American Airlines launched a highly anticipated new route between New York JFK and Delhi, India earlier this month following its retreat from the market for more than 10 years but it looks like the carrier made a fundamental error when it was planning its return to India.
Optimal route planning for flights from North America to the Indian subcontinent involve flying high up north which takes advantage of the Earth’s curvature to reduce the overall distance. This routing partly involves flying through Russian airspace.
Unfortunately, American Airlines “failed” to obtain Russian overflight permission prior to launching JFK – DEL route so the flight is taking significantly longer than it should.
The eastbound sector has a ‘block’ time of 13 hours, 50 minutes but the westbound return sector is blocked at 16 hours and 5 minutes. In comparison, United’s DEL – EWR flight is blocked at just over 14 hours.
Apart from the obvious cost implications of burning more fuel to avoid Russian airspace, American Airlines has made another fundamental error and is stoking the wrath of its powerful pilot’s union over attempts to fix these errors.
Such is the length of this new ultra-long-haul flight that pilots and flight attendants could easily ‘time out’ if the flight experiences even the most minor of delays.
This isn’t just a theoretical problem – On Monday, the flight had to divert to Gander in Canada because a four-hour departure delay meant that the operating crew would of timed out if they flew all the way back to New York.
An entire replacement crew had to be deadheaded to Gander to get the aircraft and its passengers to rest of the way to JFK and American Airlines management are so concerned this will happen again that they have been sending a replacement reserve crew to Bangor to wait for days on end “just in case”.
Captain Eric Ferguson, president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA) has called out AA management over apparent contract violations that have occurred from the new route launch. In particular, Captain Ferguson says AA should be rostering two Captain’s to operate the route because the block time is more than 16 hours.
Instead, AA attempted to roster three First Officers to operate the flight – a cheaper option but one that breaks the contract held between APA and the airline.
“These contract violations illustrate a fundamental lack of respect for our pilots and our contract that is tolerated, and perhaps even encouraged, by some members of management,” Capt Ferguson wrote in a recent memo.
Relations between APA and AA are already strained over President Biden’s controversial vaccine mandate.
“Whether a function of incompetence or willful disregard, it is readily apparent that things must change if this airline is ever going to achieve meaningful success,” Capt Ferguson wrote. “Management must exercise its duty of care for our pilots, passengers, and fellow employees.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.