The pilot leaders of PSA Airlines spent much of 2022 working on achieving contract improvements and addressing the effects of pilot attrition.
Due in large part to the dedication and professionalism of the pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC), the pilots and management have maintained a positive and amicable working relationship. However, for the last several years, they’ve disagreed on management’s approach to keeping pilots at PSA, one of three carriers wholly owned by American Airlines Group. Managers claimed they were attempting to prevent pilots from leaving for low-cost carriers but held tight to the position that if a competing mainline carrier called, it couldn’t stop a pilot from leaving. The pilots countered these claims by highlighting the benefits that had initially drawn pilots to PSA: better pay, improved working conditions, and career-progression opportunities.
“In reality, most PSA pilots arrived here with the goal of flying for American Airlines,” said Capt. Curt Ebbert, the pilots’ MEC chair. “Many of our pilots moved to PSA domiciles, often relocating their families in the pursuit of chasing the ‘American spirit.’ While you’ll always find some pilots leaving for competing carriers, throughout my 35 years at this carrier, I’ve seen firsthand that being a part of American Airlines is a big factor in attracting pilots to our airline. We’re all members of the American Airlines family.”
In May, pilots at both of American’s other wholly owned carriers, Piedmont and Envoy Air, ratified agreements that improved their quality of life. These deals were directly tied to the MEC’s acceptance of pilot retention and bonus program agreements.
The PSA MEC sought further improvements, and by June had ratified a contract extension and seven additional letters of agreement that positioned the pilots at the top of the regional airline industry in terms of pay and career advancement, with the pilots receiving an additional 50 percent pay rate premium over more than two years.
“These new agreements bring to fruition ALPA’s long-advocated goal of achieving permanent changes to salaries and work rules, particularly in the fee-for-departure (FFD) industry,” Ebbert observed. “The new agreements will not only help PSA hire and retain quality pilots, but will also set the standard for other FFD carriers to follow suit.”
Among other changes, the MEC secured improved trip and duty-time rigs with one hour of credit for every two hours of duty and one hour of credit for every four hours away from base. In addition, the MEC secured captain rates for all first officers upon reaching 750 captain-qualifying hours.
Other highlights included
- Positive-space travel options with self-booking for training,
- an additional long-call reserve window for a 24-hour callout,
- a minimum of 12 days off per month,
- 100 percent deadhead pay,
- the ability to trade reserve days for open-time flying,
- increased line check pilot pay,
- increased simulator instructor pay,
- sick bank payout upon flow or direct hire to American,
- increased flow, and
- a four-hour minimum guarantee.
The agreement also included terms to begin implementing pilot-based scheduling along with a five-year contract extension, bringing the amendable date from April 1, 2023, to April 1, 2028, with a limited reopener in July 2024 to allow the parties to address noneconomic contractual items.
During the final months of 2022, the MEC worked to ensure that management distributed timely retention bonuses to its more than 1,900 pilots. In response to delayed payments to some pilots, the MEC filed a grievance requiring management to follow through on its contractual commitment, which is one of PSA’s primary means to combat pilot attrition.
The MEC is now focusing on ensuring that the pilot group is engaged and educated about ALPA’s extensive member benefits with the launch of a new educational series of videos and podcasts. Additionally, Ebbert made inclusion a priority by leading the call to establish a Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion Subcommittee.
The MEC’s other achievements include launching its new website at PSAPilotCareers.com and the MEC’s e-magazine, Below the Line. The MEC is also looking forward to bringing pilot-based scheduling to the group by fall 2023.