May 3, 2007
Pilots Urge Congress to Restore Fair Retirement Benefits
ALPA Applauds Sen. Akaka and Rep. Miller for Introducing Legislation
WASHINGTON, DC — In testimony before a sub-committee of the House Education and Labor Committee today, Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), urged members of Congress to pass legislation that would stop the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) from slashing pilot retirement benefits because they are legally required to retire at age 60.
“By targeting relief to those whose retirement benefits were most affected by the economic horrors that have devastated airlines and their workers since 2001, this legislation is a win-win for pilots and for the nation,” said Prater.
In the wake of the economic downturn following 9/11, bankruptcy courts rubber stamped requests by U.S. airlines, such as Aloha Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and US Airways, to terminate their defined-benefit retirement plans as part of the companies’ plans to exit bankruptcy.
“Many ALPA pilots lost as much as 75 percent of their earned retirement benefits when their pension plans were terminated,” said Prater. “Adding insult to injury, these pilots are now paying a double penalty—they don’t receive the maximum guaranteed benefit when Federal Aviation Regulations force them to retire at age 60.”
While the Pension Protection Act of 2006 made some important reforms, pilots with terminated defined-benefit pension plans still receive dramatically reduced retirement benefits because the PBGC defines the “normal” retirement age as 65 and actuarially reduces the benefit payment for individuals who retire earlier.
“These retirement benefits were hard-earned as deferred income that pilots accrued over their careers,” said Prater. “It is unconscionable to further reduce the small percentage of the original earned benefit that pilots would have received under a federal program that is supposed to be a safety net.”
Prater underscored to the Committee members that ALPA and its more than 60,000 pilots and their families applaud Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) for introducing this legislation to correct the unfair treatment of pilots.
If passed, H.R. 2103 and S. 1270 would allow pilots at age 60 to receive the maximum benefit guarantee calculated as though they had reached the age of 65. Altering the maximum in this way limits PBGC liability. Many pilots at the upper end of the age spectrum are not affected because their benefits were not reduced as much as those of more recent retirees or those approaching retirement. PBGC liability would be capped at the other end of the age spectrum because it does not affect younger pilots who will not have accrued a benefit high enough to be limited by the actuarial reduction rule.
“This is a historic opportunity for Congress to correct a needless injustice inflicted on the airline pilots who have time and again demonstrated their commitment to helping their companies succeed in the face of tremendous economic hardship,” concluded Prater.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing 60,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org.
# # #
ALPA CONTACTS: Pete Janhunen, Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, 703-481-4440