A PSA CRJ700 at Daytona Beach International Airport.
Following a management shakeup in 2017, PSA pilots and management have maintained an amicable relationship and worked together to reach pay and work-rule improvements through multiple letters of agreement. Yet company implementation of and compliance with these agreements remain a challenge, and pilots’ reserve times have increased as a result of forced upgrades and, most recently, a base closure. As a result, the PSA pilots have grown increasingly frustrated.
As a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines Group, 10 PSA pilots are flowing to the mainline monthly. As a result of pay increases realized in 2019, attrition has decreased a bit as pilots appear to be more inclined to remain at PSA and await their opportunity to flow to American. “If attrition stays at the current level, new hires can expect to flow to American in approximately 10 to 11 years,” said Capt. Steven Toothe, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chair.
Aircraft deliveries continue as PSA transitions toward its goal of 150 aircraft. Currently the fleet is made up of CRJ200s, CRJ700s, and CRJ900s.
A few years ago, PSA had difficulty hiring enough pilots to keep up with its jet delivery schedule, resulting in the temporary cessation of aircraft delivery. However, PSA’s pilot numbers increased in 2019, with approximately 2,100 pilots now on the property.
In 2018, PSA opened new bases in Norfolk, Va., and Philadelphia, Pa., bringing the total number of base operations to seven U.S. cities. However, the airline recently announced that its Cincinnati, Ohio, base is scheduled to close in the first quarter of 2020. The closure’s impact on flight schedules and reserve times remains to be seen.
Although the MEC continues to work on negotiation and implementation of an industry-leading reserve system, the company has been slow to embrace these improvements. “We want our carrier to thrive and grow,” said Toothe. “However, to be successful we need to work together. Management must work with us if we’re to establish the level of trust and cooperation necessary to maximize our efforts.”
Operational growth at PSA has outpaced the company’s investment in technology and needed additions to key management positions and departments, which has led to significant challenges for the MEC. Although upper management continues to engage in discussions with the pilots and understands the need for work-rule and other quality-of-life improvements, execution and implementation regarding these issues have been a constant challenge.
With almost 30 percent of PSA pilots sitting reserve, the MEC is hopeful that the company will refocus its efforts to improve pilot schedules and quality of life and invest in the proper technology necessary to comply with the terms of the letters of agreement.
To keep up with growth and to help boost pilot retention, the MEC launched a successful mentoring program, which has seen rapid growth in volunteers in the last year. Taking a proactive approach, mentors are a valuable resource to help guide and advise their fellow pilots throughout their time at PSA—especially when they’d prefer to seek the advice of a fellow line pilot rather than an instructor, either during or after training is completed.
Under new leadership elected at the beginning of 2019, the MEC has renewed its commitment to transparency and communication, which the pilot group has welcomed. In addition, the MEC has been working diligently to properly staff and train all requisite committees. The MEC leaders are committed to making the union a positive and fundamental resource for all PSA pilots. “We want our members to know that they’re our top priority,” remarked Toothe. “The MEC and corresponding committee structure are here to serve their needs and to provide a single voice for this pilot group.”