Capt. J.J. Sweetser, left, and F/O Jessica Englund, who is now flying for Delta Air Lines.
The pilots of Endeavor Air continue to build upon recent gains, improving their contract through midterm collective bargaining while working with the company to maximize operational efficiencies. Steady growth over the last year and a constructive rapport with management point to a bright future for this pilot group.
“We grew by 20 CRJ200s in 2016, and more planes are on the way starting in the first quarter of 2017,” remarked Capt. Jonathan Allen, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman for most of 2016, who also noted that Endeavor is expanding its presence at New York’s John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports. The airline is welcoming two training classes of new-hire pilots a month, and Allen pointed out that “hiring continues to outpace attrition” at this wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines.
Endeavor Air’s ability to attract new pilots was enhanced with the negotiation of Letter of Agreement (LOA) 71 in December 2015. The pilots secured important scheduling and pay improvements, including a provision that has resulted in line holders having one extra day off per month on average. The LOA also set a floor of 150 percent pay for pilots picking up open flying. Additionally, deadhead pay improved from 75 to 100 percent. The pilots also enhanced their retention payment program. Created in late 2014, the original two-year deal offered $15,000 per year in three installments. This amount was later increased to $20,000 per year; and thanks to LOA 71, pilots now receive payments amounting to $23,000 a year, for four years, in addition to their salaries and other negotiated benefits.
Endeavor’s operational successes, which resulted in 135 days without a controllable cancellation (e.g., maintenance, crew-related issues, or other reasons under the airline’s control), have also kept management focused on addressing the pilot group’s operational needs. For example, in LOA 71, new rules now provide monthly parking stipends for pilots who live out of domicile and company-paid hotel rooms for pilots rescheduled to overnight in their domiciles, both of which help maintain operational reliability.
Allen acknowledged that the Endeavor Air MEC files very few grievances, thanks in part to the airline’s Remedy Request Process. The MEC’s representatives meet monthly with management to promptly address member concerns and pilot issue forms. “We’re able to resolve and remedy most issues before they become formal grievances,” said Allen.
Mid-term negotiations continue at Endeavor, and one of the most important issues for the pilot group is converting the retention payment program into an hourly wage rate. This would result in making more of a pilot’s wages 401(k) match eligible and substantially increasing the pay of pilots who fly a greater number of hours or who pick up open time—along with ensuring that vacation and sick leave are paid at the higher rate. The pilot group is also giving particular attention to the needs of the carrier’s instructor and most senior pilots. According to Allen, “They haven’t recovered what they lost in the bankruptcy to the extent that the rest of the pilots on our seniority list have.”
Although Endeavor Air pilots have a Guaranteed Interview Program with Delta Air Lines, the MEC is advocating for a more robust program for career progression. The MEC leaders are also in the process of hammering out the final details of an electronic flight bag program, which will be implemented in early 2017.
“It’s a positive story, and we’re pleased with the progress we’ve made. But we want to make sure we cover all of our bases and look out for everyone,” said Allen.