NetJets pilots set another high salary standard

 - December 20, 2007, 5:15 AM

Early last month the NetJets pilots overwhelmingly supported a major amendment and five-year extension to their collective-bargaining agreement between NetJets Aviation (NJA) and Teamsters Local 1108, the union representing the fractional provider’s pilot group. While the fractional pilots’ contract was not up for renewal, the two sides came together to forge the five-year contract proposal “in the best interests of both parties.” Union and company officials in late April began work on the interest-based bargaining (IBB) agreement and set an aggressive timetable for negotiations.

Six months later negotiations on the IBB ended, and the pilots had until early last month to vote on the new proposal. A ballot count conducted on December 7 revealed that the NetJets pilots approved the amendment, with 75.7 percent of eligible members voting in favor of the measure; voter participation reached a historic high of 95.8 percent.

“With this contract, NetJets Aviation offers its pilots career opportunities and a quality of life that are unmatched in the industry,” noted NetJets chairman Richard Santulli. Major provisions of the agreement include 100 crew bases versus the previous five domicile cities, more schedule options and pay increases that set a new standard in the fractional aircraft industry.

NetJets first officers benefit greatly from the new agreement, with first-year pay climbing from $39,000 to $56,875 a year under the seven-days-on/seven-days-off schedule. This eclipses the previous industry-leading annual salary for new-hire first officers of $40,000 at CitationShares. Lowest on the scale are Flight Options first officers, who earn an average salary of $33,996 per year.

While the first officers got sizeable pay increases, NetJets’ captains fared well too. First-year captain salaries increased from $52,500 to $87,500, a significant step beyond the previous high of $64,000 at CitationShares. Flight Options occupies the lowest end of the scale, with captains starting at $51,996 a year.

Under the new payscale, NetJets first officers top out at $81,081 after year 10. Five-year captains will earn six figures under the new deal.

The IBB agreement will become amendable in mid-2012 but can be extended by three years if NetJets meets certain parameters. These requirements include NetJets giving NJA 85 percent of all international flying, maintaining the same level of health care at no cost to pilots, opening 10 additional crew bases and adding cost-of-living adjustments to pay tables each year of the extension.

Perhaps the most important of these requirements is the 85-percent international flying provision. If met, this would all but guarantee that pilots flying for NetJets International–the non-union division that operates NetJets’ Gulfstreams–would be integrated into NJA and thus be unionized under IBT 1108.

The other fractionals seem to be unphased by the new NetJets pilot agreement. CitationShares told AIN it “does not make business decisions based upon what others in the industry are doing. We believe we have established a premium compensation package for all of our employees that includes competitive wages and excellent benefits, as well as work rules which we believe are the most attractive in the industry.” However, there was industry scuttlebutt that CitationShares is preparing a pay increase in response to the NetJets IBB.

Flight Options pilots voted for unionization under IBT 1108 in early 2006 and are currently negotiating their first contract with company management, so there won’t be any pay increase until they strike a contract. However, Flight Options did remove a statement from its Web site that said “research indicates that our pilot compensation is the highest in the fractional industry” after AIN asked for details supporting this claim. At press time, Flexjet had not responded to our inquiries.