February 12, 2008
Continental pilots union signs agreement with
COPA Airlines, SIPAC for hiring retired, furloughed pilots
Unique agreement highlights trend toward industry globalization
HOUSTON, TEXAS—Continental pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), COPA Airlines pilots, represented by the Sindicato Panameño De Aviadores Comerciales (SIPAC), and COPA Airlines, today signed an agreement giving preferential hiring for retired or furloughed Continental pilots when COPA hires foreign pilots. Currently, retired Continental pilots under the age of 65 can be rehired at Continental, but lose their seniority ranking. No Continental pilots are currently furloughed.
The agreement is unique in the airline industry and the first of its kind for ALPA. Capt. Alfredo Suarez, a Continental pilot who represented ALPA in negotiating the agreement, says “By formalizing an agreement with SIPAC and COPA Airlines, we are protecting the interests of our members and giving them more employment options. The agreement may initially have a relatively small impact in terms of numbers of pilots affected, but it is a huge win for cross-border cooperation and may signal new developments for the piloting profession.”
The agreement, a non-binding memorandum of understanding, was the result of more than five months of talks between the parties that began after the two pilots unions attended a spring 2007 meeting of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA). “When we learned about potential global pilot shortages, and particularly challenges at COPA, we immediately saw that it made sense to talk,” explains Suarez. “We have retired Continental pilots under age 65 who still want to fly, and this just gives them more opportunities. Continental pilots were a natural choice for COPA because of our companies’ ties,” says Suarez. At one time, Continental Airlines provided flight training to COPA Airlines pilots. Additionally, the two airlines participate in the Skyteam Alliance and operate similar types of equipment. The agreement runs February 2008 through January 2014.
“We hope to be able to repeat our success with SIPAC and COPA at other airlines,” says Suarez. “We think industry globalization and the worldwide increase in consumer demand for travel are going to increase the need for well-trained, qualified pilots. We’re open to exploring any option that can increase opportunities for our union members.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union representing more than 60,000 pilots at 43 airlines in the U.S. and Canada.
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Amy Flanagan, Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l, 281-987-3636, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Capt. Mark Adams, Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l, 281-987-3636, or email@example.com