APA Sides with Dispatchers in Aircraft Fuel Load Dispute

The Allied Pilots Association expressed its support last week for American Airlines dispatchers in an ongoing controversy over aircraft fuel loads. APA is the certified bargaining agent for AA's 12,000 pilots.

"Dispatchers should not be subject to discipline for using their judgment to help the captain determine the appropriate fuel load for a given flight," said APA President Captain Lloyd Hill. "Any attempt by airline management to inappropriately influence or intimidate the dispatchers is extremely misguided."

According to APA, the captain and the dispatcher share responsibility under the federal aviation regulations for deciding how much fuel to carry for a given flight. Their decision can be influenced by a wide range of factors, including the forecast for en-route and destination weather. For example, thunderstorms along the route could result in a more circuitous flight path, while severe weather at the destination would increase the odds of a flight having to hold or ultimately divert. Both scenarios would result in a higher fuel burn rate. Turbulence could dictate a lower altitude, which would also result in higher fuel consumption.

"We are concerned about what appears to be a drive toward minimum standards by our airline and others," Hill said. "Until now, American Airlines has never been an airline that has been satisfied with meeting only federally mandated minimums."

Hill pointed out that one consequence of carrying less fuel would be an increased number of flights that are diverted from their intended destination when unexpected delays occur. "American Airlines already suffers from industry-trailing reliability," he said. "It's hard to imagine that our airline's management would consider doing anything that further compromises our operational reliability. They should instead be focused on finding ways to serve our customers better."

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