Will An ALPA Divided Continue To Stand At Airline?
Things may be coming to a head at
US Airways, and within the Air Line Pilots Association... as pilots
on both sides of the airlines's 2005 merger with America West, both
represented by ALPA, continue to bicker over a single contract.
As ANN reported last month, a
federal arbitrator ruled 1,800 furloughed pilots at US Airways
would return to their jobs at the airline, now merged with America
West, lower on the seniority-list totem pole than when they left.
More recent pre-merger hires by America West would hold higher
Many within the industry say that ruling was due to the
generally stronger position America West maintained throughout the
merger, as US Airways was in bankruptcy at the time. Though the
combined airline carries the US Airways name, most of the carrier's
senior management carried over from America West, including CEO
Doug Parker. The airline is also based at AW's former headquarters
in Tempe, AZ.
That is little consolation to US Airways pilots, of course, who
convinced the ALPA executive council to delay in passing the
arbitrator's seniority list to the company -- a move that could
have been construed as de facto endorsement of the deal.
"A specific goal of the ALPA merger policy is to avoid windfalls
to one group at the expense of the other, but this integration
policy does not do that," says Arnie Gentile, spokesman for the US
Airways chapter of ALPA, to TheStreet.com.
The arbitrator's proposed seniority formula bases pilot ratings
on aircraft type, which pilots ranked by seniority within each
group based on their time at their respective airline, and how many
aircraft of that type are within the combined US Airways fleet.
Under the proposal, the top 517 pilots come from US Airways...
but the trouble lies at the next level, when talking about first
officer rankings. Some 1,000 US Airways first officers stand little
chance of ever making captain under the proposal, as the current
Age 60 rule would force them to retire before any left seats open
"Most of our first officers with 20-plus-years experience will
not be on the property long enough to make captain because of
six-year and seven-year first officers at America West," Gentile
The main sticking point with the arbitrator's decision, however,
is the fact that under the plan US Airways pilots get no credit for
time furloughed... or, for flying at now-defunct Mid-Atlantic
Airways, once a US Air subsidiary. Gentile says that means the most
senior Mid-Atlantic pilot, hired in 1998, is placed below the most
junior America West pilot, hired in 2004, on the list.
What comes next for the carrier's pilots is even less clear than
what has come before. To show their disdain for the new seniority
list, US Airways pilots could vote to leave ALPA. It is more
likely, however, the US Airways side would seek to delay a vote on
a joint contract to unite the two pilots groups... which both sides
have shot down to date.
In its most recent contract offering last month, US Airways
offered to raise the America West pilots pay scale by three
percent... while boosting pay for pilots from the pre-merger US
Airways a staggering 17 percent to match their compatriots at
Neither side likes that proposal, however. America West pilots
say they are subsidizing raises for US Airways pilots, by giving up
benefits; Gentile calls the deal "dead on arrival."