Despite union opposition, Flight Options moved forward on Friday with an offer of voluntary separation packages to its pilots as the company lays the groundwork to transform from a fractional operation into an on-demand charter business over the next 12 to 18 months. Flight Options sister operation Flexjet previously made the offer as the two companies begin to reshape their operations, retiring some of the older models and moving others into charter.
The moves are made as parent company Directional Aviation realigns its more recently acquired Flexjet and Flight Options into complementary services rather than competitors. To help differentiate itself as a planned charter-only entity, Flight Options will rebrand as Skyjet, a former Bombardier brand that Directional initially revived in 2014 to provide charter brokerage services.
The voluntary separation packages are being offered through April 30 as the companies seek to reduce the pilot workforce by 70 positions. Directional principal and Flight Options chairman Kenn Ricci told AIN that this comes as on-demand requires less staffing than fractional. The packages were initially offered to Flexjet pilots, who recently voted for representation by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) but were not yet under a collective bargaining agreement.
Flight Options, which previously had been represented by the IBT, sought union approval to make the offer to its pilots, but the union rejected the request. Flight Options moved forward regardless, and between Flexjet and Flight Options, had 80 pilots indicate plans to accept the agreements—exceeding the company’s goal.
The union has, instead, been pushing for a furlough protection plan that would give all furloughed pilots the equivalent of 12 months of compensation. The IBT had expressed concerns that the voluntary program would primarily affect less senior pilots who would not qualify for the maximum benefit.
The company management, however, disagreed with the IBT stance. “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,” Ricci said in announcing plans to move forward with the voluntary package offers. “It is unconscionable that the Teamsters should unilaterally try to take away a voluntary and materially beneficial option.”