American Airlines Pilots Are Unhappy With Their Contracts

American Airlines pilots are unhappy with their contracts and their union is speaking up about it. It comes at a critical time for American Airlines as the current contracts setting out employment and salary conditions for many of its employees are up for renewal. Various unions representing around 85,000 employees are currently in Section 6 negotiations with American Airlines.

There has been no resolution to long running negotiations between American Airlines and their pilots union over a new contract. Photo: American Airlines.

The issue was raised yesterday in One Mile At A Time. It’s not only the Allied Pilots Association  (APA) frustrated with the lack of progress after several years of talks with American’s management. Flight attendants and maintenance workers are also unable to reach new contracts. This has caused significant disruptions at American Airlines across 2019.

Talks have been ongoing for several years

In addition to salary increases, the APA wants more flexibility in schedules to account for more shift trading and decreases in the amount of time spent on call.In fairness to American Airlines, this is more easily said than done. American Airlines employs over 15,000 pilots and their last raise was in late 2018. There will be no more raises until a new contract is signed off on.

Talks have reportedly been going on for four years. Largely, we are only hearing one side of the story but the various unions, including the APA, are frustrated by the lack of progress and the relatively aggressive stance of American’s management during talks.

The pilot’s contracts are amendable from this month. Photo: American Airlines.

Unlike most other industries in the USA, airline unions can’t just go out on strike. There are rules in place that stop this, citing the need to keep a vital industry functioning at all times. Strikes can only occur with US Government oversight and only after a long and laborious application process.

An open letter from the pilots union president

As reported in One Mile At A Time, the president of the APA, Captain Eric Ferguson, has published a fairly diplomatic open letter to American’s CEO and board in an attempt to push talks along.

You can read that letter on the APA’s site here.

If you take Captain Ferguson’s letter at face value, he’s been trying to work with American Airlines management to transform the airline for the better. Captain Ferguson doesn’t want a win-loss scenario, he wants and reckons they can achieve a win-win outcome. He’s calling these ongoing negotiations a “unique fork in the road.”

Despite the glossy pictures, all is not well in the relationship between American Airlines and its pilots. Photo: American Airlines.

According to Captain Ferguson, the APA has put forward several detailed proposals in early 2019 that take into account the needs of American’s stakeholders. Captain Ferguson wants to create efficiencies and eliminate inefficiencies. He wants to fix reliability issues and improve American’s revenue performance. 

Captain Ferguson argues his union’s proposals can benefit both American’s pilots and the airline. In a nutshell, the proposals are to;

  • Improve scheduling, company transparency, accountability, and quality of work -ife;
  • Achieve industry-leading hourly pay rates and address gaps in compensation and benefits with peers; and
  • Undertake contract repair with a focus on items that were lost during the bankruptcy.
Ongoing negotiations between American Airlines and its various unions in 2019 resulted in industrial disruptions. Photo: tjdarmstadt via Wikimedia Commons.

As Captain Ferguson’s letter puts it;

What we propose is exactly what American Airlines needs.  

Your APA leadership very much wants American Airlines to succeed, and I would wager the same is true for each of you. The opportunity awaits. No, we didn’t conclude negotiations by the amendable date, but we’re still here, and we stand ready to continue bargaining to secure the mutually beneficial agreement that APA and management need.

An opportunity to reboot talks

The New Year may represent a timely opportunity to draw a line under a tough and ultimately fruitless year of talks in 2019. If the APA is, as they say, interested in a new contract that benefits the airline, its pilots and other stakeholders, then perhaps the time has come for American’s management to ease back a little their resistance during negotiations and seek an outcome that, as Captain Ferguson notes, is a win-win.