American Pilots Will Be Making Bank This Holiday Season

Filed Under: American, Unions

A few days ago I posted about how a computer glitch at American caused 15,000 flights over the holidays to be scheduled without pilots. This impacted flights between December 17 and 31, 2017, where apparently pilots were able to “trade” off holiday trips, even without having found replacements (understandably most pilots don’t want to work over the holidays if they can avoid it, so when pilots had the opportunity to trade off trips, they did).

American’s solution was to offer 50% overtime pay to any pilots who pick up a trip over the impacted period, which the union wasn’t happy with, since they weren’t consulted about it. Not surprisingly, this got a ton of media attention. The following morning American put out a press release claiming that “only a few hundred [flights] are currently unassigned to pilots.” That sure makes you wonder. Did they really manage to go from 15,000 unassigned flights to just “a few hundred” unassigned flights overnight? I’m certainly skeptical.

The good news is that American and the union have come to an agreement, so I think it’s safe to assume that all of our American flights over the holidays will operate as scheduled (at least as it relates to this fiasco). They certainly want the union on their side here to ensure that there doesn’t end up being any disagreement over the terms of the arrangement. According to Forbes, American will be paying some pilots double time to pick up trips over the holidays:

In a meeting Friday with representatives from the Allied Pilots Association, the carrier agreed to double time pay, said a person familiar with the discussion.

American had initially offered to pay time and a half, but APA leaders said the carrier had not consulted the union on the remedy.

All of the pilots who agreed to the time and a half remedy will automatically be kicked up to double time, the person, who asked not to be identified, told Forbes.  Additionally, double time will also be offered to some of the reserve pilots who pick up holiday trips, the person said.

While a 50% bonus isn’t that unusual over the holidays, a 100% bonus is significant, especially given how well American pilots are already paid. Just to give an example, a 12th year 777 captain earns $323 per hour, so that pilot would be paid $646 per hour over the holidays. Here’s to hoping that a few pilots were able to pick up a Dallas to Hong Kong flight. That’s blocked at 17 hours, meaning a 777 captain would be paid a cool ~$11,000 for the one-way trip. Nevermind the fact that they get to sleep for half of it, since there are four pilots.

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. I’m not anti-union but the pilots unions are pure evil greed. All I hear from my airline colleagues is that they are extremely difficult to work with and greedy. Eventually they will bankrupt more airlines again.

  2. @Jason — the counter-argument is that historically labor has suffered disproportionately in downturns, with furloughs, layoffs, pay cuts, pension evaporation, etc. this while c-suite leaders enjoy golden parachutes. So, they strangle today, knowing they may get strangled tomorrow.

    By no means do I mean it’s right/fare/smart. But it’s taken two parties to tango in the labor-relations cluster-f*ck.

  3. Don’t pilots only get paid for actual flying hours? And there’s a limit on how long they can fly at one time, right? So, it’s probably closer to $5,000 instead of the $11,000 for the flight from DFW to HKG. Still pretty good though.

  4. It’s been awhile since I have reviewed the APA contract but I believe in the past there was a “duty time” rate for each flight, that was set at the beginning of each rating period when the bid went out which was paid at the full rate and eligible for “remedy pay,” and then there was the “rest” rate which was calculated based of off how much duty time was spent in the cockpit but was most notably expected from most of the bonuses. This was the pay rate used for time spent in the crew rest. If it is still this way, then they would be clearing much much less than 11,000 for this leg.

  5. Pilots on get paid the full hourly pay when they are on-duty flying. So the 17 hour HKF-DFW is only 8 hours at full pay the rest is per diem.

  6. That is a lot of money. Granted less than 1% of AA pilots are 777 Captains that will be flying DFW-HKG during the holidays, most pilots will be looking at much less than that.

  7. Doug Parker made over $32,000 every single day in 2016. All 365 of them. Or $3,150 an hour, assuming he works 10 hours a day, every single day of the year.

    Because he took zero salary, a lot of that compensation will be at a lower tax rate than the pilots.

    But lets whine about the union. LOL

  8. How about the NFL commissioner who wants $50 million a year and lifetime use of a private jet? The union folks aren’t asking for crazy money.

  9. AA flight attendants only make a fixed rate of $75 extra for the entire day for holiday pay.

    AA pilots don’t receive holiday pay as it’s not a part of their contract

  10. Is it too soon for newly coined AA marketing phrases?

    “AA – Come fly into the ground with us!”
    “AA – Well paid and still unhappy!”
    “AA – Dropping cash anywhere we can!”

  11. @Airways and Travels; I am aware of that. I just thought I would put the compensation in perspective for those who immediately scream about how greedy the union and the pilots are.

  12. So a flight attendant is supposed to be happy to work the holiday for what amounts to be 1 extra hour of flight pay before taxes (provided they’re topped out) even though they could be gone for days…. No wonder they need hundreds on reserve-

  13. Dana and Ryan you are both incorrect. We get paid from release of parking brake to setting it. The entire time the aircraft is under our command.

    Sitting at jetway with door open..nope
    Sitting out on taxiway B2 waiting for a release time…Yes
    Sitting in bunk during my FAA required rest break…Yes
    Van on Waylon hotel…nope

    This is strictly US policy. Overseas have different pay structures

    Also this really isn’t about greed. It’s about following the contract both parties agreed to. The have a team of lawyers who micro analyze every aspect of a contract before agreeing. If the shoe was on the other foot (union mistake of some kind) I guarantee you that management would hold the collective pilots’ feet to the fire.
    Doug Parker said American will never lose money again. So it is on him.

  14. The airline offers time and a half which is more than fair. Many many pilots accepted that, only then did the union make them pay more. If 1.5X was enough to entice more pilots to work, then there’s no need to pay more, except for greed.
    I’m not willing to accept the “they took a pay cut during bad times”… their extreme pay was what was one of the causes of bankruptcy.
    Also, yes they have lives in their hands. So do the flight attendants, the dispatchers, the cargo loaders, surgeons, bus drivers, every driver on the road, nurses, maintenance workers, etc etc. Yet, pilots think they own the airlines. It’s one huge team that makes an airline work, yet the pilots are probably more than 60% of the total payroll at airlines, yet are less than 20% of the workers.
    I still stand with my comment about “Greed”.

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