American's mechanics ordered to do their jobs

Plus: Truist case isn't Truliant's first trademark rodeo; New option likely for small-business healthcare; Lincoln Harris hires aerialist and whispies for BofA Tower opening

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Judge orders union to stop slowing flights. Will it help planes arrive on time and not lose your bags?

A federal judge in Texas has commanded members of American Airlines’ mechanics unions to stop slowing down the airline’s operations. The airline has blamed the union for deliberately causing flight delays and cancellations to gain leverage in negotiations over a new contract.

But industry analysts say it will probably take more than a judge’s order to dramatically improve American’s service — which is consistently rated toward the bottom of major U.S. airlines. Charlotte is American’s second-largest hub, with 682 daily flights.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Charles McBryde issued a permanent injunction against members of the Transport Workers Union and the International Association of Machinists. He ruled that “workers intentionally caused flight delays in their ongoing battle for a new contract,” according to the Dallas Morning News. The article continued:

“[American Airlines] has shown that defendants’ members conducted a concerted slowdown,” McBryde wrote in the ruling. He also said the unions failed to “take every reasonable action to prevent or stop it.”

McBryde’s injunction requires the unions to do everything they can to tell mechanics that a slowdown is illegal, including the possibility of fining its own members.

American Airlines sued in May, accusing the unions of telling members to refuse overtime, turn down off-work assignments and otherwise slow down maintenance to penalize the carrier. The airline argued that the slowdown resulted in delayed and canceled flights for passengers. …

During the summer of 2017 and 2018, American said there were on average 42.2 planes not ready for service after overnight work. Between May 21 and June 13, that jumped to an average of 54.5 planes out of commission.

Cleared for takeoff? A judge found American’s mechanics and baggage workers were intentionally slowing down operations and ordered them to knock it off.

Union leaders said they would abide by the judge’s ruling. American declined comment.

Magical improvement? Industry analyst Bob Mann tells the Ledger he’s skeptical that American’s problems can be solved just because a judge orders employees to work faster. “It may have a marginal effect, but I would be surprised if it had much effect. These problems are of very long standing. They date back to the way the company was run when it was US Airways and maybe before that to America West.”

He blames management for the airline’s woes: “It’s literally the management of the day-to-day, flight-by-flight operation. There is lots of attention to things that don’t matter.”

There’s room for improvement. In May, according to federal figures, American:

  • ranked #9 out of 10 airlines for on-time arrivals

  • was also second-to-worst on flight cancellations

  • had the highest rate of baggage complaints of the country’s 10 biggest airlines

Almost nowhere to go but up, really.

Fun with Google Autocomplete

On the occasion of this week’s release of the Charlotte Hornets’ 2019-2020 schedule:

Truliant is a beast at protecting the name ‘Truliant’

You might think that “Truliant” is such an uncommon name that it would be rare for Truliant Federal Credit Union to claim that another company was infringing on its trademark. The company, of course, sued BB&T and SunTrust in June after those two banks — which are merging and moving their headquarters to Charlotte — chose “Truist” as their merged name. Truliant says “Truist” will confuse customers.

Interestingly, though, the battle against Truist isn’t the first time Truliant has sued to protect its name.

In 2010, court records show that the credit union sued a Winston-Salem company called Truliant Mobile Transport, which provided transportation services for the disabled. The suit said having a similar name “is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous, or substantially injurious to consumers.” (Who was their lawyer, “Seinfeld’s” Jackie Chiles?)

Truliant Federal Credit Union claimed in a 2010 suit that a small transportation company was confusing credit-union customers with its name and logo. (Photos from court filings.)

Truliant Mobile Transport’s lawyer at the time, Rodrick Enns, told the Ledger: “My client had been providing essentially transportation services for wheelchair-bound and disabled folks, and they felt like there was a pretty obvious difference between those kinds of services and credit-union and banking services.”

Nonetheless, the case settled out of court, and Truliant Mobile Transport changed its name to Nepat Inc. — a name even less catchy than Truliant.

Truliant’s case against Truist hasn’t progressed since it was filed in June. Enns, who specializes in intellectual-property law, says that could mean that the two sides are talking about settling before unleashing a flurry of court filings: “I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some resolution one way or another so that the parties don’t have to litigate it. That’s usually what happens.”

Uptown office shuffles

Who doesn’t love a photo essay of uptown workers moving into new offices?

First up is Lowe’s, which on Monday moved about 100 tech workers from Mooresville into a “collaborative space” on the third floor of the Charlotte Plaza building. It will serve as the company’s interim tech center while the 23-story building in South End is under construction. Lowe’s also posted 120 jobs on its website.

Millennials and no-so-millennial Lowe’s tech workers in new temporary home uptown. (Photos courtesy of Lowe’s)

Not to be outdone was Bank of America, which on Monday started moving workers into the new Bank of America Tower building at the Legacy Union development on South Tryon Street. The bank wouldn’t give numbers of employees but said it’s taking 600,000 s.f. on 23 floors. It credited Lincoln Harris for developing the site, Rodgers Builders for leading the construction of the floors, Little Diversified Architectural Consulting for design and engineering and CBI Workplace Solutions for furnishings.

Lincoln Harris hired performers to mark the occasion.

Upscale fun: “The story behind the performers was to add a bit of living artwork with a splash of fun,” spokeswoman Ryan Ramey told the Ledger in an email. “Something upscale to complement not only the Bank of America Tower building and Bank of America, but the theme behind the generative artwork on the video wall.” She continued:

“We had a living red carpet to welcome Bank of America associates that entered the building on the first and second floor lobby levels. …” (Photo by Brian Twitty Photography, courtesy of Lincoln Harris)
“The whispies were on the bookends in the morning. …” (Photo via Twitter)
“The vision behind the artwork is a tribute to those who have made this city what it is today – past, present and future. …” (Photo by Brian Twitty Photography, courtesy of Lincoln Harris)
“We also had spirals that stood in front of the video wall and on the Spanish steps at the main entrance off Tryon Street in the afternoon.” (Photo by Brian Twitty Photography, courtesy of Lincoln Harris)

Ramey says there was also “an aerialist on the plaza” (not pictured).

In brief

  • Small business health plans: The General Assembly passed a bipartisan bill Tuesday that “allows for the creation of association health plans, to allow for what could be plans with lower premiums.” The bill would allow statewide associations such as the N.C. Realtors Association and the state Chamber of Commerce to offer plans to their members, but some critics say those plans could provide less-than-comprehensive coverage and could skim healthy consumers out of the larger insurance marketplace. (N.C. Health News, AP)

  • House call: Atrium Health’s board of commissioners is expected to meet in Winston-Salem today to tour Wake Forest Baptist Health, the healthcare system that plans to join with Atrium to create a medical school in Charlotte. “The purpose of the meeting is to familiarize the Board with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Innovation Quarter, and the Bowman Gray Center for Medical Education and to give an overview of the research and innovation work taking place at those facilities,” Atrium said in a legally mandated public notice. (Hat tip: Business North Carolina)

  • Résumé design: “As Gen Z enters the workforce, companies are seeing digital CVs filled with artistic flourishes, including illustrations of college mascots, logos of past employers and icons to denote hobbies such as home renovation and watching movies. … At a high school near Indianapolis, Ind., an applicant this spring sent a digital résumé for a teaching post with his bitmoji waving and the word ‘hi’ at the top.” (WSJ)

  • Long wait: The amount of time needed to schedule a Global Entry interview at Charlotte’s airport has increased to more than three months because customs agents have been reassigned to the Mexican border, the Observer reports. Truth is, the wait for those interviews has always been long.

  • Cheap fares to Europe: From Charlotte, you can travel to four European cities — Barcelona, Madrid, Nice and Dubrovnik — for under $500 round-trip in September/October, according to info pulled from Google Flights this morning. That’s a good deal. See details below.

  • Home addition: Blackhawk Hardware is adding 12,000 s.f. to its location at Park Road Shopping Center by finishing its basement. It’s also adding “a red spiral slide that will take customers of all ages from the main level to the basement.” Work is expected to be complete by March. (CharlotteFive)

Off the Clock

Low-key ideas for the weekend

Movies opening in Charlotte this weekend:
  • Blinded by the Light (PG-13) (93% on Rotten Tomatoes): Musical teen faces choices

  • Good Boys (R) (86%): Comedy with tween hijinks

  • Angry Birds Movie 2 (PG) (73%): Birds, pigs do battle

  • 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (PG-13) (63%): Teen girls’ diving adventure

  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (PG-13): Mom rediscovers creative passion

Highly rated movies now playing:
  • Toy Story 4 (G) (97% on Rotten Tomatoes)

  • Spider Man: Far From Home (PG-13) (90%)

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (R) (85%)

  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (PG-13) (81%)

  • Dora and the Lost City of Gold (PG) (80%)

  • Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (PG-13) (66%)

Cheap getaways from CLT — including 4 European cities for under $500:
  • Charlotte to Baltimore, $64 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), various dates in September-October.

  • Charlotte to Orlando, $66 round-trip on Frontier (nonstop), Sept. 5-9.

  • Charlotte to Tokyo, $672 round-trip on Air Canada (one-stop), Sept. 13-20.

  • Charlotte to Miami, $132 round-trip on American (nonstop), Sept. 14-17.

  • Charlotte to Nice, France, $462 round-trip on Delta (one-stop), Sept. 15-23.

  • Charlotte to Barcelona, $453 round-trip on United (one-stop), Sept. 16-25.

  • Charlotte to Madrid, $450 round-trip on Air Canada (one-stop), Sept. 29-Oct. 8.

  • Charlotte to Dubrovnik, Croatia, $482 round-trip on Lufthansa (one-stop), Oct. 6-14.

  • Charlotte to Boston, $156 round-trip on JetBlue (nonstop), Oct 24-28.

  • Charlotte to Denver, $126 round-trip on American (nonstop), Nov. 7-10.

Source: Google Flights. Fares retrieved Wednesday morning. They might have changed by the time you read this.

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The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.