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Flight Options Defies Union Positioning

Offers Separation Package Absent Of Teamsters Acceptance

Flight Options LLC says it will offer generous voluntary separation packages directly to its pilot workforce, despite the recent rejection of the offer by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1108, which represents the Flight Options pilots. The Company offered the package in attempt to eliminate the need for a mandatory furlough. Under the existing Flight Options pilots’ Collective Bargaining Agreement, pilots are entitled to six weeks of furlough pay. The company is offering a voluntary separation package that allows pilots who volunteer to receive up to 12 months of continued salary and benefits.

Initially presented earlier this month to the Teamsters, the package was unilaterally rejected, with the union leadership decreeing, “Furloughs are an inevitable facet of the pilot profession” and further stating, “If it comes to that, so be it.” The company strongly disagrees. “It is extremely frustrating to see the Teamsters welcome a furlough instead of allowing a very generous solution,” said Michael Silvestro, Flight Options Chief Executive Officer. “It is extremely disheartening to want to be as fair and generous as possible to the pilot group only to be met with obstruction for no logical reason other than the Union’s ego.”
Flight Options Chairman Kenneth Ricci sent a letter to the Flight Options pilots today in which he defended the company’s action and stated, “There are certain times when you know the right thing to do. It may come with challenges and it will certainly, once again, put me in the crosshairs of the Teamsters. However, I am not willing to accept that we missed an opportunity to do the right thing for the pilot group – to do what I know in my heart is right, despite the consequences. As leader of this Company and a life-long pilot advocate, I have decided to move forward on this issue without the participation or consent of the Teamsters leadership.” Ricci further stated, “I refuse to accept the notion that a pilot, under the employ of this Company, does not have the right to decide his or her own future. It is unconscionable that the Teamsters should unilaterally try to take away a voluntary and materially beneficial option.”
The Company is officially extending the voluntary separation package to all Flight Options pilots. The pilots have the right to volunteer up until April 30. Early inquiries indicate about 30 to 40 Flight Option pilots will accept the package. If this were the case, it would certainly eliminate the need for any mandatory furlough.
One absurd outcome could be that the Teamsters file a lawsuit objecting to the action. This could, in essence, pit the Teamsters, on the side of demanding a furlough and a lower compensation package, against the Company, which would demand to be able to give the pilots optionality and three to six times more in compensation.
The company has found legal precedent for such an action under the Railway Labor Act. In addition, the union, itself, has violated its own Collective Bargaining Agreement when it deemed doing so in its self-interest.
The need to reduce the pilot workforce comes as Flight Options begins a multiyear transition of its operations. Fractional products are now available exclusively through its sister company, Flexjet. Flight Options’ focus going forward will be on-demand services. On-demand services, unlike fractional, do not provide customers with guaranteed availability, and therefore require fewer pilots per aircraft, necessitating a reduction in the total pilot workforce at Flight Options.
“One of our strengths has been our ability to respond to shifts in the marketplace to best serve our customers. We do not do this without being thoughtful of our pilot group, which has made a significant contribution to our success. We are going to do what is right for our pilots and assist them in any transition that may result,” added Ricci.

(Source: Flight Options news release)

FMI: www.flightoptions.com


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