Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Aeroméxico and pilots’ union dispute cause of flight cancellations

Aeroméxico and a pilots’ union are at loggerheads over the cause of recent flight cancellations and delays.

More than 50 Aeroméxico flights were canceled and over 300 were delayed on Sunday and Monday due to what the airline described as a “policy of zero support” from the leadership of the Association of Airline Pilots of Mexico (ASPA).

Aeromexico flight delays
An airport schedule board shows Aeromexico’s delayed flights on Friday. (@Anybere Twitter)

In contrast, ASPA blamed Aeroméxico management for the cancellations and delays, saying that the problem was “flawed operational restructuring.”

At least 53 Aeroméxico flights were canceled on Sunday and Monday while 315 were delayed. Social media posts indicate that there have been more cancellations and delays on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Mexican flag carrier said in a statement Tuesday that it “deeply regretted” the inconveniences experienced by some passengers and that it “has worked to attend to their travel needs.”

“The current leadership of the Association of Airline Pilots of Mexico has said that the cause is incorrect planning in the assignment of shifts to pilots. The aforesaid is false as all the assignments … are in accordance with the current contracts between ASPA and the airline,” Aeroméxico said.

Humberto Gual, president of ASPA Mexico
Secretary General of the Mexican Aviation Pilots’ Union (ASPA) Humberto Gual at a December meeting. (ASPA)

The real reason for the flight cancellations and delays, the airline said, is that “the current union leadership is promoting a policy of zero support in the face of common disruptions in global aviation – bad weather, for example, air traffic congestion, diversions due to sick passengers or any eventuality, as minimal as it may be, that interrupts the operation of a flight.”

“At Aeroméxico we recognize the talent of the best pilots, who are part of the ASPA union and whose work conditions are the most robust in the Mexican airline industry. Consequently, we regret the attitude of current union leadership, which affects customers and [airline] crews,” the statement said.

In its own statement issued earlier on Tuesday, ASPA said that it regretted the flight cancellations and delays, but stressed they were not the fault of pilots.

“We strictly respect the regulations and provisions of our collective labor agreement. There are no labor breaches on our part. The problem is the flawed operational restructuring implemented by [Aeroméxico] management, who plan with the mistaken idea that crews have to accept flying days of up to 14 or 15 continuous hours or modify breaks in order to continue with their scheduling, to mention a couple of examples,” the union said.

ASPA said that reducing breaks and lengthening work days is harmful to the health of crew members and pointed out that the Federal Labor Law gives employees the right to decide whether they want to work extra hours or more than six days per week.

“It’s important to communicate that ASPA has already sought a meeting with the leadership of the company in an effort to support them in order to optimize operational planning and deal with delays and cancellations. However, … we haven’t received a response,” it added.

Some Aeroméxico passengers took to social media to complain about flight cancellations and delays.

“Thanks @Aeromexico for canceling my flight that I bought with ‘cancellation insurance’ and not doing anything about it,” one person tweeted sarcastically on Wednesday.

“Stranded in Mexico City again. @Aeromexico ‘is delaying’ a flight that already appears as canceled on other [flight information] platforms. It’s in breach of obligations: [there are] passengers without accommodation and ground staff are not taking responsibility,” another Twitter user said.

The conflict between Aeroméxico and ASPA has been going on for months. Aeroméxico pilots – who in early 2021 accepted a four-year salary reduction of between 5% and 15% – have complained that the airline hasn’t provided all the benefits to which they are entitled, such as free flights, and that their schedules are changed at short notice.

They also say that Aeroméxico and its subsidiary Aeroméxico Connect – which together employ some 2,800 pilots – don’t have enough personnel to cover all routes.

In addition, there have been complaints about a 15% reduction in spending on hotels and transport for Aeroméxico cabin crew.

ASPA spokesperson José Alonso said that the current dispute is not focused on the pay cut pilots took, but nevertheless complained that Aeroméxico – which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2020 but emerged from that process almost a year ago – hasn’t sat down with pilots to renegotiate their contracts.

“We signed a salary reduction but we now see that the industry is growing, that the company is growing, but we still have a reduced salary and reduced travel allowances,” he said.

“We would like them to take that into account, although it’s not the priority now,” Alonso said.

With reports from Proceso and El País 

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