It’s no secret that American Airlines has been beset by delays and cancellations of late. American has pinned much of the blame on its mechanics who took part in a work slowdown and other direct action that saw maintenance-related delays increase sharply during a wage dispute. In one case, a mechanic even admitted to sabotaging a plane in a potentially catastrophic incident just to create a delay.
American managed to secure a permanent injunction against the Transport Workers Union (TWU) who were believed to be behind the campaign but delays at the carrier’s home hub continue to trouble the airline. This time, though, American is blaming its “antiquated” and overworked catering facilities at Dallas Forth Worth.
In fact, the problems are so bad that American claims as many as 2,300 flights took off late between Memorial Day and Labor Day because of delays in loading food, drink and other catering equipment onto its planes. ABC News estimates that equates to 20 catering-related delays every single day.
“The current catering kitchen was built in 1982 and is too small and inefficient for today’s needs,” a spokesperson for American explained.
The solution? A new catering facility that could cost as much as $100 million.
American is currently going through the planning process on the 21-acre site and along with the multi-million dollar upfront costs, the airline would also fork out $39 million in rent over a 40-year lease.
The carrier sees the new kitchen as a critical investment to meet its expansion plans and is willing to pay for the facility itself despite the fact it outsources catering to LSG Skychefs.
What’s interesting, though, is that American hasn’t been willing to invest in the thousands of workers employed by LSG Skychefs – despite calls from the Unite Here union for American to “address poverty wages” in the catering industry.
Unite Here has been running a campaign to secure better wages for LSG Skychef employees who are contracted by American, as well as Delta and United Airlines. Employees in many locations have already voted in favor of strike action, although the national mediation board is still trying to arbitrate between the two sides and hasn’t released Unite Here to call a walkout.
That hasn’t stopped catering workers taking the campaign public – Last month, hundreds of protestors were arrested as loud demonstrations took place in airport’s across the country.
“… workers called on American to take urgent and necessary steps to ensure that workers who cater its flights are able to escape poverty and access healthcare,” a spokesperson for Unite Here explained.
“We’re out here protesting across the country because we’re sick and tired of being the lowest-paid and worst-treated workers in the airline industry,” explained Nadia Small, a catering worker who works out of New York JFK for both American and Delta. She made the comments as her colleagues took part in sit-in’s and other acts of “non-violent civil disobedience”.
Unite Here claims the average airline catering worker earns less than $12 an hour. As many as 30 per cent of workers have no health insurance whatsoever, and 35 per cent rely on basic government-subsidized healthcare.
Meanwhile, the union points to the fact that American reported a profit of $1.9 billion in 2018.
But American says it has no business getting involved in the dispute – the workers are employed by another company and it’s up to LSG Skychefs to decide how much their employees are paid, American has previously explained.