Air Transport, International
While 2014 was a troublesome year for Air Transport International pilots, the future began looking brighter in 2015. From cutbacks in flying, significant downgrades, and furloughs in 2014, an improving global economy and declining fuel prices in 2015 provided the boost the airline needed to increase its business. By mid-year, the carrier began recalling some of its 100-plus furloughed flightcrew members, and the Master Executive Council (MEC) reported finishing the year with 130 crewmembers actively flying.
“We had a rough 2014,” said Capt. Tom Rogers, the pilots’ MEC chairman, “and we faced those challenges head-on. Our pilots are now poised to move into 2016 focused on our battle for a fair contract and motivated to make the company a success while continuing to fly safely around the globe.”
The pilots’ collective bargaining agreement became amendable in May 2014, and while the pilots’ MEC Negotiating Committee and management were able to make significant progress on a few administrative sections in 2014, negotiations on the more challenging operational and economic topics stalled in 2015.
“The airline’s business expansion and subsequent recalls consumed a large chunk of time in 2015, so it was difficult to schedule negotiating sessions,” Rogers said. “This year, we are fully prepared to reengage the company and resume normal negotiations.”
On March 6, 2015, the two-year fence contained in the 2012 seniority award between the airline and Capital Cargo came down, which allowed the pilot group to act as one unified body. “The last two years have been a challenging time for all of us,” acknowledged Rogers. “Uncertainty about the company’s financial condition and where this merger would ultimately take the combined crewmembers of Air Transport International ruled the day. However, we survived, and now it’s time to move on.”
The Grievance Committee was busy during 2015, settling many grievances with the assistance of the National Mediation Board’s grievance mediation services. Educational materials produced in 2014 provided a launching point to help the company and the crewmembers better understand the joint collective bargaining agreement and to clarify specific areas of the agreement. Consequently, fewer grievances were filed, and those that were filed were settled in a more timely fashion.
The airline implemented an Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) during the summer of 2015 after successfully negotiating an ASAP Memorandum of Understanding and Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the pilots. According to Rogers, more than 40 reports had been received by October, which “made clear this program has been very successful. The information we’ve gathered will enhance safety and operational awareness at the airline. The company and union safety committees are working well together to solve any issues.” The success of the program has prompted the MEC and company to begin work on a Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) program.
The pilot group also successfully negotiated a lengthy international trip sequence LOA in 2015. The LOA provided some relief from the company’s line construction rules dealing with a clause in the contract that calls for a minimum 10 days off per bid unit for international operations like the previous Bahrain DHL freight operation that ended in 2014.
Last year also saw the airline continuing to move into the modern era with the company investigating the use of electronic flight bags and developing ACARS, ADS-B, and CPDL programs that will hopefully be implemented sometime in 2016. Considering that the airline was operating a DC-8 just three years ago and the B-757/-767 is considered a new aircraft, these are major accomplishments for the company and the pilots.
“We definitely saw a move in the right direction in 2015,” Rogers said, “and I see continued forward momentum into 2016. This pilot group continues to push ahead.”