An American Airlines pilot says making passengers get off a plane after boarding is 'so embarrassing' and he 'absolutely hates' it

Daniel Slim/Getty Images
Daniel Slim/Getty Images  
  • An AA pilot says he is told to put passengers on planes despite being about to run out of hours.

  • He told Insider: "We absolutely hate doing this to our passengers, but our hands are tied."

  • The policy means that covering trips has become "like a game of whack-a-mole," the pilot said.

This summer's airport chaos has left thousands of people with their flights canceled and their luggage lost. In some cases, passengers had to get off a plane after boarding just minutes earlier.

An American Airlines pilot who has worked for the airline for 23 years told Insider he has never seen anything like this before: "We absolutely hate doing this to our passengers."

The captain wanted to remain anonymous but Insider has confirmed he works for AA.

He said despite pilots' efforts to tell schedulers when they are about to run out of working hours that day, they are still told to board. "They tell us 'I'm sure it will work out...', trying to pressure us into extending our very long duty day, so we board and time out, then deplane the passengers."

"I've sadly been sitting in my left seat 20 min before pushing back from the gate and been pulled off to cover another trip having just left a plane full of folks sitting there waiting for the next captain to show up," he said. "It's so embarrassing and I absolutely hate that."

He added: "I've been with AA 23 years and I've never seen anything like this before ... we absolutely hate doing this to our passengers but our hands are tied. We have tried telling AA this won't work when we get close to timing out."

An American Airlines spokesperson said pilots' duty time was regulated by the FAA and only extended "when a pilot decides - at their discretion - to do so", while its schedules were "rooted in safety".

This comes after an AA passenger, Sheila Gray, told Insider she had to get off the plane she had just boarded after a five-hour delay because the pilots ran out of flying time.

The AA pilot told Insider on email that he was saddened "as are most of us at the product we are putting out," adding "our passengers deserve better."

Pilots at other airlines including Delta, United, Spirit and JetBlue also feel the same way, he added. "You wonder why we time out? Covering trips here is like a game of whack-a-mole…"

'A perfect scheduling program ... until there's a glitch'

A number of American Airlines planes docked at an airport.
A number of American Airlines planes docked at an airport.  

The captain told Insider that pilots have been unhappy for years since a new scheduling system was bought in as part of a drive to increase crew productivity.

"That's all fine and good until there's a glitch - whether it be maintenance, weather, air traffic congestion - then we all time out … call in fatigued," he said. In most cases, "the company pressures us to extend our duty day to complete our sequence. Most of us refuse, including myself, because my days are already long and mentally taxing."

He added that pilots often take the flak following events such as diversions or emergencies.

"The airlines went to Congress and complained and got all our duty days and maximum flight times extended 'in the name of safety'. Since these changes have taken place I've never worked so hard in my entire career."

Now, he considers it to be a good trip if he gets in on time to have dinner before having to report for duty early the next morning.


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