Impending safety report adds to US airlines' woes

WASHINGTON: America's airlines are in turmoil as they face mounting media pressure due to several labor unions moving towards possible strikes and a controversial safety report due to be published by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) later this month.

WASHINGTON: America's airlines are in turmoil as they face mounting media pressure due to several labor unions moving towards possible strikes and a controversial safety report due to be published by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) later this month.

WASHINGTON: America's airlines are in turmoil as they face mounting media pressure due to several labor unions moving towards possible strikes and a controversial safety report due to be published by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) later this month.

These developments follow hot on the heels of February's publication of a Department of Transportation report on airline customer service, which said that there are still 'significant shortfalls in reliable and timely communication with passengers' regarding delays and cancellations.

A feature in last week's Time documented the airlines' attempts to shift discussion of the impending safety report to their misgivings about the reliability of the FAA's research.

Time has reported that the impending publication of the results of an FAA safety report had the major airlines concerned. The article stated that the airlines believe the audit was flawed and will only confuse the public and damage their reputation. Meanwhile, American, Northwest, United and Delta are all facing labor headaches.

Northwest's mechanics union voted to allow a strike if contract negotiations break down when they resume this week. The airline has issued press releases and recruited sales people to address passenger questions directly. It has also reached out to travel agents and the corporate travel community via e-mail, phone and fax.

'Some of the messages we see in the media are not factual, based on what our labor union is saying,' said Doug Killian, Northwest's director of international communications. 'Our challenge is to achieve balanced coverage, especially to reassure customers.'

United issued a press release in response to a statement by its flight attendants that the union may strike as early as April 2.

'Our response is that any strike or slowdown is a violation,' said Whitney Staley, a United spokeswoman. 'We will take any steps necessary to protect customers, and that includes legal action.'

American Airlines last week asked the courts for a restraining order to prevent its Transport Workers Union from what it calls 'illegal job actions.'

The Delta Air Line Pilots Association could be on strike within a month.

Delta's Web site includes a hyperlink on its home page which takes the user directly to a regularly updated page of information on the state of the negotiations.

See Analysis, page 9.



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