A Piedmont Embraer E145 on the ramp at Huntington Tri-State Airport. Photo: F/O Juan Carlos Loja (Piedmont)
In 2022, Piedmont Airlines pilots secured industry-leading contract enhancements that placed them at the top of the regional airline industry and would help their airline attract and retain pilots as air travel continued to rebound from the pandemic.
With a contract that didn’t become amendable until September 2024, the pilots and management had previously agreed to two interim bargaining sessions outside of Section 6 negotiations, the first of which occurred in 2018. In January 2022, both parties met for the second round of interim bargaining in which each side could submit up to five issues for consideration. By June, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) successfully reached agreements with management negotiators that included gains in commuter policy, reserve, minimum day, interface bidding processes, and compensation. The new agreements positioned the pilot group at the peak of the regional airline industry in terms of pay and career advancement—along with the pilots of Envoy Air and PSA, two other wholly owned American Airlines Group carriers.
“We have a good relationship with management and are often able to address issues that come up, but the planned mid-term bargaining sessions allowed us to focus on bigger gains that our pilot group had prioritized,” said Capt. Ryan Miller, the pilots’ MEC chair.
After completing mid-term bargaining, the parties came back to the table several more times to address attrition as pilots continued to leave Piedmont to further their careers.
Highlights of the agreements include
- industry-leading fee-for-departure wages,
- an additional 50 percent premium on wages for all pilots through at least summer 2024,
- a commitment that pilots will flow to American within five years or be paid at top of scale until they flow,
- an increased wage premium for line check pilots,
- a contract extension through July 19, 2029,
- a true minimum day of four hours until implementation of a preferential bidding system (PBS) when it will convert to a modified four-hour minimum day plus 1:4 trip rig,
- upon implementation of a PBS, a minimum 12 days off for line holders, 11 for reserve (12 in a 31-day month). Until then, a minimum 12 days off for at least 65 percent of hard line holders,
- upon implementation of a PBS, 150 percent holiday pay,
- a per diem increase to $1.90,
- long-call reserve,
- improvements to interface bidding processes, and
- commuter improvements, including expanding the policy to airlines outside of American Airlines Group and positive space at the company’s discretion.
“With this contract, Piedmont is among the top-leading regional carriers in compensation with the best possible path to a mainline flying career at American; however, as we know, there’s always more work to be done,” Miller observed.
The last three years were unprecedented in the industry, and the MEC concentrated on two main goals: protecting pilots’ jobs and improving quality of life. In 2022 as air travel began to recover and major airlines increased hiring, the pilot group focused on growing its volunteer ranks to ensure there was a deep bench to share knowledge and support continuity during this time of transition.
“We’ve identified potential pilot volunteers, provided the training and resources they need to support our pilot group, and developed a strong succession plan for the future of each committee,” remarked Miller. “We’ve already implemented several of these ideas and are seeing the results as we welcome enthusiastic new pilot volunteers to key roles.”
Piedmont has many opportunities for growth in 2023. In late 2022, the airline began receiving 15 new airplanes and may receive more depending on pilot growth throughout the year. “While 2023 may bring challenges, with a strong MEC, we’ll continue to attract pilots and work to enhance our quality of life,” Miller said.