Fellow American Eagle pilots,
This is another disappointing week. We have now read the tentative agreement that PSA has reached with their management and with US Airways management and it is ugly. Here are a few lowlights. First and most significantly, it limits their Captain pay scales to year twelve and limits their First Officer pay scales to year four. In addition, this TA will extend their existing contract for an additional five years, until 2023 with no interim contract amendments. It limits their per diem to $1.75 for the duration of the agreement and the only pay raises PSA pilots will see for a decade will be the annual cost of living calculation that is already in their contract. By year three, the deal also raises their pilot medical benefit contribution from 27% to 35% of the annual cost with no language on deductibles and co-pays.
In exchange for these concessions, the PSA pilots might receive 30 of American Airlines’ future CRJ-900 aircraft (assuming the AA/US Airways merger occurs). Amazingly, it appears that the company is only contractually required to place one of these aircraft into service at PSA by 2016 in order to fulfill its obligation and to make this new agreement binding on the pilot group. On the other hand, if ratified, pilot concessions begin this January. These 30 aircraft are for American feed and are part of the same aircraft order over which we were negotiating with US Airways.
The PSA pilots will also receive an “enhancement” to their current guaranteed interview at US Airways. Interviews will be offered to PSA pilots in PSA seniority order but US Airways is under no obligation to offer employment to any particular PSA pilot. A pilot who does not receive an offer of employment from US Airways can interview again but if he is declined again, his longevity at PSA is immediately frozen for the remainder of his career. The “enhancement” to the guaranteed interview provision is that US Airways must hire four per month, rather than three PSA pilots. It also appears however, there are multiple scenarios where US Airways can determine they have met that obligation without actually hiring anyone.
This tentative agreement represents the direction the American Eagle MEC was unwilling to go. As you know, your MEC has been committed to finding an agreement that does not gut the regional industry only to further the careers of senior Eagle pilots at the expense of everyone that will follow us. The MEC could not have been clearer on this position when it elected to end negotiations with US Airways and pushed for all of the ALPA-represented regional carriers to sign the “No B-Scale” letter. Although, this PSA deal does not contain a “B Scale” it is a massive step backwards for existing and future regional pilots.
If ratified, this new paradigm will be used against our brothers and sisters at ASA/ExpressJet, Republic, and SkyWest, all of whom are currently in challenging negotiations, not to mention it being used against us when management returns for additional discussions on future aircraft. Along with the Pinnacle (Endeavor Air) bankruptcy contract, the new PSA agreement will become management’s new “target”.
There are additional distasteful elements to this TA, not the least of which is the fact that this negotiation is over future AA feed at the exact time that the Department of Justice is opposing the merger of AA and US Airways. AA made it overwhelmingly clear that “large” RJs were an essential component of their restructuring plan, whether merged or stand alone. Now, AA’s future feed has been promised to a pilot group who will have to wait an indeterminate period of time to see if the merger will ever be approved, which is a precursor to AA’s regional aircraft being placed at PSA. During that delay, these essential aircraft will be withheld from AA’s feed operation, where it is already significantly behind its competition in “large” RJ deployment. This further confirms our position that AA needs to order large regional aircraft now and place them at American Eagle, the only constant irrespective of the mainline merger.
Additionally, by removing all Captain pay scales above step twelve, PSA’s tentative agreement eviscerates all the gains made over the last twelve years focused on making regional airlines a viable career choice for experienced pilots.
Both American and US Airways’ managements clearly know that withholding replacement aircraft from American Eagle works in opposition to cost savings elements that management committed to, making it more challenging for Eagle to compete.
Lastly, we are stunned by the lack of resistance exhibited from ALPA’s national officers, with the sole exception of Vice President of Administration and Eagle Captain Bill Couette. Our National Leadership has not led the way in this effort to “Stop the Whipsaw”.
With months to go until new flight time and duty time regulations that will result in a five-to-ten percent increase in pilot staffing to cover existing schedules, and despite months of regional airlines missing hiring targets industry-wide, it is absurd that our national leadership has not supported the outcry from regional MECs to collectively set a higher bar and simply say, “no” to this last ditch effort by US Airways’ management to drive this industry into compensation models from twenty years ago when we were piloting Metroliners, rather than aircraft significantly larger and more complex that what used to be entry-level aircraft at mainlines.
We all know that airlines need to compete based on costs. Eagle, as well as other MECs, have proven time and time again a willingness to work with management in a mutually agreeable way to rein in costs and find better and cheaper ways to do business. But it is one thing to decide to place aircraft at an airline because they are cheaper, it is another for an already inexpensive pilot group to voluntarily accept decade-long concessions to facilitate it. We hope the PSA pilots will realize that the race to the bottom simply is not worth the carrot and that ALPA’s national officers will ultimately agree that regional pilot jobs are worth protecting with the same vigor as mainline jobs. There will be another meeting next week with all the MEC Chairmen and I am confident your new MEC Chairman will carry this message.
I cannot describe how disconcerting it is that this is the last hotline I will likely send to you. Nonetheless, I would be remiss if I closed without stating that I am proud of the Eagle MEC. Along with tremendous pilot support, we have weathered the proposed divestiture of American Eagle, the AMR bankruptcy, and a vicious negotiation with another company’s management, which as of now, has resulted in a bleak future for American Eagle employees. Despite record profits and a healthy parent company, ready to exit bankruptcy except for the current DOJ dispute, the $43 million that the American Eagle pilots conceded under a mutually agreeable negotiation is apparently not enough to satisfy management’s need to achieve “cheaper” labor before it can feel that it has wrestled enough from the expert workers who actually perform the job being purchased by our customers.
It has been a great honor to serve you in this capacity and I look forward to continuing this battle alongside you on the flight deck.
Captain Tony Gutierrez