A Call to Action Heard Around the World

By ALPA Staff
Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president, right, takes part in a discussion during the Global Pilots’ Symposium.

Gathering airline pilots from around the globe in one location was the perfect opportunity to emphasize the importance of a unified, worldwide collective voice on behalf of all professional pilots. This year’s Global Pilots’ Symposium, with its theme of “A Call to Action,” highlighted that, despite geographical location, pilots are united in their support of each other in matters that impact the entire profession.

Demonstrating this unity, the leaders of ALPA, the European Cockpit Association (ECA), and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) began the symposium held, May 4–7 in Montréal, Qué., with a joint press conference, reinforcing to news media organizations worldwide that the greatest safety feature on any airliner is having two pilots on the flight deck at all times. Yet, they underscored, some airline managements and manufacturers are seeking to gamble with safety by proposing to reduce the number of pilots on the flight deck.

“Removing pilots from the flight deck will increase risk to the public and will place the safest mode of transportation in the world in jeopardy,” said Capt. Jason Ambrosi, ALPA’s president. “Some argue that, despite the safety risks, your future flight should be operated with fewer pilots on the flight deck. As an airline captain, I can tell you that’s insane.”

After a series of collaborative strategic discussions held in February and March, pilot leaders launched a new global grassroots advocacy campaign, “Safety Starts with Two,” and encouraged those in attendance to get involved.

“Earlier this year, pilot unions from around the globe gathered to develop a strategic campaign to make sure the flying and shipping public continue to benefit from the current high standard of aviation safety,” Capt. Jack Netskar, then IFALPA president, remarked. “This week, we meet once again to discuss how to combat special-interests’ attempts to roll back or weaken our industry’s safety record. Our conference is the time and place when our global voice is heard loud, clear, and in unity against any form of reduced-crew operations. This year, it’s a call to action to every pilot, at every airline, in every country.”

The campaign assets to assist this effort include a new website and virtual toolkit for social media engagement as well as a physical toolkit that includes talking points for attendees to take back to their home countries and decide how best to engage with their members, local regulators, and legislators.

“For as long as aviation exists, we’ve all worked together to make flying safer. And this achievement is now under threat,” said Capt. Otjan de Bruijn, ECA president. “It’s understandable that passengers will feel unease with the idea of [fewer] pilots at the controls of the airplane. Even the most sophisticated automation and technology fails. Pilots are there to catch those failures and recover from them.”

Tapping into a global network for support is a demonstration of the strength of a worldwide association of pilots. Mutual assistance is a long-standing practice of IFALPA. Historically, this practice has been reactive and tactical in response to IFALPA member associations involved in an industrial dispute. Letters of support have been the preferred way to demonstrate solidarity. During a panel discussion, pilot representatives agreed that it was time to evolve beyond the traditional, reactive tactics.

“Mutual Assistance 2.0” is a means to improve upon what pilots do today, panelists observed. Creating an organization’s director network is a way to quickly engage and update pilot leaders about emerging situations. Panelists also concurred that it’s time to be proactive and strategic prior to supporting an industrial action. They noted that drafting policy could also be a useful tool for financial, legal, and regulatory issues. And when needed, activating appropriate IFALPA resources and networks would be more effective than the current method of doing business.

Seizing on this proactive groundwork, symposium attendees voiced their collective support for WestJet pilots, who remain committed to reaching an agreement with management that provides job security and career progression. “We stand with WestJet pilots,” the crowd chanted.

Attendees also recorded their support for Air Europa pilots, who recently called for eight more days of strike action in Spain as management remains unwilling to negotiate.

IFALPA Elections

During the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) 77th conference, the following pilots were elected to Executive Committee positions:

  • Capt. Amornvaj (Ben) Mansumitchai, president;
  • Capt. Juan Carlos Lozano, deputy president; and
  • Capt. Ron Hay (Delta), executive vice president, administration, membership & finance.
  • Capt. Kathi Hurst (United) was also elected to the position of regional vice president, north atlantic.

This article was originally published in the May 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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