Initiated in 1994, the Aviation Safety Action Partnership, or ASAP, was a joint-effort between American Airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Allied Pilots Association. Giving first priority to travel safety, ASAP provided AAL pilots a way to report safety-related incidents, without fear of disciplinary action or retribution from management or the FAA… even if those pilots were at fault.

Due to increasingly bitter disagreements over ASAP — unions said pilots needed protection from reprisals stemming out of their safety reports, and the airlines said they needed the authority to discipline pilots who deserved it — APA and AAL management had been unable to come to terms for the long-overdue renewal of ASAP, and the program was allowed to lapse last October amid much finger-pointing.

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports months of negotiations over wording and provisions for the protection of whistle-blowers have finally paid off in a newly-revised agreement that has the full support of both airline management and the pilots union.

On Thursday, Dallas-Fort Worth APA chairman Matthew Field advised members, “The new ASAP [agreement] is industry-leading, and improves upon the ASAP program that expired in October.” The new agreement contains wording that prohibits disciplinary action for cases accepted under the ASAP program, Field said.

A joint message issued Thursday by both AAL management and the APA said, “We are pleased that, together, we were able to bring back a critical safety program that has served our pilots, our airline and our industry so well for so many years. Not only that, but in the process, we improved upon and created a program that once again sets the standard for our industry.”

Last February, new US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood lamented the program’s lapse and had urged the airline and pilot union to work toward this very goal. To take effect, the new program still needs the approval of the FAA, which is the third partner in the program.