United Pilots
A record number of United pilots attend ALPA’s 2017 Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.

During 2017, the United pilot group continued its long history of fighting to improve and protect the airline piloting profession. After starting the year with contract improvements resulting from the successful application of pattern-bargaining strategies, the United Master Executive Council (MEC) ended the year with the announcement that the next round of Section 6 contract negotiations would open early. As part of these discussions, the parties are addressing outstanding implementation and grievance issues to streamline the Section 6 process and allow negotiators to focus on high-priority contractual improvements in 2018.

The pilot group was also on the forefront of pilot-partisan legislative issues throughout 2017, including advocating in the news media and on Capitol Hill for an end to flag-of-convenience schemes, calling for safer practices regarding lithium batteries, publicly denouncing the unfair practices of state-subsidized airlines, and fighting to maintain the industry’s high safety and training standards.

MEC members were featured on Fox News in February, calling for the enforcement of provisions in U.S. Open Skies agreements designed to protect American aviation jobs. Capt. Todd Insler, the pilots’ MEC chairman, and pilot spokesmen were also quoted and featured in prominent news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and TheStreet.com, delivering their message to the flying public and representatives in Washington, D.C.

“Failure to compete in the marketplace should not be cause for some regional airlines to compromise airline safety in any way,” said Insler in a press release addressing Sen. John Thune’s FAA reauthorization amendment aimed at weakening safety standards. “These carriers must stop hiding behind this fake pilot shortage, and Congress must stop putting today’s hard-won safety record at risk.”

The United MEC also advanced its advocacy efforts at ALPA’s Legislative Summit in June. A record number of United pilots joined their fellow ALPA members in urging legislators on Capitol Hill to protect first officer qualification and training standards in the FAA reauthorization.

In addition to opening expedited negotiations and vigorous advocacy campaigns, the United pilot group made headlines for its humanitarian efforts. On October 4, United pilots came together with United Airlines, the AFL-CIO, the Association of Flight Attendants, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to transport more than 300 relief workers and union volunteers, including skilled craftsmen, first responders, and medical staff, to provide aid and resources to their fellow Americans severely impacted by Hurricane Maria.

The MEC chairman arranged for United Airlines to donate a B-777 for the trip from Newark Liberty Airport to Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport carrying 35,000 pounds of relief supplies (see “Flying Heroes: ALPA Pilots Deliver Aid to Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico,” November 2017). The return flight from San Juan was filled with Puerto Rican evacuees, patients seeking medical attention not available on the island, and aid workers seeking to return to the mainland.

“This is different. I’m taking supplies down to people who need it, and I’m taking people from a dangerous situation to safety,” said F/O Mike Hamilton, an ALPA executive vice president and one of the United pilots who flew the trip. “It’s a unique opportunity to use my profession as an airline pilot to do something that touches people directly; and for me, it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The new year already proves to be promising. For the first time in 15 years, the MEC leadership was elected unanimously. Todd Insler returns to his role as chairman and is joined by Capt. Tom Murphy as vice chairman, Capt. Bill Neveu as secretary, and Capt. Rick Cameron as treasurer. This was a powerful show of unity and support, and the pilot group moves into 2018 stronger than ever.

With more than 12,700 pilots and a promising contract negotiation on the horizon, the United pilot group begins 2018 unified and determined to win all challenges and seize all opportunities during the coming year.