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Airline Division News, Week Ending January 28, 2017

Horizon Pilots take legal action over contract violations

Pilots at the SeaTac-based Horizon Air have taken legal action against management, claiming that executives at the airline broke the law by violating the terms of a labor contract. 

As with other carriers, Horizon is unable to hire and retain enough pilots, risking the financial success of Horizon’s parent company, Alaska Air Group. 

Over 700 flights were cancelled in December 2016 due to insufficient staffing, forcing the parent company, Alaska Air, to use larger aircraft on the routes at significant additional expense and putting a strain on its staff and equipment. 

Since last summer, the pilots at Horizon had been negotiating to no avail with Horizon executives to improve the pay issues that are leading to pilots leaving and an inability to attract new pilots. 

A September 2016 survey of Horizon pilots, over 80 percent of respondents said they are ready to strike. “Short-sighted maneuvers won’t solve the staffing problem, and as our airline continues to ground flights, the real victims will be the passengers, customers, and communities in the Pacific Northwest that rely on Horizon Air for their livelihood,” said Capt. Jeff Cox, a long-time Horizon pilot and Executive Council Chairman of APA Teamsters Local 1224. “Many of us have worked at Horizon for decades, through thick and thin. We cannot stand idly by and watch executives destroy an operation that provides vital air services to communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.” 

Recently, the airline started offering new Horizon Air pilot recruits signing bonuses; a move that pilots say will do nothing to curb the retention issues for experienced pilots. “A one-time payment to new recruits does nothing to address the pilot retention issues at Horizon Air that are already jeopardizing service,” continued Capt. Cox. 

Alaska Air Group, Inc. brought in $700 million profits in the first nine months of 2016 and recently acquired Virgin America for $2.6 billion. Horizon Air, employs approximately 675 pilots and among regional airlines similar in size, pay rates for new hires at Horizon Air rank second to last. 

“The pilot family at Teamsters Local 1224 stands united with the Horizon pilots. We will not stand by and allow Horizon Air and Alaska Air executives to ignore the provisions of the contract and willfully disregard negotiations with the pilot group by unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of employment,” said Daniel C. Wells, president of the Airline Professionals Association Teamsters Local 1224. 

The lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Expressjet (sub-ASA) Update 

Mediated contract negotiations for an initial, stand alone sub-ASA labor agreement were conducted this week.  The Union and Company negotiators were directed to meet in Atlanta, by National Mediator Board Federal Mediator Gerry McGuckin. The meeting dates were January 23, 2017 through January 26, 2017. 

It was a productive week as we reached Tentative Agreements on Overtime and Scope.  Additionally, we passed an initial proposal on both Benefits and Compensation.  The Unions economist Dan Akins also made a slide presentation on the status of pay in the industry and logic of the Union’s Compensation proposal. 

Airline Industry News 

Airlines, Industry and Labor

FedEx has been awarded the Federal Aviation Administration's approval for a delivery facility with four supporting buildings at Chino Airport in California.

Southwest Airlines has reported 2016 as a record earnings year for the company. "Our total operating revenues reached a record $20.4 billion, with sustained demand for our legendary low fares and superior customer service," said CEO Gary Kelly.

United and American Airlines announced plans to accommodate customers affected by President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration. CEO Oscar Munoz says United will offer affected customers "refunds and other accommodations" and American Airlines said it is "treating all of our customers with respect and taking great care of any affected customers by assisting them with rebooking options and full refunds."