The Envoy Air pilots began 2015 implementing a contract designed to provide the forward-looking economics that American Airlines needed to build a viable future for the airline, the pilots, and the employees, and ended the year with not only a solid pathway to a career at American but also contract improvements.
“For Envoy pilots, the road has been long and hard,” said Capt. Sam Pool, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman, “but at long last there’s light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time that light is not a train headed at us but is instead the possibility of a brighter future.”
The new agreement provided for 40 new Embraer 175s with options for 90 more. It also improved job security for all Envoy pilots by increasing the number of Envoy pilots offered a no-interview flow through to American.
“Currently, every pilot on our property has the right to flow to American without any interviews or candidate-selection testing,” Pool explained. “New pilots who choose to come to Envoy will also flow to American without any additional interview process other than that required to be hired at Envoy.”
Since January 2013, 548 of the 890 pilots that American has hired have been Envoy pilots. Envoy currently fills at least 50 percent of every new-hire class at American.
According to Pool, new equipment, rapid upgrades not dependent on increases in aircraft, and solid career progression are opportunities that other regional airlines just can’t provide. Management has indicated that, because of the number of pilots flowing to American, pilots hired today will see upgrade time fall to below three years, and the time to flow to American should fall to less than six years. For existing Envoy pilots who’ve endured aviation’s “lost decade” resulting from the aftermath of 9/11, this information may seem hard to believe, but the MEC has corroborated management’s claims.
Another program designed to strengthen American’s cradle-to-grave career path is Envoy’s partnership with at least 40 aviation colleges and universities to provide a pipeline instructor program. The program makes qualified certified flight instructors Envoy employees with company benefits while they gain their required flight time by teaching. They are then ready to take their place on an Envoy flight deck and their place in the seniority line to flow to American. Coupled with the flow-through agreement, new Envoy pilots have a clear career path to fly at American.
American recently projected it would hire 1,500 pilots by the end of 2017. Envoy expects that more than 300 pilots will flow to American during each of the next two years, which will drive a large number of upgrades at Envoy. “It seems that Envoy is destined for career progression and movement the likes of which hasn’t been seen by this pilot group in recent memory,” noted Pool.
As the fee-for-departure industry continues to decrease due to the pay-shortage-induced pilot shortage, Envoy has slowly reclaimed lost flying, attrition has slowed, and projected fleet transfers have been delayed. The pilots have attained industry-leading contract improvements; they are no longer stranded in base with no hotel when flights are canceled or don’t connect; commuter pilots are afforded hotels before and after their trips or blocks of reserve days and may request up to four hotel stays in base per month to aid in commuting; the commuter policy allows for up to six failed attempts to commute to work (with more allowed at the discretion of the chief pilot); and open time is now paid at 150 percent with critical coverage and junior man paid at 200 percent with four-hour minimums.
“The road to recovery was painful in many ways,” Pool acknowledged, “but we’ve turned a corner, and the road ahead is markedly improved.”