The spokesman for the American Airlines pilots’ union called on the Federal Aviation Administration to monitor airlines that are scheduling flights they can’t follow through on because of a pilot shortage.
Dennis Tajer, a pilot who is the communications committee chairman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 15,000 American Airlines pilots, said Wednesday on CNBC that the shortage has led to training lapses and overtired pilots and that it could lead to unsafe skies.
“I’m on TV as a representative for our union saying, ‘There’s a problem here,’” Tajer said.
“The fact that you’re pushing us and pushing us, this is not a safety culture. The FAA should come in and look at this,” he said. “They ought to come in and look at them trying to fly more airplanes than they can actually fly and building these schedules to an inhumane level and ultimately letting down our passengers and squandering our investors’ money.”
The FAA responded by saying it “maintains strict duty and rest regulations for pilots to ensure continued safety.”
Thousands of flights were canceled and delayed during the travel-heavy Juneteenth and Father’s Day holiday weekend, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Airlines had canceled more than 1,100 flights by early Friday afternoon after they canceled more than 1,700 the day before, according to The Associated Press.
More than 6,300 flights were delayed within, into or leaving the US on Saturday, and 859 flights were canceled, according to the FlightAware flight tracking platform.
Airlines “looked at the demand, and they said: ‘Here’s where the money is. Let’s go get it,'” Tajer said. “But they never had a plan to actually fulfill that, and they left it on our plate.”
Tajer said airlines have not properly used the money the US government afforded them during the pandemic, adding to the problem.
“This is a failure of management to utilize the money that was given to them by the American taxpayer to have us ready for the recovery, and we’re not,” he said. “And now we’re starting to see them trying to cut corners in training.”
Tajer said an experienced instructor used to accompany newer pilots at the Guatemala City airport because of its rough terrain.
“Now they’re telling us, ‘Hey, why don’t you take a look at this iPad course, and you’ll be good to go,'” he said.
“They’re pilot-pushing, and they are narrowing the margin of safety,” he added.
Tajer’s most recent workday was scheduled for 12 hours, he said.
“That left me with about an hour to spare,” Tajer said. “You have any hiccup there and it’s falling apart.”
“This is not the way to run a business,” he added.
American Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The airline has announced that it will end services beginning in September to some airports in Iowa, New York and Ohio because of a pilot shortage.
United Airlines, starting July 1, is cutting 50 flights from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey “due to ongoing congestion challenges,” the airline said.