United Pilots
As another flight takes off, the sun sets over Chicago O’Hare International Airport as seen from the United pilots’ Master Executive Council office.

United Airlines pilots opened the record books to make history numerous times in 2018.

For the first time in more than 20 years, all of the United Master Executive Council (MEC) leaders were elected unanimously. Capt. Todd Insler, MEC chair; Capt. Bill Neveu, MEC secretary; and Capt. Rick Cameron, MEC treasurer, were all reelected to their positions, while Capt. Tom Murphy, MEC vice chair, joined the team as the newest officer. “This was an unparalleled display of unity at a time when the United MEC sees itself with the opportunity to shape the futures of not just our 12,700 members, but to raise the bar and reset the entire industry,” said Insler.

The pilots’ operational excellence allowed their company to achieve significant financial gains last year. United took delivery of 16 new narrowbody and 13 widebody aircraft while also welcoming hundreds of new-hire pilots. They remained stalwart professional leaders as their company took the final important steps needed to complete the five-year process of combining both the United and Continental pilot groups.

Marking another first for United pilots, the MEC initiated negotiations early and exchanged openers with management to begin the effort toward ratifying a new contract. “We opened bargaining nearly one year before we had planned to, and this is unprecedented at United Airlines,” Insler noted. “Now we’re 10 months into the process and are already where we were roughly three years into the process during our last contract negotiations.”

Preparing the United pilots for Section 6 negotiations has been the MEC’s main focus, but it’s also assisted other pilot groups with their labor efforts. Throughout last year, the MEC supported Air Wisconsin, Frontier, JetBlue, and Spirit negotiators, as well as pilot leaders from Canadian North, First Air, United Express, and SAS. The United pilots are eager to help other pilots in their efforts when called upon.

In October, the MEC’s inclusiveness and leadership in supporting pilots was recognized at ALPA’s 47th Board of Directors in Washington, D.C. The United pilots were honored to have two pilots elected to the Association’s leadership. Capt. Bob Fox was elected ALPA first vice president, and Capt. Joseph Genovese was elected ALPA’s vice president–finance/treasurer. The pilot group looks forward to supporting the new ALPA leaders and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with all ALPA pilots to strengthen unionism in North America and across the globe.

The MEC also strongly supported the Association’s focus on legislative issues, including strengthening Canadian flight- and duty-time regulations and the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Many United pilots also serve as ALPA Air Safety Organization (ASO) volunteers and participated in ALPA’s 2018 Air Safety Forum. The pilots, represented by MEC officers and members of their Legislative and Safety Committees, in addition to other committees, helped ensure that all ALPA pilots remain “Trained for Life.”

Other accomplishments included the MEC’s scope video series, which was well received by pilots and picked up widely in the news media. The scope video campaign highlighted the MEC’s desire to stabilize the industry and provide a strong and bright future for fellow ALPA pilots at regional carriers. Members of the MEC frequently amplified labor’s message by producing podcast educational pieces, increasing the pilot group’s profile on social media channels, and making a concerted effort to get labor’s voice heard in the national news media.

Securing a tentative agreement this year is the pilot group’s most important task. “We’re working to regain years of lost ground,” Insler observed. “We’re making good headway, with key sections still to be negotiated. The company and Wall Street have heard us loud and clear. They know the United pilots are unified and have the support of the entire ALPA structure behind them.”

Taking a proactive approach, the United MEC believes ALPA pilots can reach their collective goals as an Association by strategizing, planning, and executing with a unified purpose driven by consensus. “We plan to bring not just a contract to the United pilots, but the contract that will set the standard for the industry,” said Insler. “It will raise the bar for all ALPA pilots and further the hard work being done by other ALPA pilot groups to improve our careers now and in perpetuity.”