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Is American Airlines doomed?

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Things have gone from bad to worse for DFW-based American Airlines.

First, the carrier filed for bankruptcy last year, then began a pain period of restructuring that included layoffs. Then, massive delays in flights across the country generated devastating headlines in September. Then, two recent flights were forced to land early because seats had become loose -- resulting in humiliating headlines. And amid it all, a famed author penned a blistering column in the Sunday New York Times, describing the beleagured airline as "the world’s worst airline" because of a nightmarish Paris-to-NYC trip that took a mind-boggling 30 hours to complete.

The result of it all? Speculation that pilots will authorize a strike, and that American will eventually wither and die.

"Anecdotes become financial reality very quickly in this business," aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia told Reuters. "When you get well-known novelists writing op-ed pieces to the New York Times describing how horrible it was to fly on you, you've hit a tipping point of mass consumer discontent -- which means it's already translating into a revenue problem.

"They really, really need to get in front of this. Serious labor disruptions like this can drive an airline into the financial ground."

The Reuters story raises the possibility that "American may suffer the same death spiral that sent Eastern Airlines, a once iconic U.S. carrier, to the corporate graveyard two decades ago after a similar showdown with pilots."

Novelist Gary Shteyngart used the pages of the Times to rip American for his odyssey that began in beautiful Paris, and ended up in a nightmare. Some of his most scathing lines:

  • "You, American Airlines, should no longer be flying across the Atlantic. You do not have the know-how. You do not have the equipment. And your employees have clearly lost interest in the endeavor."
  • "One of the overhead baggage compartments was held together with masking tape."
  • "We stood, pressed to one another, in sweltering heat, as the plane was sprayed down for no reason we could discern. It would have been nice, in retrospect, had you sprayed us down, or at least given us something to drink."
  • "I steadily began to feel that your employees were prisoners just like us, armed only with their little walkie-talkies from which issued tinny instructions, lost communiqués from some distant Oz."
  • "Delta [Air Lines] is a futuristic paradise of working altimeters and braking brakes when compared with you, dear American Airlines."
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