Consumer Alert: Pilots, picketing and your holiday plans. How pilot picketing could affect you.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Wednesday’s Consumer Alert takes a look at pilots, picketing and your holiday travel plans. I’ve been closely following the misery in the skies this summer. And it’s not likely to get any better this fall unless there are some dramatic changes.

American Airlines pilots say conditions are so bad they plan to picket at major airports. According to the Dallas Morning News, the first will be on Oct. 19 at Miami International Airport.

If you flew anywhere this summer, you know the skies were far from friendly. Airport delays and cancellations made air travel downright miserable. According to data from Flight Aware, from July 1 to July 6, 51% of Jetblue’s flights were delayed, 39% of Southwest Flights and more than one-third of American Airlines’ flights were late, 34% to be exact.

American pilots say that’s because airlines let go of too many of them during the pandemic, and now they’re understaffed. The unions for pilots and flight attendants have shared nightmares of being called in on days off, having to miss meals and sleeping in baggage claim.

And then there are the passengers behaving badly.

Cell phone video of a boozy bad boy blow up at 30,000 feet has gone viral because the passenger’s behavior was so erratic. On Monday, 61-year-old Timothy Armstrong had a tantrum in the skies that would put the most sleep-deprived 2-year-old to shame. He was flying American Airlines from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.

According to passengers, Armstrong kept calling flight attendants "Joe Biden" while unleashing a string of obscenities. After attendants told him to sit down he jerked his mask on and off while growling. And passengers say when an Asian woman stood up to stretch, his racist tirade was endless. I looked it up. That flight is about two hours. Can you imagine putting up with that behavior for 120 long minutes? Pilots and flight attendants complain that in-air anarchy is no longer unusual.

American Airlines pilots are not alone. Southwest pilots say they’re also considering pounding the pavement with signs in hand during the height of the holiday travel season. And this rising tension comes in the midst of contract negotiations with the unions for Southwest pilots and flight attendants.

So of course you want to know how this might affect you. Federal law makes it very difficult for airline employees to go on strike. They have to participate in a long mediation process. If that fails, the president can call them back to work for a 60-day cooling-off period, and Congress can extend that period indefinitely.

But you may remember in February of 1999 American Airlines pilots staged a sickout. A quarter of them caught the blue flu. A federal judge then ordered them back to work. So it’s not likely your holiday flight will be canceled because of a strike, but if conditions don’t improve, you can expect delays. As they say, “Pack your patience.”