A Noteworthy Year

By Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA First Vice President

This year will go down as a notable one for airline pilots in the United States and Canada: unprecedented contract wins like those at Frontier and WestJet; the forging of stronger partnerships with other organizations, such as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and Commercial Spaceflight Federation; unparalleled technologic innovations like the rollout of space-based air traffic monitoring; and increasing pilot unity across the industry.

 It’s also been noteworthy in terms of representing the interests of pilots internationally. Earlier in 2019 at a meeting of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), which represents more than 100,000 pilots in nearly 100 countries, ALPA and other pilot organizations affirmed our unified opposition to reduced-crew operations. IFALPA’s proclamation noted, “Our enviable safety record and culture is based upon two properly rested, fully qualified, and well-trained pilots…. It is imperative that any future evolution of this benchmark improves upon it and does not degrade the safety and security level in any area.”

Our efforts to prevent reduced-crew operations are now part of a working paper that IFALPA recently presented to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations that helps lead the world in establishing standards and recommended practices for the global aviation community. We look forward to receiving ICAO’s feedback.

In Europe, the pilots of Ryanair, a transnational airline that uses an atypical employment model, have been facing severe challenges to achieve fair wages, working conditions, and benefits. With 90 pilot bases in almost every EU country and each with differing labor laws and practices, almost half of the airline’s pilots work under self-employment agreements with virtually no job protections and no union protection—allowing management to whipsaw them individually and by base. In their continuing quest for a fair contract, UK-based Ryanair pilots undertook a two-day strike in August.

In one of our many shows of support for the Ryanair pilots, staff from our Communications Department, working with IFALPA, created a unity video. “Ryanair Pilots Fight for a Fair Labor Contract” features labor leaders from around the world showing solidarity with Ryanair’s pilots in Britain and Ireland in their fight for a fair contract. At last count, the video had more than 250,000 views on social media.

Staff members from our Information Technology and Communications Departments also recently developed and rolled out another project: the new Pilot Data Action Report system (DART). This resource is designed to support master executive councils (MECs) that are experiencing high turnover and are task-saturated. DART enables MECs to provide the full service of ALPA to their members—be it answering questions on contracts, safety rules, or other union business. This resource has proven to be a great success for the pilot groups that have deployed it so far, and I can’t wait to see how the data gathered is used to support ALPA’s future.

At its core, ALPA is a labor union with the mission of serving the collective interests of its members. But the Association is vastly different from many other organizations, due to the realities of our profession. Without pilots standing in unity, profits would be prioritized over safety. And while we may be experts on what it takes to safely fly a plane, we can’t do it all. Advocating on behalf of airline pilots in North America and around the globe and for the future of our profession wouldn’t be possible without the outstanding support provided by the Association’s professional staff.

The relationship between ALPA members and staff is vital to the Association’s success. Starting in 2020, the magazine will feature a new department, “Powered by Pilots, Supported by Staff.” This column will showcase the efforts of a cross-section of our pilots who volunteer their time and talents to advocate for our union’s priorities and the cadre of knowledgeable and passionate specialists who support them to achieve the union’s goals. If you have recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

Working together, pilots and staff make ALPA the preeminent pilots’ union in the world.

This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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