The American Airlines pilots’ union rejects holiday pay, seeking permanent changes

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

Mike Stone | Reuters

The American Airlines pilot association has rejected the company’s offer of as much as double pay for business travel around the holidays, a measure that aims to avoid a recurrence of recent mass flight cancellations.

The Allied pilot association̵[ads1]7;s board voted against a premium salary of at least 150% and double salary for picking up open holiday trips. The union said late Tuesday that they want more permanent changes in how the airline builds its schedule. The union is in the middle of contract negotiations with the airline.

Some airlines have struggled to balance the return of travel demand and understaffing. American canceled more than 2,000 flights in late October and early November after bad weather and a cascade of staff shortages. Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines have faced similar problems that have cost them $ 75 million and $ 50 million, respectively.

American has promised not to repeat the disruption, and has reached agreements for bonus holiday pay throughout the airline, which employs more than 100,000 workers. The airline will pay flight attendants triple for travel between 23 November and 29 November and 22 December and 2 January, and also has perfect attendance between mid-November and 2 January. As a minimum, the flight attendants who work over those periods will receive 150% of the salary.

“We are obviously disappointed, especially since we have holiday pay programs in place for all the other frontline groups in the company,” wrote Kimball Stone, America’s senior vice president of aviation operations and Chip Long, vice president of aviation operations. “But we will continue to look for opportunities to work with the APA to support you during the holidays, as well as explore our options to maximize the availability of existing premiums” under the collective agreement.

American also offers $ 1000 bonuses to ramp workers, mechanics, freight forwarders and others. Employees of its wholly owned subsidiaries Envoy, PSA and Piedmont are also eligible for $ 1,000 bonuses.

“These incentives show that American is willing to pay up now to avoid operational downturns during high periods,” Morgan Stanley airline analyst Ravi Shanker wrote in a note Tuesday. “These incentives are also likely to be less expensive [American] than the cost of extensive flight disruptions. “

The pilots’ association has repeatedly complained that the airline plans too many flights, which gives a small margin of error and difficulties in dropping or picking up travel. They have also reported a shortage of hotel rooms and transport for crews during a tiring summer schedule.

Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union, told CNBC that the extra pay was “lazy” and “a clear admission that you mismanaged the airline.”

Pilots and flight attendants at Southwest have also made similar complaints on an exhausting schedule. Southwest and Spirit each trimmed their schedules after the recent disruptions.

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