leadership said there is no official work action, and that they've urged members to show up and do their jobs.
They blamed the legal threat for ruining chances to restart bargaining anytime soon. An APA spokesman said the threat by American "poured gasoline on the fire."
Pilots blame delays on the company for staffing and maintenance issues with old planes.
But American says the planes aren't not much older than they were a few months ago, when on-time performance was good.