Air travelers may enter turbulence
Spring air travel remains in a holding pattern, with insiders awaiting the outcome of labor disputes among four airlines that fly to and from the Reno/Tahoe International Airport.
American Airlines flight attendants plan to announce the result of a strike vote next Wednesday.
Delta pilots could strike by April 1.
Northwest mechanics could strike within the next few months.
Those monitoring the situation believe it’s unlikely United will complete its takeover of US Airways by early spring, but if it does, US Airways mechanics might honor the strike of its new colleagues. In turn, the nuts-and-bolts staffers plan to monitor whether the mechanics at Northwest will walk.
While the Minneapolis-based airline struggles with a delay in talks prompted by a change in unions, its president and chief executive officer, John Dasburg, who once was executive vice president of Marriott Corp., plans to trade slow negotiations for fast food. He resigned from Northwest to head Burger King Corp., the airline announced Monday.
Travel agents are watching the situation unfold.
“I guess I’m hopeful and want to believe it won’t happen,” Tahoe Keys Travel agent Kathy Edgin-Evans said. “I’m certainly paying attention to it.”
So are those who oversee Reno/Tahoe International Airport operations.
Washoe County Airport Authority spokesman Adam Mayberry said Thursday he’s hopeful for 11th-hour agreements.
“It’s a great concern that affects the whole country. It could affect this economy here,” Mayberry said.
Out of Reno, Northwest flies to its hub at Minneapolis, while Delta travels to Salt Lake City and Dallas. American flies to Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. United has routes to Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Thankfully for the airport authority, Southwest Airlines – which handles at least 40 percent of the Reno airport business – flies to Los Angeles too.
The other upside, the National Mediation Board has a good track record at resolving these labor disputes. Under the Railway Labor Act of 1926, the Washington, D.C.-based independent agency serves a specific purpose – to create harmonious labor relations for the nation’s airlines and railroads.
“Strikes are rare. (The board) settles well over a hundred cases every year and very few go into a cooling period,” board spokesman Jim Armshaw said. The cooling period is essentially a strike countdown when most suggestions and options have been exhausted.
In the last half-century since the inception of the Railway Labor Act, strikes have been as short as American’s 24-minute standdown in 1997 to as long as Continental’s protest in 1983.
“It’s a fluke all these cases have come up at one time,” Armshaw said of the pending crisis.
U.S. Department of Transportation officials pledged President George W. Bush’s intervention to resolve the disputes. Bush has the power to appoint a presidential emergency board for such matters.
Meanwhile, the American Society of Travel Agents suggests either postponing elective travel or taking to the rails.
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