Experience Counts

By Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA President

The indisputable value of two qualified, fully trained, and highly experienced pilots at the controls of every airliner was clear to all recently, as a United flight crew returned to land safely at Denver International Airport after an engine failure and Frontier pilots responded safely to a deicing hazard identified just moments before takeoff from Nashville International Airport. On these and every U.S. and Canadian flight, ALPA’s experienced pilot workforce is fundamental to the extraordinary level of safety passengers and cargo shippers expect from air transportation.

While there’s no substitute for experience on the flight deck, the same holds true for all of ALPA’s work on our members’ behalf. As we celebrate our 90th year, ALPA is also drawing from our union’s decades of experience in advocating our pilot-partisan agenda and negotiating strong pilot contracts at the bargaining table.

In the United States, ALPA is engaging at the highest levels with the Biden administration and new Members of Congress. Thanks to our members’ unity, ALPA’s efforts are already yielding results. For example, when reports initially surfaced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was considering a COVID-19 testing requirement for passengers on U.S. domestic flights, ALPA took our concerns to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

In a personal conversation as well as a follow-up letter, I described for the secretary how current COVID-19 testing capacity is inadequate to test passengers on the more than 12,000 current U.S. domestic daily departures and that such a requirement would lead to further economic devastation for aviation workers. When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki commented, “Reports that there’s an intention to put in place new requirements, such as testing, are not accurate,” it was important progress in our union’s efforts to stabilize our airlines and strengthen our industry.

In Congress, ALPA is also sharing our members’ experiences over time and during COVID-19. For example, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) invited ALPA pilots from New York to meet with him virtually to describe how the CARES Act has affected aviation workers. During the conversation, I joined ALPA pilots in underscoring our indispensable role in responding to the pandemic and emphasized that extending the CARES Act with proworker protections is critical. In testimony before the U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee a few days later, I expressed ALPA’s appreciation to the House for passing the American Rescue Plan, which extends the payroll support program through September 30, and urged the Senate to act quickly to pass the legislation and preserve aviation workers’ jobs.

During ALPA’s recent Government Affairs Chairs Conference, pilot advocates from more than 10 pilot groups gathered virtually to share experiences with each other as well as with key lawmakers. I was pleased to welcome Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who recently introduced the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Act of 2021 (H.R. 911). The bipartisan legislation mandates the installation of secondary flight deck barriers on all existing passenger airliners—important progress in achieving one of the goals in our union’s strategic plan.

In Canada, ALPA is promoting a new Call to Action to #SaveCanadianAviation. We’re urging the prime minister and his government to support the aviation sector and the tens of thousands of Canadians it employs. A year into the pandemic, the federal government has yet to provide substantive support for our industry in Canada, leaving the jobs of aviation workers, as well as the nation’s economic recovery, in jeopardy. Led by F/O Tim Perry, ALPA Canada president, the Twitter Call to Action underscores to Canada’s elected officials the value of the Canadian aviation industry—and that it needs help now.

In all our union’s advocacy, ALPA pilots focus on the dignity of work, fair competition in international agreements, aviation safety and security, and diversity and inclusion in our profession. At the same time, our union is supporting our master executive councils as they negotiate agreements to advance our pilots’ goals. As was evidenced during ALPA’s recent Negotiations Training Seminar, our union’s 35 pilot groups are doing business in a range of economic environments. In response, ALPA’s pilot negotiators, backed by experienced staff and expert resources, have negotiated more than 100 agreements since March 2020 to stabilize our companies, preserve jobs, and protect pilots’ health.

In these ways and many others, ALPA is seizing new opportunities for our pilots with the U.S. and Canadian governments as well as at the bargaining table. Whether on the flight deck or in the halls of government, when opportunities arise, ALPA’s experience counts.