Fee-for-Departure Leaders Discuss Industry Dynamics

By Molly Martin, Contributing Writer
Capt. Matt Silker (Envoy Air), ALPA’s Fee for Departure (FFD) Committee chair, leads the discussion regarding the challenges and opportunities the FFD sector is facing.

Leaders from ALPA’s fee-for-departure pilot groups gathered in the Association’s conference center in McLean, Va., on May 17 to discuss challenges and opportunities pertinent to this sector of the airline industry. As air traffic returns to prepandemic levels, this segment continues to experience high attrition as pilots move on to mainline and cargo carriers.

“While career progression is critical for our pilots, it comes with its own set of challenges,” said Capt. Matt Silker (Envoy Air), ALPA’s Fee for Departure (FFD) Committee chair. “Pilot movement means challenges within our pilot groups and the loss of long-standing ALPA leaders at our master executive councils [MECs] and the FFD Committee.”

ALPA is working on creative solutions to help FFD MECs address this issue. F/O Mark Lockwood (Delta), the Association’s Leadership Committee chair, shared union resources available to develop and maintain leadership and services for ALPA’s newest members. “How we provide basic union functions in this environment matters,” Lockwood observed. “The experience pilots have at your carrier is ALPA’s first impression.”

Lockwood referenced his time coming up through regional carriers, including the many FFD Committee initiatives such as career protection, career progression, and improvements in pay and benefits that he heard about in MEC updates. “In the way-back time machine, we didn’t have flow programs and airlines weren’t hiring,” he said. “We’ve come a long way.”

Paul Karg, a manager in ALPA’s Economic & Financial Analysis Department, presented ALPA’s recent FFD pilot survey results and an industry update regarding the FFD segment. “Pay and quality-of-life issues topped the reasons why FFD pilots are leaving their airlines,” Karg noted.

Survey results validated emerging industry trends in the pilot-hiring market that multiple airlines are actively competing for the same pool of new pilots. Those airlines that are successfully hiring the most pilots are doing so largely due to substantially better pilot compensation and benefit programs that produce tangible quality-of-life improvements. In fact, many FFD pilots are returning large retention bonuses to fly for carriers that offer a better quality of life, including more desirable pilot schedules, improved work rules, and faster upgrades.

Results from the survey also indicated that an FFD pilot’s greatest long-term job concern is losing flying, either to another FFD carrier or its mainline partner. In addition, pilots noted that they largely selected the FFD airline they’re working for based on where they live in relation to the airline’s domiciles. They’re also creating their own paths to their top airline choice, stepping outside of established pilot pathways to gain seniority faster.

The FFD meeting wrapped with Joint Standing Committee meeting sessions during which FFD pilot leaders met with their mainline ALPA counterparts from Delta, United, and WestJet to discuss brand-specific challenges. ALPA’s American Airlines Group pilot leaders also met with leaders from the Allied Pilots Association to continue these discussions.

Thanks and Welcome Aboard

During the Fee for Departure (FFD) Committee meeting, Capt. Matt Silker (Envoy Air), ALPA’s FFD Committee chair, thanked Capt. Scott McCormick (PSA), the committee’s former chair, for his service. McCormick left his airline for American Airlines in May. Silker also welcomed the current slate of committee members, many of whom also serve in a leadership position within their FFD master executive council.

The FFD Committee will continue to search for additional members as career progression for these pilots continues. If you’d like to become a committee member, e-mail for more information.

FFD Committee Members

Capt. Matt Silker
(Envoy Air), Chair

Capt. Adam Spurrier
(Endeavor Air), Vice Chair

Capt. Gabriel di Nota
(WestJet Encore), Canadian Rep

Capt. Justin Cunningham
(Piedmont), Member

Capt. John Fremont
(Air Wisconsin), Member

Survey, Please

If you’re a fee-for-departure pilot moving on, please fill out ALPA’s exit survey. Information from the survey helps the Association better allocate resources and further understand how ALPA members are moving throughout the industry. Take the survey.

This article was originally published in the July 2022 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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