Tuesday, November 30, 2021

American Airlines’ Very Long India Flights

American Airlines recently started flying to India. The airline is having some unique issues with this route, which is leading to very long flight times. One of those problems contributed to the flight having to divert to Gander today, so let’s go over the details.

American Airlines recently launched a route between New York (JFK) and Delhi (DEL) using a Boeing 777-300ER. At ~7,320 miles, this is a long flight to begin with, but it’s even longer because American Airlines doesn’t have the right to use Russian airspace on this route.

The always knowledgable @xJonNYC reports that this is because there are only certain periods where the Russian government accepts applications for airspace use, and I guess American didn’t make the request at the right time. This is strange, because this route has been in the works for a long time. Apparently American management thought it would be easy to get these airspace rights since the carrier uses Russian airspace for other routes, but not so much.

American’s inability to use Russian airspace has caused flight times to & from India to be about 90 minutes longer than needed. For example:

United Airlines flies between Newark and Delhi using a Boeing 777-300ER, and in the past week the eastbound flight time has been 12hr30min to 13hr18min, while the westbound flight time has been 14hr23min to 14hr46min

American Airlines flies between New York and Delhi using a Boeing 777-300ER, and in the past week the eastbound flight time has been 14hr21min to 14hr41min, while the westbound flight time has been 15hr37min to 16hr6min

As you can see, that’s a significant difference in flight times.

American Airlines pilots aren’t pleased with this new India flight. Eric Ferguson, the president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), recently wrote a letter to fellow pilots about how management is again “trying to fix its failures on our pilots’ backs.” As the letter starts:

Ferguson claims that the new route has caused a series of contract violations and “egregious abuses” of flight crews. These failures are largely due to the carrier’s inability to obtain Russian overflight permission.

Flights of this length have four pilots, but American’s contract requires that flights of over 16 hours have two captains and two first officers (rather than one captain and three first officers). All pilots are fully trained to fly the plane, so this is all about money — captains earn more than first officers, so the more captains there are, the more money union members are being paid.

American has allegedly been staffing this flight with one captain and three first officers, claiming the flight is under 16 hours. The union claims that isn’t fair, since the flight is often taking over 16 hours due to lack of Russian airspace rights.

30/11/21 Ben Schlappig/One Mile At a Time

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