The US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA) which represents the pilots of US Airways has sued to force arbitration to determine seniority of the combined pilots for American Airlines and US Airways. For good measure, they’re also suing the Allied Pilots Association (APA) which currently represents American Airlines’ pilots. It’s ironic that the APA will likely replace the USAPA in the near future, representing all the pilots of the combined airline.
It’s at least equally ironic that USAPA is suing to force binding arbitration, considering they’re still upset from the 2007 binding arbitration they agreed to.
Ken McQuillan has a great piece in NYC Aviation that details the fight between the two different US Airways pilot groups, but if you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s my distilled version:
America West purchased US Airways out of bankruptcy in 2005. The pilots union from both airlines had different opinions about which pilots should get the most coveted spots on the seniority list at the top.
My two cents, I think the America West position was more reasonable, but at any rate, they couldn’t come to an agreement and so agreed to binding arbitration to settle the dispute.
Both sides worked with the arbitrator to hammer out a deal that everyone could live with. There were pluses and minuses for both sides. A big chunk of US Airways pilots ended up at the top of the combined chart, but a good number of the America West pilots were fairly represented throughout the rest of the list. Not a perfect solution, but one that was reasonable enough when you consider that US Airways might never have made it out of bankruptcy and therefore their pilots would have had to start at the absolute bottom of some other airline’s seniority list.
Someone forgot to tell the US Airways pilot union that binding arbitration is, well, binding. They ignored the arbitration results and the two pilots unions never integrated, causing it’s own share of problems over the past 6 years.
As part of the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, all US Airways pilots were promised pay increases and things are a bit happier now.
But, USAPA still wants to keep fighting. They won a court battle a bit over a month ago that they didn’t breach their duty for fair representation, which is essentially to say the judge said she didn’t find concrete evidence they screwed half their membership. But, her comments were quite scathing (and likely true):
However, Silver wrote in her 22-page ruling, that USAPA “has never been free — and never will be free — to extract the maximum benefits for the east pilots, regardless of the cost to the west pilots.” The ruling bristled with negative references to USAPA and declared near its conclusion that “USAPA has succeeded here but it is a Pyrrhic victory” because the union will disappear as a result of the merger, given that APA is far larger.
Bottom Line It For Me, Ed
US Airways pilots went for more than 6 years without a pay increase because they couldn’t find a way to resolve this internal dispute. They’ve finally gotten pay increases, and now they want to fight some more. One would think they might have learned this lesson already, but it remains to be seen.
This likely has little impact on Joe Flyer, as strikes aren’t likely at all. But, it is fun to watch. Popcorn, anyone?