ALPA’s Long-Game Strategy

By Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA President

This year, ALPA’s 67th Air Safety Forum was held in the same room in which the Convention on International Civil Aviation was signed and led to the creation of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The 54 states that assembled in 1944 were unified and had a long view toward developing civil aviation with safety as a priority.

For ALPA pilots, our unity at all levels allows us to advance safety and security on every flight, as we collaborate with industry partners and communicate with lawmakers, regulators, financial analysts, and journalists. This solidarity, which was showcased at the Air Safety Forum, allows us to represent the line-pilot perspective with authority.

While ALPA is eager to work with others, we stand by our founding principle: safety comes first. Recently, ALPA reinforced our long-game strategy on aviation safety amid the distraction of a possible U.S. government shutdown. From the start, we voiced our support for stable, long-term funding for the FAA. We’ll continue our call during the extension and until funding is secured.

During the FAA reauthorization process, ALPA has fought against those who seek to weaken pilot training rules or propose an arbitrary, unstudied increase in the mandatory pilot retirement age. Our union’s opposition to any increase, which is codified in ALPA policy that was reaffirmed by our Board of Directors, is based on the principle that any change must be based on science and data. Despite this proven approach, special interests persist in trying to weaken or evade safety regulations and remove pilots from the flight deck.

The airline industry’s success in achieving its gold standard of safety has always been predicated on looking before we leap. We’ve evaluated the impact on our operations before making any change. And we’ve also ensured we learned all we could from the tragedies we’ve endured such as the terrible loss of those involved in the Colgan Flight 3407 accident and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Rather than seeking to alter a system that’s so clearly succeeding, our industry needs to identify real solutions to ensure that we have a robust supply of pilots in the future and that those who live in small and rural communities in the United States and Canada have access to safe, reliable air service.

We know that we have enough pilots in the United States—in fact, we shattered the monthly record for producing new pilots in August. But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do more to attract and inspire the next generation and make becoming a pilot more accessible and affordable for all who want to earn the qualifications to fly.

Now is a great time to be an airline pilot for many reasons, not the least of which are the extraordinary aviators and union leaders who serve as models and mentors for new pilots today. At this year’s Air Safety Forum awards banquet, we were privileged to honor our superior airmanship and Air Safety Organization award recipients for 2022 as well as renew connections with many past award recipients whose contributions continue to carry our industry forward.

For this reason, ALPA is committed to driving change to break down barriers to the career. In the United States, we support proposals in Congress to allow federal financial aid and 529 funds to be used for pilot training as well as doing more to help veterans become pilots. We’re pleased that Congress is prioritizing workforce development programs and supporting women in aviation programs.

In Canada, our union is calling on airline industry stakeholders and the federal government to collaborate to create a sustainable aviation future. The Canadian government’s addition of transport workers to its Express Entry system, while an improvement over allowing Canadian airlines to hire pilots through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, falls short of the improved accessibility, affordability, compensation, and benefits and that are needed to attract and retain aviators.

Thanks to our unity on the informational picketing line and beyond, ALPA’s union contracts have brought our pilots significant pay increases and job-security protections, as well as scheduling and quality-of-life improvements. These industry-leading agreements, which result from our union’s decades of expertise in pattern bargaining, will improve ALPA pilots’ careers today and help the industry attract new aviators tomorrow.

ALPA’s long-game strategy is what’s needed to create a safer and more secure industry and stronger contracts for the more than 75,000 pilots we proudly represent.