The PSA Master Executive Council recently launched the quarterly e-magazine Below the Line that contains industry news, safety, and career-progression topics.
Over the years, PSA Airlines Master Executive Council (MEC) has faced the challenge of managing the pilot group’s alternating waves of growth and attrition. Prior to the pandemic, the wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines had 10 pilots per month flow to the mainline, typically after 10–12 years of service at PSA. Since then, the pilot group has grown from 1,200 pilots in 2016 to currently more than 2,060 pilots. With an influx of new and recalled pilots, the MEC is focused on preparing for 2023 negotiations and ensuring that the pilot group is engaged and educated about all that ALPA offers.
“The airline hired approximately 600 new pilots last year, and we want to ensure that both new and seasoned PSA pilots are fully aware of the resources available to them,” said Capt. Chris Hughes, the interim MEC chair and longtime union volunteer who’s served in multiple roles, including the Central Air Safety Committee chair. Hughes worked closely with the most recently elected chair, Capt. Mohamed Khalil, who took office in January. While he’d served several years as Contract Enforcement Committee chair prior to his election to the MEC, Khalil recently departed to another carrier, a move not unusual for the group, which has been impacted by high attrition.
When COVID-19 threw the aviation industry into a tumult, flow abruptly ceased at PSA and at American’s two other wholly owned carriers, Envoy Air and Piedmont Airlines. As the global pandemic swept through the aviation industry, the economic impact led the company to close its Norfolk, Va., and Knoxville, Tenn., bases followed by the furlough of 723 pilots.
Capt. Curt Ebbert, the pilot group’s MEC chair prior to Khalil, stepped into the role as chair in the middle of the crisis. “It’s tough to put into perspective what our furloughed pilots went through, but PSA pilots have always exhibited a high level of resiliency,” Ebbert said. “Throughout these very difficult circumstances, their relentless professionalism has been inspiring.” Ultimately, 125 furloughed pilots chose not to return to the airline, which has impacted pilot staffing levels.
In August 2021, all three of American’s wholly owned carriers announced new pilot-retention programs, with bonuses of up to $150,000. The MEC worked quickly to ensure that pilots had a thorough understanding of the program and how it would impact career progression to mainline carriers. In addition, Ebbert and the MEC improved the program by negotiating enhanced flow and financial protections.
Under both Ebbert’s and Khalil’s leadership, the MEC focused on several bargaining priorities with the company, including an expansion of the Advanced Qualification Program and a permanent holiday pay agreement.
“We now plan to carry on a renewed commitment to communication and transparency for our pilots,” said Hughes. “We’ve developed new tools to enable the MEC to provide improved and more comprehensive benefits to our members.”
In November, the MEC launched a quarterly e-magazine, Below the Line. Covering industry news, safety, and career-progression topics, the new publication is the culmination of work from a team of pilot volunteers who have professional backgrounds in photography, graphic design, and entertainment media. The MEC also plans to launch a new educational series of videos and podcasts, along with a new website.
The pilots’ Negotiating Committee is currently bargaining the terms of a preliminary agreement on a preferential bidding system that, if ratified, would also provide a number of contractual improvements to the pilot group. With the ability to initiate Section 6 contract negotiations in October, the primary focus of the MEC’s 2022–23 agenda will be preparing for and negotiating a new contract. “The MEC’s Negotiating Committee is well into preparations for bargaining on the group’s next collective bargaining agreement in 2022,” Hughes noted.