American Airlines Only 58 Percent On-Time In Sept. – Here’s Why

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By Mark Johanson | November 10, 2012 6:23 AM EST

If you flew American Airlines in September, perhaps you already know this: Just 58 percent of the carrier’s flights were on time, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

That figure is by far the lowest in the industry, which averaged 83.3 percent in September. American also held the dubious title of most flights canceled, at about 3.1 percent of its schedule.

The report cites weather as the most common cause of delay, though most of American’s problems had nothing to do with Mother Nature.

The Fort Worth-based carrier -- which has not been shy about admitting to its less-than stellar performance of late -- attributed some of the blame to its pilots who it said made more maintenance requests and called in sick after a bankruptcy judge allowed the carrier to terminate their contracts.

The pilots union, meanwhile, has denied that any organized slowdown occurred, saying it “does not condone it.”

Beyond the pilots, American had an even greater embarrassment at the end of September when it was forced to ground 48 aircraft after rows of seats became unbolted during flight.

“Our recent operating performance was not up to our standards. More importantly, it was not up to those of our customers,” Suzanne Rubin, president of American’s AAdvantage Loyalty Program, said in a letter sent out to members earlier this month that promised double elite qualifying miles for flights through December. “We know you faced difficult delays and cancellations which affected important events in your life. And for that, we are deeply sorry.”

Rubin said the airline was committed to creating a better experience for customers, and she said it had taken many steps like offering double miles because “actions speak louder than words.”

Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group told IBTimes last month that American’s problems go much deeper than wobbly seats and contract disputes.

“The brand is not only tarnished, it is scarred,” he said.

As American fends off merger talks with US Airways, many have questioned whether the carrier is entering its final tailspin.

“American Airlines used to call itself ‘The On-Time Machine.’ It needs to bring back a culture of reliability,” Harteveldt said. “Running an airline is about time management. It’s about getting travelers from Point A to Point B at the times posted in the schedule. If it fails to be reliable, it is an irrelevant business.”

In the long term, Harteveldt believes the company needs major changes.

“American Airlines’ issues are deep-seated, and if they are not addressed, the airline will not be able to recover,” he said. “It needs enlightened management who can come in and be un-American Airlines about the process -- to be customer-focused, collaborative and establish a culture of trust. It also needs to stand for something in terms of what it offers the public. Right now, there is nothing distinctive or unique about American Airlines.”

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