The spokesperson for the American Airlines pilots’ union called on the Federal Aviation Administration to monitor airlines that schedule flights they cannot keep up with due to a shortage of pilots.
Dennis Tajer, a pilot who is the chairman of the communications committee for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 15,000 American Airlines pilots, told CNBC on Wednesday that the shortage has led to training disruptions and overtired pilots and that it could lead to a dangerous sky.
“I’m on TV representing our union saying, ‘There’s a problem here,'” Tajer said.
“The fact that you’re pushing us and pushing us is not a culture of safety. The FAA should step in and look into that,” he said. “They should come in and watch them try to fly more planes than they can actually fly and build these schedules to an inhuman level and ultimately fail our passengers and waste our investors’ money.”
The FAA responded by saying it “maintains strict duty and rest regulations for pilots to ensure continued safety.”
According to the Transportation Security Administration, thousands of flights were canceled and delayed over the June 16 and Father’s Day holiday weekend.
Airlines had canceled more than 1,100 flights by early Friday afternoon after canceling more than 1,700 the previous day, according to The Associated Press.
More than 6,300 flights were delayed within, to or from the United States on Saturday, and 859 flights were canceled, according to flight tracking platform FlightAware.
The airlines “looked at the request, and they said, ‘Here’s where the money is. Let’s go get it,'” Tajer said. “But they never had a plan to achieve that, and they left it on our plate.”
Tajer said airlines have been misusing the money the US government gave them during the pandemic, which has compounded the problem.
“It is a failure of management to use the money given to them by the American taxpayer to prepare us for recovery, and we are 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 new pilots to the Guatemala City airport due to its rugged terrain.
“Now they’re telling us, ‘Hey, why don’t you check out this iPad course, and you’ll be good to go,'” he said.
“They push the drivers and they reduce the safety margin,” he added.
Tajer’s last day of work was scheduled for 12 p.m., he said.
“That left me with about an hour to spare,” Tajer said. “You have a hiccup there and it’s collapsing.”
“That’s not the way to run a business,” he added.
American Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The airline said it would end services beginning in September to select airports in Iowa, New York and Ohio due to pilot shortages.
United Airlines, effective July 1, is cutting 50 flights from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey “due to ongoing congestion issues,” the airline said.