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Despite the Challenges He Faces, American Airlines’ New VP Has Pilot Support

July 27, 2004
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American Airlines is facing harsh criticism from some employees, but seems to have two opportunities to turn around the strained relationships.

First, the bad news. The Associated Press reported recently that "some employees are growing restless a year after taking huge pay cuts that helped save the airline." Flight attendants are complaining in chat rooms about being overworked because of layoffs. Some attendants say they were denied breaks because of understaffing, a complaint that an arbitrator recently agreed with, awarding the attendants back pay.

One reason for optimism is the naming of a new vice president for employee relations, Mark Burdette. The pilots’ union "praised Mr. Burdette's promotion in a message to employees," according to The Dallas Morning News. Burdette used to be the company’s liaison to the union and he says that relations between management and pilots are relatively strong right now.

American also is using labor-management committees to share ideas and better communicate with employees what’s going on at the airline, including its financial condition. The Morning News reports that "collaborative work with employees produced more than 70 concepts that will save a combined $75 million," chief executive Gerard Arpey said.

Shares of AMR, the parent company of the airline, are selling for about half of what they were in February.

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