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American Airlines pilots vote for potential strike amid negotiations

  • American Airlines and the pilots’ union are negotiating a new contract.
  • More than 99% of pilots who voted approved allowing the union to call a potential strike, a step other airline pilots have recently taken.

Pilots talk while looking at the tail of an American Airlines plane at Dallas-Ft Worth International Airport.

Mike Stone | Reuters

American Airlines pilots have voted overwhelmingly to allow their union to call a strike as the airline said talks on a new contract are nearing completion.

Pilot strikes are rare and will require permission from the federal National Mediation Council. The vote does not mean that a decision to call a strike will happen immediately.

More than 96% of American pilots participated in the vote and 99% of them voted to allow the union to call a strike, the Allied Pilots Association said Monday.

The APA called the strike authorization vote in March as talks about a new agreement dragged on. American Airlines CEO Robert Isom had said the airline was ready to raise pay to match rival Delta Air Lines, whose pilots approved a four-year deal earlier this year with 34% raises and other improvements.

“Today marks a proud milestone in our pilot group’s unity and determination and an important step on our way to securing the contract we have earned and deserve – one that prevents management from operating at a discount to our competitors and includes our ‘must have’ quality life priorities,” APA President Capt. Ed Sicher wrote to pilots Monday.

An American Airlines spokeswoman said the airline believes a deal is “within reach” and that a “handful” of issues remain to be finalized.

“The finish line is in sight,” she said in a statement. “We understand that a strike authorization vote is one of the important ways pilots express their desire to reach an agreement, and we respect the message of the vote results.”

Including higher 401(k) contributions, at the end of a potential four-year deal with American, a narrow-body captain would earn $475,000 at the top of the scale, while the most senior wide-body captains would earn $590,000 per year, based on a recent contract proposal.

Pilot contract negotiations have been difficult across the industry, including at American, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, as pilots seek not only pay increases but also quality-of-life improvements such as better, more predictable schedules as travel demand increases after the pandemic.

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