Airline Pilots Securing Their Future through ALPA

Air Line Pilot, May 2004, p.30

ALPA's Safety Net: Member Benefit Plans

One of the distinctive characteristics of a successful union is its ability to parlay collective might into gains for its members. Proof that ALPA has earned the designation of "successful union" is evident in the benefit plans that the Association offers its members.

ALPA provides an array of plans such as life, loss-of-license, short-term disability, extended total disability, accidental death and dismemberment, and long-term care insurance, as well as financial planning/investment advice for retired pilots.

ALPA provides an array of plans such as life, loss-of-license, short-term disability, extended total disability, accidental death and dismemberment, and long-term care insurance, as well as financial planning/investment advice for retired pilots. They are all prime examples of how ALPA has pooled the resources of all its members to provide pilots with superior group coverage that cannot be obtained by other unions or from private sources.

Designed by pilots serving on ALPA’s National Retirement and Insurance Committee, working with Association staff and selected insurers, ALPA’s plans are tailored for airline pilots’ specific needs.

Loss of license

ALPA leveraged its collective buying position with the Loss of License Coverage. With more than 14,000 members in the plan, ALPA recognized that many airline employee-benefit plans define disability in a way that does not include a pilot’s losing his or her airman medical certificate. Because of the large number of pilots in the plan, ALPA was able to negotiate an "own occupation" definition of disability, meaning benefits may be payable if the claimant is determined to be unable to perform his/her duties as a pilot, even if not disabled from a nonpiloting career. In the case of ALPA’s plan, the determination is based on whether a pilot lost his or her FAA airman medical certificate. Under this definition, a pilot with Type 1 diabetes, who otherwise might not be considered disabled, would qualify for benefits.

As a complement to the Loss of License Coverage, ALPA also offers Lump Sum Loss of License Insurance, which, unlike the monthly benefit plan described above, provides benefits in a single sum ranging from $50,000 to $250,000.

Life insurance plans

Approximately 19,000 ALPA members are enrolled in the Association’s largest plan, ALPA Group Term Life Insurance. Under this plan, ALPA members are covered during any flying—civil, recreational, or military, and no exclusions or limitations apply. ALPA has offered this plan for more than 50 years, and it has stood the test of time. As with the Loss of License Coverage, ALPA used its combined purchasing power to ensure that the underwriting for the ALPA Group Term Life Insurance was more accepting than that for individual plans.

The Association also offers a 10-Year Level Term Life Plan to members, which was introduced at ALPA in the fall of 2001. This plan is another example of the advantage of pooling resources. The R&I Committee and ALPA’s insurance experts reviewed the market and wanted to make this level-term life plan more attractive by increasing the coverage limits. ALPA was able to demonstrate the success we had had over many decades and achieved the improvements to the coverage limits, which range from $300,000 up to $1,500,000 for ALPA members and their spouses.

As with the Group Term Life Plan, the 10-Year Level Term Life Plan covers pilots during any flying—civil, recreational, or military. Coverage, once approved, remains level, and initial premiums are projected to remain level for 10 years.

Pilots have designed all of the ALPA-sponsored plans for pilots. Working with the ALPA National R&I Committee, ALPA staff members monitor the ALPA group member insurance programs to ensure that they provide optimum benefit to ALPA members. In working with insurance companies, the Committee advocates on pilots’ behalf and thus is able to minimize many of the exclusions that would otherwise make the plans unattractive to members. For example, ALPA’s Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance covers pilots’ activities more broadly than other plans do.

All of the ALPA-sponsored plans are meant to complement the plans available through the employer. In addition, ALPA’s disability plans don’t offset benefits to account for other coverage.

More options

Here’s an overview of the benefits of several other member benefit plans available for apprentice, active, or reactivated members to purchase:

• ALPA Short-Term Disability Income Insurance provides exclusive, affordable group rates that help bridge the gap between employer and long-term disability plans. Participants can choose from $500 up to $3,000 in monthly benefit options (in $500 increments), and receive up to 1 full year of disability benefits.

• For pilots unable to fly due to a covered disability, ALPA Extended Total Disability Insurance is an ideal companion to the ALPA Loss of License Coverage. Participants can receive up to $3,000 per month in benefits. This plan is specially designed to start benefit payments if a pilot is still totally disabled after he or she has received the final Loss of License benefit payment. ALPA members must be enrolled in the ALPA Loss of License Coverage to be eligible to apply for this coverage.

• The ALPA Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance is available for pilots and their families. The plan offers up to $350,000 in around-the-clock/around-the-world coverage. Acceptance is guaranteed for active and retired members to age 70.

• Under the ALPA Long-Term Care Insurance plan, spouses, parents, and in-laws are eligible. The plan provides $85-$230 in maximum daily benefits for nursing home care, and includes coverage at lower levels for home health care and adult day care. Coverage is through John Hancock Life Insurance Company, a recognized leader in long-term care insurance.

• For ALPA members flying for Canadian carriers, two life insurance plans are available: basic life insurance in the amount of $10,000 is provided to all eligible Canadian members, and optional life insurance ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 is offered through a recently established relationship with The Co-operators, a large Canadian insurer. In addition, Extended Mutual Aid, a disability plan that replaces up to 40 percent of monthly income (to a limit of $2,380 in benefits), is provided to all eligible Canadian members. (Eligibility ends at age 65.)

In today’s uncertain economic environment, benefits are at the center of debate in the news media, in Congress, and at the bargaining table. ALPA understands that pilots’ unique needs are a top consideration when the time comes to refine existing member benefit plans and add new ones. As a result, ALPA has capitalized on the Association’s collective strength to design unique, affordable member benefit plans that can’t be found anywhere else.

For more information about the ALPA-sponsored member benefit plans, visit the ALPA website at or call ALPA at 1-888-FLY-ALPA.