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Pilots At The Four Largest U.S. Airlines Are Leading An Uprising

Airline pilots nationwide have hit a breaking point

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[PA Sound]

Denis Tajer: Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. The first officer and I are on day five and we just came off of three days with a very short period of time off. We’re exhausted. We cannot continue safely. 

PILOTS ARE AT A BREAKING POINT AT THE FOUR LARGEST AIRLINES IN AMERICA

Greg Everhard: This is the most important contract negotiation in a generation. United pilots are out here today to send a strong message to management that it’s past time to deliver a contract after four and a half years of negotiations

Evan Baach: Just about a month ago, Delta pilots voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. 96% of our pilots voted in this authorization and 99% of them were in favor of a strike.

Denis: Never seen this before. In my 30 years in the airline business, every major pilot contract is at about the same point. The number one demand, when you aggregate them together for our pilots, and it’s like that at other carriers: work life balance, scheduling practices. Post pandemic, Our work life balance has fallen off the shelf. Scheduling practices are make it up as you go along. And we’ve had more contract violations than we’ve ever had in our history. 

Evan: By this fall, we had worked more overtime, as Delta pilots, than we have in 2018 and 2019 combined. In March of this year, we had a picket event in Atlanta to send a message to Delta management that they weren’t properly staffed for flying over the summer. And in fact, over Memorial Day weekend, Delta had a bit of an operational meltdown. 

Denis: Pre-pandemic we had fatigue calls. Pilot fatigue calls. It’s just a part of the system. It’s the safety, the relief valve, but post-pandemic. We started to see them double, then go up to four times as much, five times as much, and on some days ten times as much.

Over the summer, we had some days where there was a tenfold increase in fatigue reports. That’s a formal report to the FAA. This fatigue carries over. It doesn’t just happen on one day and you’re done, you get your rest. Unless it’s handled properly, it carries into the next trip.

[Pilot at rally]: The worst thing to do is have to worry about timing out and walking off an airplane and having passengers sit there, and they’re somewhat stranded. And that’s tough. 

Evan: The company is trying to schedule more flights than they have pilots available to fly.

Denis: I’d had a two day trip and while coming back they sent me a message saying they’re going to send me out for an extra day. But I had already made plans. I had a family event. It was very important to me. “Well, you’re going to have to talk to your boss because we’re putting you on report.” 

I’m a 59-year-old captain responsible for 170 people flying across the globe. And I have somebody who’s probably had a year or two at the company at best, with all due respect, say, “hey, Captain, we’re starting the discipline process on you.” That just hit me professionally. I guarantee you, the more— when I heard that, I was like, I’m not going. 

We have doubled down with management saying there’s a systemic problem. You’re trying to sell tickets for flights that you can’t rationally provide to our passengers, and we are not going to carry the load by flying in unsafe condition.

CONGRESS GAVE AIRLINES $54 BILLION DURING THE PANDEMIC

TO PREVENT LAYOFFS AND ENSURE THE INDUSTRY WAS READY TO FLY AFTER SHUTDOWNS ENDED

Denis: Congress kept the airlines from collapsing. It’s pretty straightforward. Here’s the money. Keep everybody on board, and keep them current, so on the other side of this, we’re good to go. They said we got it, and then they got the money and they started playing games with it. Offered early retirements at a reduced rate, voluntary; offered paid leaves of absence at a reduced rate, voluntary. And then they parked a bunch of airplanes and they didn’t retrain the pilots. 

Think about that. Billions of dollars and they’re not flying as much they did in 2019 and they still can’t get it done. That’s American taxpayer money. It’s extremely precious. And the fact that you took that money and you weren’t ready for the recovery when the American traveler said, I’m back and I’m ready to fly and you weren’t ready to roll, shame on you.

We were ready to roll. But our management team? I don’t know what they did. They just weren’t ready. 

Greg: Post-pandemic, there’s been a realignment in a lot of priorities for our pilots. This generation of pilots is specifically interested in improving the work life balance for our career.  We want more predictability, transparency. And just like our passengers, we want more reliability in our schedules. 

Denis: People should care about this fight because it’s going to bring certainty to air travel.  If you don’t fix this now and stop this downward trend, you’re going to be battling this labor shortage and this skill set shortage for decades to come.

Evan: We do not want to strike—our goal is an industry-leading contract. And the ball is in the company’s court. Delta pilots have earned a contract that values us as pilots, our sacrifices and our role in their pandemic recovery.

Denis: Any airline that thinks that it can go below the market rate, not only in compensation but in work life balance and scheduling practices, will not have enough pilots to fly the airplanes that they bought. It’s that simple.

Our men and women, our pilots are fully committed to doing this in a way that is not only rewarding, but actually lives up to the high standard of being a union pilot in this industry. And we’ll get there. It’s going to be a little bit of a fight. Management is going to join us. You know, we can’t force them to do what we want, but we can sure make them wish they had.

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