ALPA’s Strategic Plan: Two Years of Substantial Progress

By Lydia Jakub, Strategic Planning and Resources Specialist, Strategic Member Development & Resources Department

ALPA is stronger today than ever before. This is the result of a robust strategic plan, established by the Board of Directors (BOD) and implemented by hundreds of ALPA pilot leaders, subject-matter experts, and professional staff.

The BOD will convene this month in Washington, D.C., for its biennial meeting. One of the agenda items will be to craft the Association’s next two-year strategic plan. This plan will continue to be an invaluable guide for ALPA’s leaders, focusing every action on achieving the Association’s collective goals and objectives. To prepare for these discussions, BOD members reviewed the current strategic plan as well as the progress that’s been made over the last two years.

In 2016, the BOD restructured the strategic plan to include goals, objectives, and initiatives in eight areas: pilot representation; the future of the profession; safety, security, and pilot assistance; stewardship; excellence and expertise; content and engagement; growth; and direct member services. Each topic was assigned to a corresponding delegate committee at the BOD meeting.

Since then, ALPA’s Strategic Planning Committee has provided the BOD with a comprehensive progress report each spring and fall. The final update on the 2016 strategic plan was delivered last month, and the results are astounding. ALPA has made significant progress in each of the eight key areas—not only enhancing the current environment but also making steady advancements toward future success.

Let’s look at a few of ALPA’s accomplishments over the past two years. Log in to view the full report.

Pilot Representation

A pilot’s collective bargaining agreement sets standards and establishes a process to ensure that the terms are enforced. Delegate Committee 5 at the 2016 BOD meeting addressed pilot representation issues to advance ALPA members’ careers.

Key results: ALPA successfully concluded major negotiations with significant improvements in pay, benefits, working conditions, and job security at eight pilot groups. Several other pilot groups have also bargained meaningful midterm improvements to their agreements.

At any given time, approximately a third of ALPA’s pilot groups are involved in some form of contract negotiations. Strategic planning has become an essential tool for master executive councils (MECs) during their normal course of business. In addition, annual negotiations and grievance training seminars were held to provide pilots with the knowledge, skills, and expertise for bargaining and grievance processing.

Pilot collaboration is key to continued progress at the bargaining table. As such, ALPA held bargaining roundtables for large-jet pilot groups and meetings for fee-for-departure pilot groups. ALPA’s Fee-for-Departure Committee also held a total of 10 application and interview workshops, preparing 150 pilots for career-advancement opportunities.

Future of the Profession

ALPA made great strides in its work to secure the future of the profession per the 2016 BOD’s direction, which was discussed in Delegate Committee 7.

Key results: While the profession continues to get stronger, its future was rocked briefly this year by a last-minute addition to the FAA reauthorization bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would potentially eliminate pilot jobs from the flight deck. ALPA’s immediate and powerful response to this threat has left the Association stronger for what is certain to be a long war. The bill also included ALPA-supported H.R. 2150, the “Flags of Convenience Don’t Fly Here Act,” which would restore the integrity of U.S. Open Skies agreements and prevent flag-of-convenience business models from proliferating in the U.S. airline industry, among other ALPA priorities. ALPA’s Legal Department strongly opposed the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) approval of Norwegian Air International’s application for a U.S. foreign air carrier permit, filing a petition for review of the DOT’s order with the D.C. Court of Appeals, which the court denied in May 2018.

Legislative summits were held annually to educate members about the Association’s political agenda and give them the tools to speak about how these issues affect their careers. Pilots also visited Capitol Hill to put their newfound skills to use in meetings with Members of Congress. In 2017, ALPA’s Political Action Committee (ALPA-PAC) raised $2.23 million and supported 363 pilot-partisan candidates and committees across the country. ALPA-PAC is currently on track to meet its 2018 goal of $2.4 million.

In addition to ALPA’s government affairs work in this area, the Education Committee has been successful in its expanded efforts to inspire, educate, and mentor the next generation of pilots. The Association is connecting young people with the airline piloting profession through classroom visits, community and industry events, and formal alliances with university flight programs. Over the last two years, memorandums of understanding were signed with two universities, marking ALPA’s 11th formalized professional development/mentoring program at the collegiate level. During the 2017–18 academic year, ALPA’s Education Committee volunteers spoke with approximately 1,800 collegiate aviators at 24 universities. ALPA pilots also reached more than 15,500 elementary, middle, and high school students at more than 140 events in the U.S. and Canada.

Safety, Security, Pilot Assistance, and Jumpseat

Championing aviation safety, security, pilot assistance, and jumpseat remains at the core of ALPA’s priorities. In 2016, Delegate Committee 3’s discussions centered on attaining the safest and most secure air transportation system for passengers, pilots, and cargo and achieving and maintaining the safest and most secure operating environment. The following year, in October 2017, a fourth pillar—Aviation Jumpseat—was added to the safety, security, and pilot assistance structure of ALPA’s Air Safety Organization (ASO).

Additional key results:

  • Pilot training and qualification standards—ALPA’s advocacy over more than two years has blocked any rollbacks or changes to rules related to first officer qualification, training, and experience requirements.
  • Safeguarding against undeclared dangerous goods/unsafe lithium battery transport—Ongoing efforts include ALPA’s recent partnership with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to develop an outreach program (checkthebox.dot.gov) to educate both commercial and public shippers on the dangers of undeclared hazardous materials shipments.
  • One level of safety and security for passenger and all-cargo operations—ALPA successfully lobbied for the formation of a cargo work group under the Joint Implementation Monitoring and Data Analysis Team, which ALPA co-leads, to identify the differences in risk between passenger and cargo operations.
  • Safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system—ALPA continues its participation in industry and government groups, including two Aviation Rulemaking Committees, to ensure the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.
  • Safety reporting programs—ASO representatives and ALPA staff supported multiple MECs in their efforts to implement and sustain viable Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAP) and Flight Operations Quality Assurance programs. An ASAP workshop will be held in October in Minneapolis, Minn. In addition, ALPA has stressed the importance of these programs for increasing aviation safety to Members of Congress. The resultant U.S. House of Representatives FAA reauthorization bill directs the FAA to modify ASAP so that all reports are automatically accepted. This provision is pending as an amendment to the Senate version of the bill as well.
  • Known Crewmember® program—The program, which ALPA cosponsors, has grown to 90 airports, likely saving flight crews more than one million hours of total “passenger screening” time each year. In Canada, ALPA continues to advocate for a similar program to provide relief for screening facilities that are near or at capacity.
  • Working toward science-based flight- and duty-time regulations in Canada and for all-cargo—In the U.S., ALPA continues to advocate for flight- and duty-time rules for all-cargo operations that are equivalent to those of passenger-carrying airlines. In Canada, ALPA has been extensively involved in the development of the revised rules since 2010, teaming with other pilot unions in 2017 to provide a unified position on the proposed rule as well as educate politicians and the public on the urgent need to implement science-based fatigue rules. As of the conclusion of the parliamentary session in June 2018, final new fatigue-management regulations have still not been published.
  • Pilot Assistance—Recently, ALPA created the Pilot Peer Support (PPS) program to help U.S. ALPA members dealing with nonwork-related issues of a personal or emotional nature. Administered by the Association’s Aeromedical Group, the inaugural training for PPS volunteers was held during ALPA’s 64th Air Safety Forum in August and is slated to go active during the fourth quarter of 2018.
  • Jumpseat—In creating the Aviation Jumpseat pillar, ALPA is maintaining a focus on promoting pilot-in-command authority over the jumpseat. The new group created a training video for new hires and is working with Canadian airlines to conduct a feasibility study on a cockpit access security system.

Stewardship

ALPA’s resources, while unrivaled, are not unlimited. In 2016, BOD Delegate Committee 1 looked at ways to allocate resources effectively, operate with increased transparency, and employ appropriate risk-management practices to ensure the highest level of stewardship over Association resources.

Key results: The Association’s financial position is sound and continues to improve as dues revenue has exceeded spending. In fact, the 2018 BOD will consider the possibility of a dues reduction per the recommendation of ALPA’s Executive Board.

The Association also successfully completed the ALPA Membership & Business Enterprise Resource Project to streamline its operational systems. Among the many enhancements, this program provided for improved transparency and reporting on ALPA’s resources, an online membership application, and a portal for member insurance.

Furthermore, the Association continues to augment the Major Contingency Fund and Kitty Hawk to protect itself and its members against future threats. The vigorous defense of ALPA in duty of fair representation and other significant lawsuits has resulted in no new cases being filed and the dismissal or settlements of many others.

Excellence and Expertise

ALPA has the highest caliber of pilot volunteers and staff working to protect and advance the profession. Recognizing the need to ensure that the Association’s human resources remain unmatched, the 2016 BOD Delegate Committee 2 prioritized developing and maintaining their expertise. Initiatives focused on recruiting and retaining highly skilled pilot volunteers and staff, training to enhance their skills, and providing them with effective tools to support their efforts.

Key results: The Strategic Preparedness and Strike Committee (SPSC) exemplifies these efforts, working one-on-one with MECs to mentor and train SPSC volunteers and assist them in achieving their bargaining, contract enforcement, and other goals. It also hosted its biennial workshop in November 2017 for MEC SPSC, Pilot-to-Pilot®, Family Awareness, and Communications volunteers to share ideas and sharpen their skills in their areas of expertise. Due to workshop feedback, a new volunteer database was created to help facilitate collaboration among ALPA’s pilot groups.

In addition, a staffing plan was designed to provide continuity as longtime staff moves toward retirement and to add more resources in areas like technology services where there’s tremendous demand. An all-employee meeting with training and development opportunities focused on enhancing the employee experience at ALPA was held in February 2018; feedback from that meeting is being used to drive and prioritize the Association’s engagement strategy.

Content and Engagement

Engaging members is key to successfully achieving the union’s desired goals and objectives; it requires two-way commitment and communication between the leaders and its members as well as a mechanism for measuring effectiveness and acting upon member feedback. The 2016 BOD Delegate Committee 4 focused on these and other methods for engaging members and stakeholders.

Key results: Through a multipronged communications strategy on issues spanning the breadth of the Association, ALPA expanded its outreach to members and stakeholders. Emphasis was placed on incorporating new technologies into more traditional methods, soliciting feedback, and making adjustments as needed. ALPA’s “Trained for Life” branding campaign, for example, succeeded in increasing public awareness of ALPA’s efforts on behalf of the piloting profession and helped advance its key advocacy, representation, and safety goals.

Additional strategic communication tactics were employed to support collective bargaining, legislative, and other efforts in the U.S. and Canada. Each included a tailored social media plan to amplify messages. The high-profile paid and earned media campaigns at Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Spirit, and WestJet are just a few recent examples.

Innovative, responsive websites such as ALPA’s Cleared to Dream site (clearedtodream.org), which launched in 2017, contain enhanced information for a more robust viewing experience. Microsites on issues ranging from pilot supply to the status of MEC negotiations also provide platforms from which to leverage public relations campaigns and connect with the traveling public. To date, ALPA supports more than 150 national, MEC, local council, committee, and other websites. A website audit was conducted to assess the development and implementation process, and steps are being taken to streamline the operations and deliver the highest-quality digital presence possible.

Growth

There’s immeasurable strength and power in numbers. In 2016, BOD Delegate Committee 6 set out a path to preserve and grow ALPA’s membership through focusing on internal organizing and strategically assessing external organizing drives. Since then, the Association’s Organizing Task Force has met quarterly to carry out that direction and prioritize potential organizing opportunities.

Key results: Over the past two years, ALPA has welcomed four new pilot groups and more than 2,500 new members. This includes more than 230 pilots from Air Georgian in January 2017, over 1,400 pilots from WestJet in May 2017, approximately 500 pilots from WestJet Encore in November 2017, and nearly 400 flightdeck crewmembers from Kalitta Air in February 2018.

In addition to the recent successful drives, ALPA is making progress with other potential growth opportunities. Most notably, ALPA is currently in formal merger discussions with the Air Canada Pilots Association, and the Association began collecting cards at Air Canada Express carrier Sky Regional in May 2018.

Direct Member Services

Membership has its privileges. To ensure the most effective member services, the 2016 BOD Delegate Committee 8 focused on delivering individual pilot services, providing products that enhance member well-being, equipping pilot leaders with the tools and skills to represent their pilots, and strengthening the connection between ALPA and its membership.

Key results: ALPA remains out in front of its members through a comprehensive program that includes internal training forums, industry events, communications, and other methods to develop and deliver effective direct member services.

ALPA’s Membership and Education Committees continue to promote the profession and engage with members at events such as the International Women in Aviation Conference, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Convention and Career Exposition, National Gay Pilots Association Industry Expo, and EAA AirVenture. In addition, a newly created Women’s Working Group is tasked with considering certain aspects facing female pilots in the airline industry.

In September 2017, ALPA’s Membership Seminar brought together MEC Membership Committee volunteers to discuss administrative details and resources available to all members. An updated new-hire presentation adaptable by U.S. and Canadian pilot groups and a welcome video message from ALPA’s president were debuted at the seminar.

The Furloughed Pilots Support Network (FPSN) developed checklists for MECs and affected members to use in the event of a furlough or shutdown. These documents were provided, along with the support of the FPSN, to the pilots at Island Air and Kelowna Flightcraft.

In 2018, the Association held its first-ever Veterans Affairs Seminar and published the Guide to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act—a useful resource for members who currently serve or have served in the military.

At ALPA’s Leadership Training Conferences, local council representatives and officers were provided with the resources and support they need to carry out their jobs effectively. A series of computer-based training modules were also produced to assist pilot leaders who missed the conference, were elected out of cycle, or needed a refresher in specific areas.


Get to Know ALPA’s Strategic Planning Committee

The Strategic Planning Committee is composed of five members—Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA’s president, who serves as its chair, and Capts. Ron Abel (United), Tony Hauserman (FedEx Express), Chris Hazleton (Delta), and Dave Nieuwenhuis (Atlantic Southeast).

The committee is tasked with

  • Identifying major issues, trends, risks, and opportunities that span the breadth of the Association;
  • Soliciting input on the proposed goals and objectives from master executive councils, ALPA committee chairs, subject-matter experts, and staff;
  • Making recommendations to ALPA’s governing bodies regarding the Association’s strategic plan goals;
  • Coordinating the development of tools and tactics to achieve the Board of Directors’ strategic plan goals; and
  • Providing semiannual progress reports, which are also available online to all ALPA members.

This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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