PSA Pilots
The PSA Master Executive Council recently launched the quarterly e-magazine Below the Line that contains industry news, safety, and career-progression topics.

Now past the distress of furloughs and other pandemic-related setbacks, pilots at PSA have recovered and are on track with recruitment and a new pilot-retention bonus program.

Over the years, the PSA Airlines Master Executive Council (MEC) faced the continuous challenge of managing alternating waves of growth and attrition. The pilot group grew from 1,200 in 2016 to more than 2,060 at the start of 2020. Prior to the pandemic, the wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines had 10 pilots per month flow to the mainline, typically after 10–12 years of service at PSA.

When COVID-19 threw the aviation industry into a tumult, flow abruptly ceased at PSA (and at American’s two other wholly owned carriers, Envoy Air and Piedmont Airlines). As the global pandemic swept through the aviation industry, the economic impact led PSA to close its Norfolk, Va., and Knoxville, Tenn., bases. The closures were followed by furloughs, and the group dropped to approximately 1,250 active pilots.

“The furloughs and downgrades made their marks on the careers of more than 1,000 professional aviators at PSA,” said Capt. Curt Ebbert, MEC chair. “Yet, throughout these very difficult circumstances, PSA pilots showed relentless professionalism and our MEC made every effort to keep our pilots informed and ready to move forward.”

Recalls began in November 2020 as the industry slowly rebounded. Once it became clear that the company was returning to more standard levels of operation, the MEC pivoted to negotiation and implementation of an industry-leading reserve system, and the inclusions of technology necessary to increase security and safety.

In August 2021, all three of American’s wholly owned carriers announced new pilot-retention programs, with bonuses of up to $150,000. While the impact on attrition would take longer to ascertain, by the end of the year PSA hired approximately 600 new pilots.

In June 2022, PSA’s MEC ratified a contract extension together with seven additional letters of agreement that positioned them at the top of regional airline industry in terms of pay and career advancement.

In addition to these regional-industry-leading pay rates, PSA pilots will receive an additional 50 percent pay-rate premium for a period in excess of two years. There are also significant pay increases for instructor pilots. New-hire pilots can earn captain pay rates once they have logged 750 Part 121 flight hours. Other improved pay rules further enhance the pilots’ overall compensation. The agreement also increases the rate at which PSA pilots can flow to American Airlines.

“Without these changes, pilots would continue to leave for airlines that offered better pay, working conditions, and career opportunities” said Ebbert. “The new PSA agreements will not only help PSA hire and retain quality pilots, but also set the standard for other regional carriers to follow suit.”

The MEC worked quickly to ensure that pilots had a thorough understanding of the program and how it would impact career progression to mainline carriers. In addition, Ebbert and the MEC improved the program by negotiating enhanced flow and financial protections. Additionally, after years of discussions, the company and MEC agreed to terms to begin implementing a new preferential bidding system.

The agreements also included a five-year contract extension, without which the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was amendable on April 1, 2023. Under the new agreement, the CBA is extended until April 1, 2028, with a limited contract reopener in July 2024, allowing each side to present five cost-neutral items for negotiations.

With an influx of new and recalled pilots, the MEC is focused on ensuring that the pilot group is engaged and educated about the new agreements and ALPA’s extensive member benefits. Below the Line, a new quarterly magazine covering industry news, safety, and career-progression topics, is the culmination of work from a team of pilot volunteers who have professional backgrounds in photography, graphic design, and media. The MEC also plans to launch a new educational series of videos and podcasts, along with a new website.