A pair of long-awaited pilot contracts finally reached the ratification stage when Appleton, Wis.-based United Express affiliate Air Wisconsin and Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air each closed collective-bargaining negotiations with their respective pilot unions. Air Wisconsin, for its part, reached a tentative labor agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association over the weekend of August 11 and 12, narrowly averting a strike that could have severely disrupted United Airlines’ feed to Denver and Chicago. In an effort to avoid “customer confusion” in the event of a strike, Air Wisconsin canceled more than 70 weekend flights on Friday, August 10, as airline executives met with ALPA representatives and National Mediation Board officials to avoid a walkout at 12:01 EDT on August 12. In contract talks for the past two years, Air Wisconsin’s pilots had sought a pay raise averaging some 25 percent. ALPA leaders said they would release the terms of the deal to the some 600 Air Wisconsin pilots during the third week of August, after which time the pilots will vote for or against ratification.
The Air Wisconsin settlement came some two weeks after Horizon reached a tentative agreement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on a contract for its 700 pilots. The settlement, reached after more than three years of bargaining, goes to a ratification vote after Horizon’s bargaining committee presents its work to the rest of the pilots based in various cities in the Northwest. “This contract is the best in the regional airline industry,” said Teamsters airline division representative Don Treichler. “It’s got the best industry wages and work rules and sets a new industry standard.” As in the case of Air Wisconsin, the Horizon pilots negotiation committee earlier in the year won a strike authorization vote from its membership. Bargaining under National Mediation Board mediation lasted into the early morning hours on the morning of July 27 before the sides finally reached an agreement.