By Andrea Romano
September 06, 2019
American Airlines Miami
Credit: CHUYN/Getty Images

An American Airlines mechanic in Miami, Florida has been charged with "willfully damaging, destroying, disabling, or wrecking an aircraft" after allegedly sabotaging a flight to Nassau, Bahamas in July, USA Today reported.

In the midst of a heated labor dispute between American Airlines and its mechanics, employee Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani was caught on surveillance video tampering with some plane equipment. Alani had glued a piece of Styrofoam to block the air data module (ADM) system, said The Washington Post. The ADM system uses air pressure to measure the speed and altitude of an aircraft.

No one was hurt in the incident as pilots received an error message before takeoff, USA Today reported. The plane was taken out of service and passengers were able to board a new aircraft before continuing to their destination.

Alani claims that he did not intend any harm but merely wanted to cause a cancellation or flight delay. According to USA Today, the 60-year-old mechanic was “upset” about the contract disputes that had been going on all summer. This dispute had apparently hurt him financially and he was trying to gain some overtime.

The airline had complained earlier in the year about mechanics deliberately sabotaging planes in order to cause delays. According to The Dallas Morning News, American Airlines filed a lawsuit against the Transport Workers Union of America and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers with the U.S. District Court in Fort Worth in May. The lawsuit stated that mechanics had been unlawfully coordinating a work slowdown to cause delays since February.

Other airlines have accused labor unions of slowing down work as well. Southwest Airlines was involved in a similar dispute back in February.

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein confirmed the incident to USA Today in a statement on Thursday.

“At American we have an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our customers and team members and we are taking this matter very seriously,” the statement said. “At the time of the incident, the aircraft was taken out of service, maintenance was performed and after an inspection to ensure it was safe the aircraft was returned to service. American immediately notified federal law enforcement who took over the investigation with our full cooperation.”

According to The Washington Post, Alani was charged and taken into custody on Thursday and will appear in a federal court in Miami on Friday. It is unclear what ramifications Alani may face with these charges.