A couple of weeks ago, the airline announced that it won't need to fire 400 employees from its Tulsa, Oklahoma maintenance base and 70 employees from an engine maintenance facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
Full Week Schedule
How is American Airlines able to do this, especially in a competitive industry where rising fuel prices are putting a squeeze on profits? By switching to a seven-day-a-week schedule at both maintenance facilities (which had previously operated on five-day schedules).
"We have developed adjustments and solutions that will allow us to avoid involuntary furloughs," said the Transport Workers union on its blog. "Enhanced seven-day coverage at either location is cost-effective, saves jobs, and provides opportunities for our employees. In addition, the increased flexibility provides both organizations the ability to absorb additional work, if necessary."
"We continue to collaborate with the Transport Workers Union to find ways to mitigate any potential labor surplus in Tulsa and at the Alliance Airport maintenance base (AFW) - TAESL," American Airlines said in a statement. "These efforts to rebalance operations through work schedules and workload will ensure that the impact to our Tulsa and TAESL operations remains minimal."
How valuable can skilled labor be in a maintenance facility?
Technicians can "minimize waste and reduce the need for repair calls" which can save "employers millions of dollars in reduced waste," says a spokesperson for American Trainco
, a Denver-based provider of industrial training. Skilled workers know "how to deal with … specific problems … [and] how to improve entire processes to save money ….
Chronic problems disappear, downtime decreases, and individual employees help save money.
The flexible approach has two main benefits. The seven-day-a-week operation at its Texas engine maintenance facility ensures smoother operations at airports for tens of thousands of daily travelers.
Secondly, the full week schedule avoids firing highly-trained technicians who would be difficult to replace should management need to ramp up operations at the facility. You can’t easily replace skilled labor if demand suddenly increases. Therefore, American's flexible approach mitigates some operational risk.