Release #04.038
September 3, 2004

ALPA Ready to Help Build New Pension Model

Union President: Extending Pension Payments Critical First Step

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Capt. Duane E. Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), has issued the following statement on the crisis involving defined-benefit pension plans in the airline industry.

"ALPA will spare no effort to protect the pension benefits that our members have earned and rightfully expect to receive. Our first priority is to protect the interests of pilots who are approaching retirement and who rightfully expect that they will receive the pension benefits their employers promised. At the same time, we are dedicated to ensuring that younger pilots can count on robust retirement plans and will never face the termination or decimation of their hard-earned benefits.

"ALPA is extremely concerned about the future of defined-benefit pension plans for pilots unless we provide a method for the nation’s already stressed air carriers to deal with their current unfunded pension obligations. Tens of thousands of pilots risk losing benefits they have earned.

"The cornerstone of any solution to the pension crisis must be long-term amortization of current unfunded obligations. This relief is the key that can unlock the door to long-term capital financing. If the markets strengthen once again, the airline industry will have the time needed to undertake a strategic, deliberate approach that provides pilots with a secure retirement and maintains fiscally healthy airlines.

"Given sufficient breathing room, pilots, other employee groups and management can craft creative solutions that provide secure alternatives to pure defined-benefit plans for pilots who have more time until they reach retirement age. The exact methods for accomplishing this goal will have to be negotiated separately at each airline in accordance with pilots’ needs and the financial conditions of each carrier.

"Each airline must create an individual solution to the pension crisis; but for some airlines, the solution may lie in shifting away from excessive reliance on defined-benefit plans as the primary sources of benefits, either by replacing them or by devising combination plans with a larger defined-contribution component."

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing 64,000 pilots at 43 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at

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ALPA Contact: John Mazor or Linda Shotwell, 703-481-4440 or