A leaked recording of American Airlines executives discussing the operational mess that is their India flights has sparked outrage on social media. The incident comes at a time when Indian airlines like SpiceJet and IndiGo are experiencing rapid expansion with cheap fares, sparking fears among low-fare carriers that they may soon be wiped out by new entrants in an already saturated market.
A leaked recording of American’s top executives weighing in on the operational mess of their India flights has been released. The recording was made during a meeting with the CEO and President of American Airlines, Doug Parker.
American’s top executives weigh in on the operational mess of its India flights, according to a leaked recording.
on December 13, 2021 by Gary Leff
American Airlines started a trip from New York JFK to Delhi, marking the airline’s comeback to India, although it has been beset by troubles. Because they haven’t been given permission to fly over Russia, the journey takes two hours longer than other carriers’ flights. This requires more fuel and personnel, and the jet has often been forced to divert, extending the journey and inconveniencing passengers.
For anybody to choose American over Air India, much alone United from Newark, rates would have to be significantly cheaper right now. The airline has made it a company-wide priority to address the problems.
Some have thought that the issue was caused by American’s failure to file for adequate overflight permissions, although this does not seem to be the case. Instead, it’s most likely mired in diplomatic spats between the US and Russia, particularly over Ukraine.
American’s CEO-designate Robert Isom described the problem during an internal meeting last week, which was recorded and examined by View From The Wing.
I’m going to discuss Russian overflight, or the lack thereof, and how it affects our industry. We’d want to be travelling to India more often than we are. The Bangalore trip, which is vital to the West Coast international alliance in supporting our partner Alaska Airlines, has been rescheduled. That has been an issue. Obviously, we’ve launched New York – Delhi, but it hasn’t been simple by any means.
Kimball [Stone, Senior Vice President — Flight Operations] regularly reminds me, “We have a crew – what are we flying, Kimball, over 6000 flights a day?” We have 5999 flights that go well for you, and one trip that demands everyone’s full attention.
So I’d want to spend some time discussing it. I’m not sure who I’ll give it to first since I have some special visitors here. Let’s begin with Molly. Why don’t you tell us about your day work and then about your participation with the India flight here, Molly?
Molly Wilkinson, Vice President and Head of Regulatory and International Government Affairs at American Airlines, highlighted how the company is lobbying the government for help with Russian overflight.
My staff and I collaborate with the Department of Transportation, the Department of State, the White House, and the National Security Council. In a nutshell, our regulators. And that’s who we’ve been working with, our colleagues, especially at the Department of Transportation, to engage the Russians in obtaining approvals for Russian overflights. We’ve been talking about this for months, not just us, but also other carriers, in order to get those rights.
The good news is that Alaska and JetBlue have joined us in advocating for those approvals for the JFK-Delhi trip as well as the Seattle-Bangalore flight. It’s been quite aggravating. It’s proven tough to get a hold of the Russians at times. The Department of Transportation has also been a great leader in seeking to engage the Russians. …
In the past, these overflight permissions have often arrived at the last minute. This year, however, this has not been the case. It’s unclear why. And it’s something they’re attempting to do with the Russians as well. So that’s where we are right now.
JonCarlo Gulbranson, Senior Vice President – Airport Operations, discussed the challenges of managing the airline’s longest current trip, which took two hours longer than necessary.
We can execute this flight safely even without the permit, but it is more complicated. This is the system’s longest flight. It’s getting close to 17 hours block-to-block…some of the things we’re doing…
On the departure journey, we have daily briefings with our personnel to prepare them for the return flight, both cockpit and cabin crew. We’re getting daily briefings between the station and the IOC to make sure we’re ready in terms of weight and balance as well as flying plans. The locals are then speaking with the local ATC to see if we can be given priority treatment.
On top of that, we’ve temporarily lowered the check-in cutoff time to 75 minutes to allow us more time to handle weight and balance. Cargo is being de-prioritized. We’re asking for volunteers every day, even if we don’t need them right away, just in case there’s a change in weight and balance as we get closer to departure and we need to adjust the flight plan.
Furthermore, in the event that none of this works out, we have a contingency plan to halt en way. As a result, we will be able to operate this flight safely. Early on, we had a few difficulties. It just so happened that one of them was a medical emergency. Overall, though, we can and will run this trip safely.
Brian Znotins, Vice President of Network and Schedule Planning, was asked by Robert Isom to comment on “why we’re doing this.”
We’ll eventually have Russian overfly. It could take a little longer than we’d like. Russian overfly has never been a concern in my twenty-plus years in the industry. It always showed up at the last minute. It was nothing out of the ordinary. Russian overfly would arrive the night before, you’d begin the service, and you’d continue on your way, regardless of whether you’re going to China, Hong Kong, or India.
In order to be a major player in New York, we must cater to the major O&D’s. Of course, we provide excellent service in London. However, if you go down the list, you’ll see that India is one of the largest U.S. points, and we don’t have any New York points in our network…
We’d prefer not cancel the service and not fly it at all at this time than take the lengthier route since we have customers who have purchased tickets for the trip… It will play a key part in our network plan moving ahead, as well as in our alliance with JetBlue, which is seeking for an international footprint out of New York, just as Alaska is looking for an international presence out of Seattle, which we can give. But, at the end of the day, we want to fly aircraft where we can earn money, and India is a fantastic long-term investment opportunity for us.
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