Release #04.MSA
January 30, 2004

ALPA’s Mesaba Pilots Ratify New Contract

EAGAN, MINN. --- After a lengthy battle negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with their employer, Mesaba Airlines pilots have ratified their contract by a 66% margin. Mesaba officials signed the deal with the pilots’ union leaders late Friday afternoon.

The contract comes after 930 days of negotiations, including a 42-hour non-stop bargaining session after pilots rolled their strike deadline January 9. Mesaba was forced to temporarily suspend flights during this period, but the pilots never actually went on strike.

Contract improvements in job security, wages, retirement, and work rules were the top issues for the pilot group, which is represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International. Virtually every section of the contract was enhanced, according to union officials.

"Despite a tough environment in the airline industry, pilots have achieved a contract that secures their jobs and provides overdue increases to their compensation and retirement," said Capt. Tom Wychor, chairman of the Mesaba unit of ALPA. "But the real credit for this contract goes to every Mesaba pilot for his and her professionalism and resolve throughout the arduous negotiating process."

The new contract also binds Mesaba’s holding company, MAIR Holdings, to all flying opportunities including all future growth at Mesaba or any other future MAIR subsidiary. The job security provisions also state that Big Sky Airlines, which operates out of Billings, Mont., will be restricted to its current operation of aircraft that have 19 seats or less.

"Any new flying that Mesaba or MAIR Holdings gains, whether it comes from Northwest Airlines or another carrier, will be flown by Mesaba pilots," stated Mesaba pilot and union spokesman Kris Pierson. "Our pilots wore buttons with the slogan ‘Our Profits, Our Jobs.’ The new contract makes that vision a reality."

Pilots will see pay increases effective January 31 that range from 5% to 27%. Entry level pilots who had been paid only $17,000 will jump to $21,600. In addition, the pilots will get annual longevity increases and additional pay bumps that average 3% per year during the five-year contract. Overall, wages will increase by 37% on average from today to the end of the contract.

"In regards to the new retirement package, the reality for our pilots is that many of them will make a career at Mesaba without ever flying for a larger carrier," said Wychor. "It was very important that we shore up pilots’ retirement provisions and pay scales to make it feasible for them to retire from Mesaba Airlines at the federally mandated age 60, and I believe we’ve taken a positive step in that direction with this new contract."

"Many of our pilots have been disenchanted with managements tactics over the last 2½ years and this process has taken an enormous toll on the pilot group. We hope that management recognizes this and will work with ALPA to address our pilots’ concerns," said Pierson.

Mesaba Airlines operates as a Northwest Jet Airlink and Northwest Airlink partner for Northwest Airlines. Mesaba serves 111 cities in 20 states and Canada from Northwest's three major hubs: Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis. Mesaba employs 844 professional airline pilots who operate an advanced fleet of 100 regional jet and jet-prop aircraft.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union representing 66,000 pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA Web site at

# # #

SOURCE: Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA)

ALPA CONTACT: Kris Pierson – 612-839-0789