Air Transport International Pilots Reach Three-Year Deal

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The Air Transport International Master Executive Council and Contract Negotiating Committee convene a road show to discuss the tentative agreement with the pilots.

On Jan. 30, 2018, after four years of difficult negotiations and on the verge of entering mediated negotiations supervised by the National Mediation Board, Air Transport International pilots unexpectedly reached a tentative agreement with management on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement.

“This agreement includes a substantial increase in salaries while at the same time vastly improves our work rules and our pilots’ quality of life,” said Capt. Michael Sterling, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chair. “The time was right to strike a deal that recognized the pilots’ contributions to the success of the airline, while at the same time providing the company the financial footing it needs to secure new flying.”

Negotiations for a new contract initially launched when the company requested an “early opener” in September 2013. The MEC convened and formed the Contract Negotiating Committee, and the two sides agreed to conduct accelerated negotiations after approving a three-phase protocol agreement that started from the least-contentious contract items to those financially substantive items that could prove to be most contentious.

“After a few months of negotiations, management hit us with nine major concessions that we successfully thwarted,” Sterling said. “And then negotiations turned adversarial and management walked away from the table for a ‘negotiations hiatus’ that lasted 20 months. During this time, the airline experienced a massive reduction in flying that resulted in pilot furloughs,” added Sterling. “However, this downturn was reversed with the launch of a freight network for Amazon Air, which substantially changed the company’s economic environment and paved the way for negotiating a contract that contains tremendous improvements.”

Throughout the negotiations, and even during the hiatus, the MEC and the Contract Negotiating Committee sought input from the pilots as they focused to expend their negotiating capital on the pilots’ priorities of better compensation and quality-of-life improvements.

“We heavily utilized the staff in ALPA’s Economic & Financial Analysis Department to develop and implement numerous pilot surveys to make sure any negotiated tentative agreement we reached was ratifiable,” Sterling noted. The two sides resumed formal negotiations in July 2016, but those talks eventually stalled and the MEC petitioned the NMB to facilitate mediated negotiations, which were scheduled to begin on February 13.

In a last-ditch effort to avert mediated negotiations, the two sides met in Columbus, Ohio, and were able to iron out a deal.

“While most pilot groups have their tentative agreement communications ready to launch when an agreement is reached, we were at a distinct disadvantage,” acknowledged Sterling. “Our MEC was transitioning from its former officers to newly elected officers who were taking office March 1. We unexpectedly reached a tentative agreement, and as a result the Contract Negotiating Committee and MEC faced the herculean task of finalizing contract language, preparing educational communications, and scheduling road shows.”

The incoming MEC leaned heavily on the experienced staff of ALPA’s Communications, Economic & Financial Analysis, IT, and Representation Departments to pull together all the resources necessary to launch a tentative agreement education campaign that provided the 225 pilots ample opportunities to learn about the new deal prior to casting their ballots. On March 21, the pilot group voted to ratify the agreement. Of the approximately 94 percent of the pilots who voted, 77 percent were in favor of the agreement.

The new collective bargaining agreement provides captains with an average 41 percent to 51 percent pay increase and first officers with an average 45 percent to 55 percent increase depending on years of service.

Improvements to quality of life focus on maintaining home basing while making extensive scheduling improvements that include improved line construction, enhanced disincentives for the company to change awarded lines, elimination of reserve days for line holders, international business-class travel, and better reserve utilization.

Air Transport International currently operates B-767/757 cargo flights for DHL Aviation and Amazon Air and cargo/passenger flights for the U.S. Air Mobility Command.