Pink slips are flying at American Airlines, which warned over 11,000 workers on Wednesday of looming layoffs as the carrier works to pare down its operations in bankruptcy.
This is bad news all around, but workers aren't the only ones who should be concerned about the cutbacks.
According to George Hobiaca, airline industry expert and founder of deals site AirfareWatchdog.com, if AA does what he expects it to do and lays off maintenance workers "as a prelude to outsourcing the work to third parties," consumers might have to deal with "substandard" results, from filthy lavatories to safety risks.
"There are some in the industry that believe outsourcing results in substandard maintenance since it can be done anywhere in the world away from the watchful eyes of Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] inspectors," he says.
Yet even the FAA is aware of this hazardous trend since airlines cutting maintenance jobs is nothing new. In its September 2008 report on aircraft maintenance outsourcing, the FAA admitted that "problems existed, such as untrained mechanics, lack of required tools, and unsafe storage of aircraft parts" when aircraft were serviced in foreign facilities. What's more, repair stations "were not always effective" and "maintenance problems either went undetected or reoccured" (via The Unfriendly Skies).
Beyond the maintenance concerns, Hobiaca fears the job cutbacks will cause more delays.
"It could be anything," Hobiaca tells Business Insider. "A seat back that won't recline or that is stuck in the recline position. A call button that isn't working. A lav out of service."
The more AA cancels its flights, he says the more "we'll see passengers bumped or otherwise inconvenienced. Airlines have eliminated thousands of seat miles and there are fewer options to re-accomodate passengers as a result if a flight is cancelled."
Already, AA cancelled 300 flights this week to "cope with an increase in maintenance reports," according to the AP.
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