Signing the new Spirit collective bargaining agreement, from left, are Liz Spear, an analyst in ALPA’s Economic & Financial Analysis Department; Art Luby, an assistant director of ALPA’s Representation Department; Capt. Mike Matyas (Spirit), a member of the Negotiating Committee; Capt. Stuart Morrison (Spirit), the Master Executive Council chair; Capt. Paul Slotten (Spirit), a member of the Negotiating Committee; and Anna LeBovidge, a manager of ALPA’s Representation Department.
In February 2018, after lengthy negotiations with the company, Spirit Airlines pilots ratified a new five-year collective bargaining agreement. As negotiations came to a close, the pilots turned their focus to contract implementation, including a preferential bidding system (PBS)—the first at Spirit.
After the agreement was signed, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) and the company formed a Joint PBS Working Group, which developed a PBS educational campaign for the Spirit pilots, introducing them to the new system through extensive communications and training. The MEC chose NavBlue as the vendor, which is currently used by several other ALPA pilot groups, including Delta, Hawaiian, and JetBlue. Finding an appropriate PBS vendor that was able to program and maintain the Spirit pilots’ certain unique work rules such as the “four-day-off” rule, which gives them the opportunity to enjoy time at home between trips, was vital. The pilot group and the company hope to wrap up and schedule the official rollout of the PBS within the first quarter of 2019.
“Spirit pilots have been able to maximize our new contractual gains while enjoying much of the quality-of-life provisions they had from the old collective bargaining agreement,” said Capt. Stuart Morrison, the pilot group’s MEC chair.
As pilots work to learn the new PBS, they’re also noticing some substantial increases in their pay. The new agreement included significant pay raises across the board, double-digit direct contributions to retirement, and a $75 million ratification bonus that was distributed in a lump sum to the pilots.
These improvements aren’t just good for the pilots currently at Spirit, but also for the pilots who are looking to join the company. The new collective bargaining agreement will attract pilots due to its competitive pay and benefits.
As the MEC Negotiating Committee pointed out throughout negotiations, the company simply couldn’t get the pilots it needed to support aggressive growth plans without a contract that compensated pilots in line with their peers flying similar routes on similar aircraft. Hiring classes were often not full, and Spirit was starting to see an uptick in pilot attrition. This new collective bargaining agreement makes the airline increasingly attractive to pilots newer to the industry and those looking to make a change from their current airline. It also ensures that pilots at Spirit are given ample reason to stay with the company for the length of their careers.
“Since we signed the new agreement last February, the company has hired more than 375 pilots,” Morrison noted. “We’re growing at a rapid rate, due in large part to many of the gains we made in our latest contract.”
The airline now has more than 2,135 pilots, and hiring has continued at a brisk pace. Spirit expects to add 15 new aircraft by the end of 2019 and another 33 by the end of 2022. The company also added a new base this past December, bringing pilots to Orlando, Fla., due to the increasing number of flights originating there.
“With a ratified contract, our pilots can enjoy the benefits of what we collectively worked for during negotiations—an agreement that reflects our contributions to Spirit Airlines,” said Morrison.