The Global Pilot Community Keeps Us Strong

Weighing In

By Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA First Vice President

For some airline pilots, the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is slowly becoming brighter each day. In the U.S., more and more individuals are getting vaccinated, the number of screenings at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints continues to increase, and cargo pilots, while facing unique challenges flying internationally, continue to keep up with the demanding pace of supply chains.

Unfortunately, this feeling of recovery doesn’t convey internationally. Pilots around the globe continue to face the devasting challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a lack of essential government financial support and adherence to safety protocols established for flying and quarantine.

As we’ve all witnessed, the pandemic resulted in a huge scaling back of airline operations, waves of layoffs, substantial pay cuts, and actions to decertify pilot unions. Assistance to the international pilot community has also been hampered by an incomprehensible disregard for the value of labor, and governments are working hand in hand with airline managements to crush any union presence on airline properties.

It was these types of issues that took center stage, virtually, at the annual conference of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), leading to many discussions and examples highlighting the benefits of our global community.

As international airlines continue to struggle to regain a fraction of what was lost throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the entire international community will have to endure and fight back on the threats that cut across borders: atypical business models, the exploitation of labor laws, the results of global airline alliances, and the need for corresponding global labor alliances.

In today’s global environment, especially with regard to the current pandemic, international issues have a dramatic influence on the entire aviation industry. If we sit back and only react to issues that the international pilot community is confronting, we can’t expect to survive in the increasingly global marketplace. As ALPA members, we need to be fully informed on all issues. We must be well positioned to assess their effect on us and to establish strategies that advocate for or against these policies before they’re implemented.

As a member of IFALPA, ALPA is the only North American pilot union that has two seats at the table—Capt. Joe DePete representing the United States and Capt. Tim Perry representing Canada—where international decisions are being made that directly affect our careers. By working together with fellow international pilot unions on issues important to our profession, whether safety-, security-, or industrial-related, we’re confronting global challenges collaboratively with one unified voice.

IFALPA’s critical role in advancing global aviation, and ALPA’s leadership role within the global community, will ensure that as we establish our industry’s “new normal” the pilot voice is heard when developing standards and recommended practices for the global airline industry.

Our industry has been tested over the past two years by the COVID-19 pandemic and the international grounding of the B-737 MAX fleet. Both of these events have repeatedly demonstrated how important labor is in developing solutions and moving forward. The unity that the global pilot community has demonstrated during this time has been remarkable. Throughout these events, day in and day out, we continue to promote and maintain the highest levels of aviation safety and security to protect our members, our passengers, and our cargo.

As we’ve learned, there’s no checklist for handling the issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The decisions we make today will impact our industry for years to come. But through the exceptional resilience and focus of ALPA members, I’m confident that we’ll emerge stronger than ever. As was true in 1948, when ALPA joined forces with colleagues from other countries to establish this important international voice, this pandemic has demonstrated the true strength of our Association, and our critical role within the global pilot community will help keep us strong and united.

This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue of Air Line Pilot.

Read the latest Air Line Pilot (PDF)