A PSA CRJ900 at Indianapolis International Airport.
Obtaining permanent contractual improvements to compensation and work rules will be a key element of upcoming negotiations between the pilots of PSA and management in 2018. The group’s contract goals will focus on turning temporary bonuses into permanent pay increases and enhancing quality of life through improved schedules and pilot career progression to parent company American Airlines.
The continued determination of PSA’s pilot leaders has resulted in gains for the pilots over the last two years. And with the recent substantial contract improvements that the pilots of Endeavor Air—a fellow fee-for-departure carrier—recently obtained, PSA pilots are optimistic they’ll achieve their bargaining goals.
“This is a great time to be at PSA,” said Capt. Travis Ricks, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman. “Our relationship with management is improving daily, and we’re committed to making our airline a better place to work.”
During the last year, the pilots’ relationship with management has become more productive. Partly in response to concerns raised by the pilots, the company hired a new director of operations and a labor relations manager. The pilot group and the new management team have worked together to drastically reduce outstanding grievances and expedite the resolution of cases.
Over the last few years, PSA has been struggling to increase its pilot ranks, which resulted in terminating the delivery of additional CRJ700s in 2016. The airline has lost nearly 600 pilots during the last three years to attrition—with more than 50 percent of the pilots leaving before completing their first year, and nearly 65 percent doing so within their first two years. However, the carrier has slowly started to resume delivery of CRJ700s at a reduced rate of one per month.
In 2016, American Airlines Group, the parent company of PSA, rolled out retention bonus programs at all three of its wholly owned carriers to help curb pilot attrition. The package for PSA first officers was $20,000 paid over two years. Captains received $7,500 paid in three installments throughout 2017. The pilots believe that the temporary short-term solution of offering bonuses will ultimately fail to stop long-term attrition. Consequently, PSA’s pilot leaders have indicated that permanent contractual improvements to compensation and work rules will be a core part of the group’s bargaining priorities.
“Making permanent contractual improvements rather than relying on temporary bonuses is the only way to effectively combat attrition and improve our ability to attract and retain pilots at PSA,” said Ricks. “Real contractual improvements benefit not only the pilots of PSA, but also raise the bar for the entire industry.”
The pilots’ flow-through agreement with American Airlines implemented in September 2015 has helped to attract new hires to the airline. Pilots with about nine years of seniority are currently moving up to American at the rate of six per month, a recent increase from five per month. If attrition stays at the current level, new hires can expect to flow through to American in approximately six to seven years.
“By attracting and retaining pilots, we hope to eventually increase the rate at which PSA pilots flow to American,” Ricks noted. “In the meantime, we’ll continue advising management that in order to have successful recruitment and retention the airline will need to make permanent improvements to our collective bargaining agreement.”
To support the company in seeking creative ways to attract new crewmembers, PSA pilot leaders are developing a new website for the general public. PSAPilotCareers.com will offer details on PSA’s collective bargaining agreement, the group’s annual State of the Union publication, updates on the top issues facing pilots, and insights into the work life of pilots flying for a regional airline.
“We’re hopeful that 2018 will be a good year for both the pilot group and the company,” Ricks said.