May 19, 2009
UAL Pilots: Labor Input Needed Before Antitrust Immunity Granted
Chicago, Ill.--The antitrust immunity being sought by United Airlines and Continental Airlines not only has the potential to outsource tens of thousands of American jobs, it also could take experienced pilots off international routes, say the pilots of United Airlines.
UAL and Continental are seeking antitrust immunity to allow Continental to join the Star Alliance. The Alliance has increased international flying, but at the expense of U.S. carriers. This has led to an increase in the outsourcing of American pilot jobs. United Airlines’ average cockpit crew has more than 43 years of combined flying experience on international routes.
The United Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association is calling on Congress and the Obama Administration to delay the scheduled May 31 granting of antitrust immunity to UAL and CAL so labor can weigh in on the possible ramifications such immunity could produce.
“There has never been a more pressing time for Congress and the Obama Administration to step in to prevent even more middle-class American jobs from being outsourced,” said Captain Steve Wallach, chairman of the United MEC. “However, with its tentative approval of Antitrust Immunity for the STAR Alliance, the Department of Transportation has opened the door for more job losses and pay cuts for American workers.
“United pilots pioneered many of the safety innovations such as onboard weather radar, anti-skid brakes, enhanced weather forecasting, and improved navigation instruments that allow safe flight operations,” added Captain Wallach. “Our training center and our pilots are among the best in the world. Does the current Administration really want to also outsource that experience when granting antitrust immunity without considering what the travelling public may get in exchange?”
The Star Alliance was formed in 1997 with six airline members. Today, it has grown to more than 20 airlines. Unfortunately, the U.S. employees of the Star Alliance have not seen any of the Alliance’s benefits. Continental would join United and US Airways as the only United States members of the Star Alliance. The Star Alliance is expected to grow to 50 airlines, mostly non-U.S. carriers. Increasingly, passengers booking travel from the United States on United are likely to find themselves flying on foreign airlines.
“The Alliance has expedited the outsourcing of American jobs, and most, if not all of the increases in flying have gone to overseas carriers,” said Captain Wallach. “The current antitrust immunity request by United and Continental has been placed on the fast track without weighing the impact on labor.
“The issue’s reach, however, goes far beyond jobs and economics. We are concerned about the loss of flying expertise this Antitrust Immunity could subject American passengers to —passengers who expect to fly with and value United’s professional and experienced flight crews. It is our view that enough questions have been raised that this application should be given a full and public hearing,” added Captain Wallach. “Congress and the new Administration need to fully view, with input from labor, the ramifications of such an approval. We are not opposed to ATI as long as there are adequate protections for labor and our passengers.”