Mechanics target overseas airline maintenance

/ Source: The Associated Press

The union that represents mechanics at American Airlines plans to launch a publicity campaign on Wednesday aimed at steering travelers away from airplanes maintained overseas.

American Airlines does its own maintenance at facilities in the U.S. But the union said it's frustrated that other carriers aren't playing by the same rules.

Union members plan to hand out leaflets to members of the Senate beginning on Wednesday, in part because the Senate is debating reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration, said TWU spokesman Jamie Horwitz.

Early next year it expects to distribute the leaflets at airports, as well as run ads in newspapers in hub cities of airlines that have maintenance work done overseas, Horwitz said. It's starting in the Senate because Senators are working on an FAA bill that would mandate more inspections of some overseas maintenance operations.

The Transport Workers Union is trying to apply pressure over something that the flying public has not taken much notice of.

Several of the biggest airlines, including Delta Air Lines Inc. and Southwest airlines Co., send planes to overseas repair shops. A report by the Transportation Department's inspector general last year found that U.S. oversight of repair facilities is lagging, and that the FAA has failed to closely track how much maintenance is outsourced and where it is performed. But there has been little evidence that travelers are going to any lengths to avoid such carriers.

It would be to the union's advantage if travelers preferred airlines like American that do their own maintenance. But Don Videtich, a TWU international representative for maintenance workers, said that's not why they're trying to focus attention on the issue.

"We just want a level playing field where we know they have the same oversight, they're dealing with the same things we're dealing with, and they're required to meet the same requirements that we are," he said.