American Eagle Pilots On Board with AA Bankruptcy Plan

 - October 15, 2012, 12:45 PM
Under pressure to avoid further company-imposed concessions backed by a bankruptcy court, American Eagle pilots accepted a new eight-year labor deal despite American’s plan to move 11 ERJ-140s out of Los Angeles to make room for equipment flown by new code-share partner SkyWest.

Bankrupt AMR moved a step closer to its goal of saving $1.25 billion a year in employee-related costs as the pilots of American Eagle voted last Monday to ratify a tentative agreement reached between their Air Line Pilots Association bargaining committee and airline management. Of the regional airline’s some 3,000 pilots, 85 percent cast ballots. Seventy percent of participating pilots voted in favor of the agreement.

The eight-year deal, which allows for renegotiation after four years, calls for pilots to forego raises this coming January and in 2014, then resume normal pay adjustments thereafter. However, it also contains a new salary formula tied to work longevity and seniority rather than equipment type, explained Dave Ryter, vice chairman of ALPA’s American Eagle master executive council (MEC). “The result is that since pilots no longer have to chase equipment for pay raises, the cost of training should reduce significantly,” Ryter told AIN.

The pilots also accepted a temporary reduction in per diem and in pay for deadhead flights, as well as changes to the system for accruing sick and vacation time to an hour-for-hour arrangement for personal time off designed to save the company “millions of dollars.”

“Your negotiating committee will now turn their attention to the implementation process,” said Eagle MEC chairman Tony Gutierrez. “In addition, the MEC will be meeting mid-October to provide direction to the negotiating committee on [the FAA’s] AQP [advanced qualification program], as well as means by which we can assist our low-time first officers in obtaining the minimum requirements for their airline transport pilot certificates.”

The AQP allows for an alternative to traditional pilot training and checking, as long as it meets or exceeds established safety standards. New FAA rules governing pilot qualifications call for first officers to carry an ATP, which in most circumstances requires at least 1,500 flying hours.

The deal marks the latest in a series of contract resolutions reached by bankrupt parent company AMR and the employee groups of American Airlines and American Eagle. Last week Eagle reached a tentative agreement with negotiators representing its dispatchers, the last of all of AMR’s employee groups not to have at least arrived at a tentative agreement. American Airlines’ pilots, represented by the Allied Pilots Association, returned to the bargaining table on October 4, more than a month after a bankruptcy court judge ruled that the company may void their contract.