PSA aircraft lined up at Gates E22 through E26 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Thanks to the unity and determination of the PSA pilots and their Master Executive Council (MEC) leaders, the pilots are facing the future with renewed confidence and optimism.
During the last year, the pilots’ relationship with management has become generally positive and productive, resulting in several major gains for the pilots.
The number of outstanding grievances has dropped drastically as the airline and the pilots have been able to fairly expedite the resolution of cases. The pilot group also successfully navigated an agreement with important quality-of-life improvements that ensure all pilots on the property received new uniforms at no cost or through a deduction from pilot uniform accounts. This deal saved the pilot group an estimated $1.1 million. Other improvements include a new commuter hotel benefit program that provides pilots with as much as $250 per month.
Yet for much of the past year, PSA has struggled to increase the size of its pilot group to meet its jet delivery schedule. Over the last three years, the airline has lost nearly 600 pilots to attrition with more than 50 percent of the pilots leaving before completing their first year, and nearly 65 percent doing so within their first two years.
In late 2016, American Airlines Group, the parent company of PSA, rolled out retention bonus programs at all three of its wholly owned carriers. The package for PSA’s first officers amounted to $20,000 paid over two years and $7,500 for captains paid in three installments throughout 2017. But many of the PSA pilots worry the bonuses are too easily viewed as sales gimmicks that ultimately fail to help the airline curb long-term attrition. Unfortunately, American Airlines Group continues to resist the pilots’ argument that while bonuses implemented in the later part of the year aided in temporary recruitment, the solution to hiring and retention issues is an overall improved compensation package.
“Making permanent contractual improvements rather than temporary improvements to compensation is the only way to effectively combat attrition and improve our ability to attract and retain pilots at PSA,” said Capt. Travis Ricks, the pilots’ MEC chairman. “Real contractual improvements benefit not only PSA pilots, but also raise the bar for the entire industry.”
Soon after implementing the retention bonus program, PSA increased the signing bonus for new-hire first officers by an additional $1,520, bringing first-year first officer compensation to near the top of the regional industry pay scale. The pilots’ flow-through agreement with American Airlines implemented in September 2015 is another factor that could help attract new hires to the airline. Pilots with about nine years of seniority are currently moving up to American. If attrition stays at the current level, new hires can expect to flow through to American in approximately six to seven years.
“By attracting and retaining pilots, we hope to eventually increase the rate at which PSA pilots flow to American,” Ricks said. “In the meantime, we’ll continue advising management that in order to have successful recruitment and retention, PSA needs to make permanent improvements to the pilots’ collective bargaining agreement.”
In an effort to support the company in attracting new flightcrew members, the pilots are launching a new educational website for the general public in 2017. PSAContractNow.com will offer details on the pilot group’s collective bargaining agreement, give updates on the top issues facing pilots, offer insights into the work life of pilots flying for a regional carrier, and feature the State of the Union publication.
“We’re hopeful that 2017 will see additional pilots hired on at PSA and that we’ll continue our productive relationship with management, which will benefit both our pilot group and the airline,” commented Ricks.