Cover Story: US Airways Summer Slowdown?

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Are US Airways pilots making you late?  US Airways has sued its pilots union saying pilots are making flights late - on purpose.

From a 67-page lawsuit US Airways has filed against its pilots union there appears some sort of slowdown is going on.

The pilots union says that's not true.

What is certain the labor dispute going on between Charlotte's hometown airline and its 5,200 pilots seeking to get a contract is heating up.

On Friday, US Airways filed papers in federal court in Charlotte seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting its pilots from engaging in what the airline called an "ongoing, unlawful pilot slowdown campaign."

Since May, the airline alleges flights in US Airways' east coast operations arriving on-time have declined 11-percent (after controlling for weather and other factors.)

The number of mishandled bags (bags that don't make it to connect flights) among US Airways east coast operations has increased by more than 45-percent for every 1,000.  The airline bolsters its argument saying its operations in the west remain normal.

Since US Airways and America West merged in 2005 the airline has sought to merge the airline's two pilot groups under one contract.  There's been fighting between the unions and the airline every since.

But they're not alone.

Flight attendants are seeking an amended contract with US Airways too.  And Mike Flores, the president of US Airways chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants, says they haven't gotten far.

"The talks are contentious but that's negotiations," he said. "That's not an issue and that's not a problem. I'd rather we talk than not talk and if it gets heated that's fine."

Flight attendants on Monday began wearing a "Contract Now" seal  underneath their badges, which US Airways is trying to stop..

Flight attendants and pilots both have held informational pickets outside the Charlotte Douglas terminal several times over the last year.

The US Airline Pilots Association, the union representing the pilots, denies it's involved in any sort of slowdown.

It says it's posted messages to pilots advising them not to engage in any sort of illegal job action.

The union says pilots have raised legitimate safety concerns which has caused some flights to be delayed.  But the pilots union says any notions that its effort to address those concerns as nothing more than a negotiating tactic are false.

Some passengers have been delayed in the slowdown this summer.  Matt Burnham says they feel caught in the middle.

"Consumers are victims," said Burnham.  "We feel like a delay is not necessary for the public... but we're stuck. I don't know what else to say."

US Airways filed the lawsuit here in Charlotte where its largest hub is and where the pilots union is based.

No word on when a judge will act upon the request for a preliminary injunction.

The pilots union and the airline have been negotiating for about five years.

US Airways employees took pay cuts during two trips through bankruptcy and pilots and flight attendants are seeking better pay as the airline has become more profitable.

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