U.S. Airline Relief Must Include Pilots - By Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA President

As the world confronts COVID-19, airline pilots are doing our jobs: safeguarding passengers and freight while bringing people, goods, and services together to drive the global economy. As your captains and first officers, we need Congress to do its job by swiftly providing economic assistance to stabilize the airline industry and protect the frontline aviation workers who help keep our skies safe and our country moving.

Bringing economic relief and stability to U.S. airlines is imperative—airline workers, our industry, and our nation’s economy depend on it. As the world’s largest pilot union, the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) represents pilots from across the full political spectrum. Our more than 63,000 members are speaking with one voice in support of core principles that must form the basis of any federal assistance package:

  • Any airline economic relief must include direct financial assistance to airlines to provide the liquidity necessary to keep airplanes flying and workers on the job. To that end, federal assistance must be used to pay airline employees’ salaries and benefits.
  • Importantly, this crisis cannot be used as an opportunity to weaken or unfairly alter collective bargaining agreements negotiated in good faith under the Railway Labor Act, including through the bankruptcy courts.
  • In addition, federal legislators must make certain that furloughed workers remain covered by employer healthcare and welfare plans at active employee rates

Airline pilots in this country are facing flight reductions, reduced work schedules, furloughs, and shutdowns. Many of us have worked for our airlines for decades if not our entire careers. Still others of us also come from multigenerational piloting families in which our parents and even grandparents also flew for the airlines. Our collective memory means airline pilots are painfully and personally aware of the tremendous harm that is exacted on workers if government assistance does not come with adequate labor protections.

Our passengers and air freight shippers clearly understand the importance of Congress including conditions to ensure labor receives a fair and full share of any airline relief package. U.S. flyers and freight shippers have joined ALPA pilots in sending more than 120,000 letters to Congress calling on the government to prioritize frontline aviation workers and provide assistance to all commercial airlines, regardless of size. And you can join them by taking action.

Now and always, airline pilots are adhering to the high standards of professionalism that we demand of ourselves—and that our passengers and shippers expect. Airline pilots are considered “essential” to the U.S. economy, especially in challenging times. So is Congressional support of essential employees—we can only do our jobs if federal lawmakers do theirs. We need Congress to stabilize the U.S. airline industry and make certain that the same frontline workers who make it move safely each and every day also share in the economic relief it receives.

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