Weighing In: Growing Stronger Every Year

By Capt. Randy Helling, ALPA Vice President–Finance/Treasurer

More than ever, pilots throughout North America are choosing the Air Line Pilots Association, International as their bargaining representative. Since May 2014, we’ve had six airlines join our ranks—Air Georgian, Encore, Frontier, JetBlue, Virgin America, and WestJet. And we continue to prepare for other possible organizing campaigns and union mergers on the horizon as we talk to pilots from many airlines.

None of this happens by accident. It’s the result of hard work and fiscal discipline combining to make us an extremely attractive option for airline pilots. It comes from the contracts we’ve negotiated, it comes from our safety work, it comes from our staff, and it also comes from our finances—finances that have been strong and have been getting even stronger over the past half-decade plus. And that’s due to our discipline, our ability to stay within our budget, and our tough decisions about ALPA’s spending and priorities.

Alexa von Tobel, the author of the best-selling book Financially Fearless, wrote, “A good financial plan is a road map that shows us exactly how the choices we make today will affect our future.” Having just that kind of plan is how we’ve gotten to the strong position we’re in today—and it’s something to still keep in mind as we take today’s positives and prepare for the unknown future.

Yes, today our finances are strong. And yes, the airline industry is currently strong as well. But as you may have read in the article “The State of the North American Airline Industry” in October’s Air Line Pilot, while the trend is still positive a few threats are potentially looming. Our job is to keep an eye on those threats—and any others that may surface—and plan accordingly.

And our plans constantly take into consideration whose money we’re working with—yours. Our pilots’ money. We must always act to maintain your trust that your hard-earned dues dollars are being spent wisely on behalf of you and your family. Our commitment to that trust and to keeping that trust is first and foremost in our decision-making process.

The Operating Contingency Fund (OCF) plays a vital role in providing a source of supplemental funding for master executive councils that need it when unexpected items or actions affect their budgets—a backstop, if you will. Thanks to a continued focus on financial discipline, the OCF balance continues to move in a positive direction. There has been steady growth and stabilization in the fund over the past decade. And those solid results allowed us to transfer $7 million to help further recapitalize the Major Contingency Fund (see page 26).

And we’re in the closing months of Project AMBER, our three-year-long infrastructure improvement effort. All of the improvements—and more to come—will enable the various components of ALPA’s infrastructure to interact and communicate more effectively, while offering additional levels of protection and service to members.

And there are more important improvements on the horizon that will directly affect you, our members. As of late October, members can now complete applications, implement changes to coverage, and report life events for ALPA insurance offerings online. Soon you’ll have a more comprehensive and easier-to-use My Account function on ALPA’s website. And you’ll see a simplified and more informative billing statement.

All the work we do—all the work our volunteers do—is, when it comes down to it, for the direct benefit of our members. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich once said, “Your most precious possession is not your financial assets. Your most precious possession is the people you have working there, and what they carry around in their heads, and their ability to work together.” Our volunteers and our members are ALPA. We would not be 59,000 strong—and growing stronger every year—without all of you.

This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of Air Line Pilot.

Read the latest Air Line Pilot (PDF)