United pilots' slow taxiing causes delays at O'Hare

July 26, 2000

BY ROBERT C. HERGUTH TRANSPORTATION REPORTER

United Airlines pilots created delays at O'Hare Airport on Tuesday by slowly taxiing between runways and gates, an apparent statement on contract talks with the carrier, officials said.

"There's no question that there's slow taxiing going on, and it's a factor" in Tuesday's delays, said Craig Burzych, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association at O'Hare Tower. "It's very obvious what they're doing. They're trying to make a point, whatever that is. It just backs everything up."

He said United pilots have been engaging in the slow taxiing at various times over the past four to six weeks. "They're taxiing very slowly, 2 to 3 mph in some cases," he said. "It's usually 5 to 10 mph."

Other industry officials confirmed the slowdown.

The situation is affecting United's on-time performance more than causing delays with other airlines, aviation sources said. Chicago aviation spokeswoman Monique Bond said air traffic was fairly routine Tuesday, although controllers said the lack of special landing procedures and the slow taxiing, were impacting operations.

Joe Hopkins, a spokesman for Elk Grove Township-based United, declined to say how many delays the airline experienced Tuesday. And he declined to discuss the reported slowdown.

"We're not going to comment on individual actions at the airport," he said. "Obviously we're negotiating with two unions [the pilots and machinists] and we're making a diligent effort to reach closure on both contracts as soon as possible.

"But as far as tactics that may or may not be employed [by union members], we simply don't want to comment on that."

Officials at the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents United's 10,000 pilots, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Negotiations began last spring and have made little progress. In another statement on the talks, pilots also have been refusing overtime since May, forcing the cancellation and rescheduling of thousands of flights across the country.

The nation's air traffic system already is facing massive delays this year, largely due to weather problems. The FAA is also investigating a slowdown at the Elgin air traffic control center in an attempt to determine if controllers intentionally delayed traffic last week to protest work conditions