Uh Oh: American Airlines Pilots Reject Extra Holiday Pay

Uh Oh: American Airlines Pilots Reject Extra Holiday Pay

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This doesn’t bode well for American Airlines’ operational reliability over the upcoming holiday travel periods…

American offers pilots up to 200% holiday pay

American Airlines had an operational meltdown over Halloween, primarily due to staff shortages. The airline is trying to avoid this for the upcoming busy holiday travel periods (Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year, etc.), so is offering employees significant pay bumps to show up to work over the holidays. While this is costly, it’ll cost less than the operation melting down once again.

For example, a few days ago I wrote about how American Airlines flight attendants will receive 150% pay for all flights over peak holiday dates, and 300% pay if they have a perfect attendance record over the course of several weeks.

American Airlines has made a similar offer to pilots. This would impact pilots who work over the following dates:

  • November 23 through November 29, 2021
  • December 22, 2021, through January 2, 2022

The idea is as follows:

  • Pilots would receive 150% pay for all flights over peak holiday dates
  • Pilots who pick up trips during the period would receive 200% pay
  • Pilots would receive positive space travel to their base; this means that pilots who don’t live at their base would be guaranteed a seat to get to work, rather than having to fly standby

It’s a generous offer, no doubt, and you’d think pilots would be happy about this, and view it as a significant incentive. For example, a senior 777 captain at American would be getting a pay bump from $342 per hour to $513-682 per hour. To be clear, contractually American doesn’t have to offer this, but rather the airline is just trying to offer an extra incentive to make sure people show up to work.

American is offering pilots up to 200% pay

American pilot union rejects holiday pay bump

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American Airlines’ pilots, has rejected the company’s offer. Not just by a narrow margin, but it was unanimously rejected, 20-0. What’s the logic for rejecting extra pay? According to the press release from the union:

While understanding that its rejection creates a disparity among our fellow work groups that have accepted management’s proffered incentives, the Board concluded that the need to achieve meaningful permanent improvements in a new collective bargaining agreement must remain APA’s focus.

APA has communicated at the bargaining table, and through higher level discussions, its ongoing frustrations with the pace of Section 6 negotiations and that meaningful Section 6 progress must be made. It’s ironic that fixes to many of the operational concerns that led management to offer incentives are directly addressed in APA’s Section 6 proposals, which management has been holding for months. APA’s targeted approach is designed to advance the contract, address quality-of-life concerns, and find sustainable solutions to improve operational integrity.

In other words, the union is trying to negotiate a better contract for pilots all around. So rather than negotiating a one-off holiday pay bump, the pilots want the airline to negotiate a new long term contract right now, rather than pushing it off.

American pilots have rejected extra holiday pay

This could turn into a major issue

There have been concerns for a while about American’s ability to run a reliable operation over the holidays. The airline continues to not have enough staff (including pilots), so there are few extra pilots sitting around in the event of irregular operations. With airlines, a slight staffing shortage can lead to huge operational issues, given how complex airline scheduling is.

There were already concerns about some number of pilots not showing up to work over the holidays as a way of protesting the vaccine mandate (which has now been pushed off until early January). But that’s not the only reason they might not show up to work — there’s also a new contract looming.

This seems like quite a flex from the union:

  • The bonus pay for the holidays has been rejected; it’s possible that the union backtracks and accepts something similar in the coming days, but as of now the union is claiming it’ll settle for nothing short of a new contract
  • It’s hard to imagine that pilots will get an improved permanent contract before Thanksgiving
  • If the pilots aren’t getting extra pay or a new contract, you can bet that Thanksgiving will be a disaster operationally, to put it mildly
Will American’s operation melt down again over the holidays?

Bottom line

American Airlines’ union representing pilots has unanimously rejected bonus pay over the holidays, instead asking for a better permanent contract. Pilots are the single most integral part to American’s operation running smoothly over the holidays (given that they’re trained on specific aircraft, and the workforce can’t grow that quickly due to training requirements), and it seems that they’re prepared to bring operations to a screeching halt if they don’t get what they want.

While there likely won’t be an official strike, I’d be shocked if a lot more pilots than usual don’t end up being “sick” over the holidays if nothing changes. If they weren’t going to work for 150-200% pay, they’re not going to work for 100% pay.

So if you’re traveling over the holidays, you better hope that management and the union representing pilots come to some sort of an agreement to incentivize working over the holidays.

How do you see this situation ending with American Airlines pilots?

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  1. Hobbs Guest

    Turning down 200% pay is easy when you place greater value on time at home with family. The contingency that you cannot have an absence makes it a gamble. Not everyone lives paycheck to paycheck.

  2. Fossil Guest

    I hope AA and other companies do get hurt in their pockets for the way they have treated their staff. The pandemic has just exacerbated the issue of working hours, working conditions, salaries, and contracts. AA foresees a problem for the coming holidays while the staff's rightful concern is obviously their own lives in the long run. Despite de pandemic, top executives keep making a lot of money and want the staff to fix problems...

    I hope AA and other companies do get hurt in their pockets for the way they have treated their staff. The pandemic has just exacerbated the issue of working hours, working conditions, salaries, and contracts. AA foresees a problem for the coming holidays while the staff's rightful concern is obviously their own lives in the long run. Despite de pandemic, top executives keep making a lot of money and want the staff to fix problems caused by their greed. I would like to see companies like Amazon having to deal with that kind of problem as well. In both cases, executives in top positions have lots of benefits, outrageous salaries while the staff are asked to happily accept this situation. I do hope staff in all levels get more from the companies they work for.

  3. Euragone Guest

    So what about the Ground Workers...no bonus for them! They've been working half staff for better part of 2 years and AA just gave them the Middle Finger! They can do that also..maybe the under trained Part-Timers can save the company!

  4. Sean Guest

    Sorry, but +50% holiday pay is not generous. That’s just standard in other jobs.
    The first comment makes a token acknowledgment of the low pay on the way up the ranks, but the reality of how short a period of time most pilots have to make any actual money for all of their years of effort is massively understated. And that’s without even considering the unreliability of a pilot career with all of the...

    Sorry, but +50% holiday pay is not generous. That’s just standard in other jobs.
    The first comment makes a token acknowledgment of the low pay on the way up the ranks, but the reality of how short a period of time most pilots have to make any actual money for all of their years of effort is massively understated. And that’s without even considering the unreliability of a pilot career with all of the recurring setbacks to the aviation industry. Of course the airlines themselves keep getting government bailouts and subsistence while declaring bankruptcy to eliminate employee contracts.

  5. McSweep Guest

    In what universe do you reject more money with no conditions..?

    1. Eskimo Guest

      In a universe where you are already underpaid. (clearly not mainline pilots universe)

      Or in a universe where there is an angel on your shoulder whispering for you to go on strike. Not only do you have to pay that angel monthly dues, you believe the angel is whispering your best interests.

  6. JetSetGo Guest

    Maybe the smartest thing for consumer is to live close to a city that has multiple airlines operating so you are not hub captive? It’s too late for those hub captive to AA for this holiday season. But if you fly a lot for work or love to travel, maybe moving to a city where there are multiple airlines operating is a good idea.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      You are suggesting the smartest thing for a consumer is to relocate, not because of employment, education, family, personal relationship, finance, BUT because of the number of airlines?

      Funnier than that dumb American who got stuck in VVO. :)

  7. CA Guest

    Looks like all those delays, cancellations, and stranding of passengers is gonna get even worse before it gets better....if it ever gets better.

    Vax mandate is ridiculous. And I’m pro vax being in the medical industry I think it’s the best bet...,but forcing the vax on anyone is crazy.

    American has been a mess the entire year. Ramping up to pre pandemic route levels but not staff was a total money move and...

    Looks like all those delays, cancellations, and stranding of passengers is gonna get even worse before it gets better....if it ever gets better.

    Vax mandate is ridiculous. And I’m pro vax being in the medical industry I think it’s the best bet...,but forcing the vax on anyone is crazy.

    American has been a mess the entire year. Ramping up to pre pandemic route levels but not staff was a total money move and not based on sound business strategy or modeling. I fly weekly on American....50% chance I ever get to my destinations on time all year long.

    Come on American....come to the table with something that’s gonna save your customer base and your crews.

    Looks like it’s time to status challenge with another Carrier. Maybe Another carrier appreciates and values its customers and team members more than American.

    1. Ron Guest

      Mandates aren't ridiculous and they're not forcing anything on anybody. You can choose to get tested weekly in many cases, or you can choose another job.

    2. Dan777 Guest

      Testing is not an option, and no choosing another job as being the only option is an incredibly flippant and unrealistic take. Just like everything lately the intention might be noble but the implementation is causing more harm than good.

  8. Eskimo Guest

    I think Ed is on the phone with Scott right now on how to divide the hubs. The Boeing fleet goes to UA, the Airbus fleet goes to DL.

    Doug gets to start and end his career at AA.

    CARES act (and tax payers) loses it's investment.

    Thank you APA, you truly shaped an industry and a nation.

  9. David Guest

    I feel sorry for the front line, low wage staff, that are going to have to deal with this Doug Parker created S-Storm while he sits at home in front of the fireplace, sipping egg nog, and reading White Fragility. I booked my Christmas flights, and it wasn't on AA. You'd have to be insane to take that chance.

  10. Evan Guest

    In a way, I understand what the pilots are saying. Even after a couple of meltdowns, it's clear AA built its holiday schedules with little room for error. If the schedules crumble, front line employees have to clean up the mess and deal with the angry customers (and that includes pilots from what I've seen these days).

    Is this the right way for the pilots to do this? I don't know...but AA needs to...

    In a way, I understand what the pilots are saying. Even after a couple of meltdowns, it's clear AA built its holiday schedules with little room for error. If the schedules crumble, front line employees have to clean up the mess and deal with the angry customers (and that includes pilots from what I've seen these days).

    Is this the right way for the pilots to do this? I don't know...but AA needs to build schedules to operate reliably with the staff they have, not pie-in-the-sky schedules that work only if nothing goes wrong.

    Also, as a side note on airline pay...too many people misunderstand flight crew pay. Pay rates are per flight hour. So yes, a pilot may be paid for 80 flight hours, but believe me, he/she is working more than 80 hours a month. For example, pilots show up at least an hour before their first flight. In addition, if they are flying multiple legs, they have procedures to perform between each leg, etc. That's all part of the job. Just because the aircraft is on the ground doesn't mean they're not working.

    My point is this...stop thinking flight crew works only 80 hours a month. They work much more. It's just that for pay purposes, airlines use flight hours as the benchmark.

  11. Chris H Guest

    Surely it’s not coincidence that Iberia and Finnair have announced new service to DFW and now BA is bringing the A380 to DFW. AA is so short staffed and they are being squeezed, so they dial up growth via their partners and rev-sharing agreements. This seems to indicate they are going to keep their operational focus on the domestic network to try to make it run more smoothly.

  12. MKLDH Gold

    I wonder if the same issue applies to regionals (i.e. airlines fly under the name of American Eagle). Technically speaking they are independent entities and their crews have seperate contracts. Does anyone know how many the regional flights got impacted during the last meltdown?

    1. Tom Guest

      They are independent certificates and are not affected my staffing concerns/issues at the mainline carrier

  13. Bill Guest

    Can u imagine if the same thing happened in medicine and physicians just decided to call in sick over the holidays or walk out….oh, wait a minute, we can’t. Those luxuries dont apply to us.

  14. DenB Platinum

    I wonder: does the "rejection" by pilots union mean that American won't pay them according to the proposal? Is the offer withdrawn, because it's rejected? Or will those who work get pAAid? If yes, maybe it'll achieve American's objective, regardless of the union's response.

    Also, the recent meltdown occurred when the vax mandate was looming (before it was withdrawn/postponed). Lots of people didn't show up for work that Saturday, resulting in 1500 flights cancelled on...

    I wonder: does the "rejection" by pilots union mean that American won't pay them according to the proposal? Is the offer withdrawn, because it's rejected? Or will those who work get pAAid? If yes, maybe it'll achieve American's objective, regardless of the union's response.

    Also, the recent meltdown occurred when the vax mandate was looming (before it was withdrawn/postponed). Lots of people didn't show up for work that Saturday, resulting in 1500 flights cancelled on one day. Without a vax mandate, what are the chances of a similar event? If 10-15% of AA FAs are less than double-vaxed (guessing) then surely the vax mandate is the key to the problem and we can expect staffing stability through New Year's day.

    1. Barbie Guest

      To clarify the vaccine mandate issues. If a pilot gets the vaccine, they are grounded for 48 hours. With thousands of pilots trying to comply with the mandate in a compressed time period, you will get operational staffing shortages. With a two shot regimen, well, you can do the math.

  15. Lune New Member

    Small sidenote but, wait, pilots deadheading to their base to start their day fly standby?? What happens if they don't make it on their flight then? I'd think it's in the airlines' interest to guarantee them a seat, no?

    1. Byrne Tim Guest

      Nope. Pilots commuting to work get a seat only if its available.

    2. Native American Guest

      Dougie Parker is a certified alcoholic and drunk. He is on his third or fourth DWI. This is a fact. It is a known medical fact that Alcoholics ability to process information and make cogent decisions is impaired even when stone cold sober. No wonder the pilots have been working without a contract for the past 3 years. Dougie is in denial. The board should clean house and terminate Parker and Isom.

    3. dfw88 Guest

      "Deadheading" is when the company assigns a pilot to fly out of another base. Say a pilot is based in ORD. That usually means that his/her trips start out of ORD, but occasionally they may start in JFK. That's company travel and is always positive space. This is talking about something different, which is pilots who choose to live in another city that is not their base. If my base is ORD but I want...

      "Deadheading" is when the company assigns a pilot to fly out of another base. Say a pilot is based in ORD. That usually means that his/her trips start out of ORD, but occasionally they may start in JFK. That's company travel and is always positive space. This is talking about something different, which is pilots who choose to live in another city that is not their base. If my base is ORD but I want to live in Des Moines I can do that, but commuting to work is my responsibility, hence I need to fly standby to get to work. In that case it's my choice to live in a city that's not where I usually work, so the company isn't going to pay (opportunity cost) to get me to base to start my work day. That's the difference. A deadhead is a company assignment with no choice, so it's always positive space, while commuting is a personal choice, so it's stand-by.

  16. Ghostrider5408 Guest

    Another Parker idea gone wrong! Instead of sitting down with the union management and discussing how "we " can make this work they simply throw it out there like their Santa Claus. We have a huge issue in this country and that's mandates or rather how the mandates have been handled and no I do not want to jump into the cesspool called politics in American today.

    There is a upward movement in base...

    Another Parker idea gone wrong! Instead of sitting down with the union management and discussing how "we " can make this work they simply throw it out there like their Santa Claus. We have a huge issue in this country and that's mandates or rather how the mandates have been handled and no I do not want to jump into the cesspool called politics in American today.

    There is a upward movement in base income across the country which is a good thing, bad news is now everyone is jumping in ( only human nature) more important unions are now in rarefied air because the current administration has stated it is a "union" friendly. So hang on.

    I have always been a supporter of some reasonable form of wealth transfer.

  17. D3kingg Guest

    @Dennis

    Good idea. Pilots should quit. Like totally dude.

    Nice hit piece Ben.

  18. SQ51 Guest

    America West management needs to go

  19. Khatl Gold

    $342 an hour. Say a 20 hrs of actual flight time / week. $7k a week for 20 hrs. You gotta feel for them.

    1. Erik Guest

      Pilots (at major airlines) are compensated well. Not going to deny that, and I'm not asking for you to shed a tear for them. But you have to considera couple of points. Most major airline pilots spent several years, if not decades at regionals making in some cases less than starbucks baristas, so while many earn a really good salary towards the end of their working lives, it wasn't always so. Second, and to your...

      Pilots (at major airlines) are compensated well. Not going to deny that, and I'm not asking for you to shed a tear for them. But you have to considera couple of points. Most major airline pilots spent several years, if not decades at regionals making in some cases less than starbucks baristas, so while many earn a really good salary towards the end of their working lives, it wasn't always so. Second, and to your point, a pilot might fly (and get paid for) 5-6 hours in a day, but will show up to the airport an hour prior to get the plane ready (for which they are not paid) and sit up to three hours at the airport in between flights (for which they are not paid). 13 hour work days for 6 hours of pay is the norm. So you can cut that rate in half, at least. If you were an hourly employee (which pilots are) and were at work for 13 hours, but only got paid for six, how would you calculate your pay rate? That doesn't factor in the often crappy airport hotel that the pilot spends their "off" time in, versus being at home. Again, not trying to get sympathy, just giving some perspective on true pay rates.

    2. Weymar Osborne Gold

      I understand that working your way up through regionals can be tough, and AA management isn't totally blameless here with the way they've scheduled flights basically to the limit. However, this is completely bad-faith negotiating imo and is a very bad look for the pilots. I am well aware that flight hours isn't even close to the amount that a pilot would be "on the job", but a $7k a week salary is in the...

      I understand that working your way up through regionals can be tough, and AA management isn't totally blameless here with the way they've scheduled flights basically to the limit. However, this is completely bad-faith negotiating imo and is a very bad look for the pilots. I am well aware that flight hours isn't even close to the amount that a pilot would be "on the job", but a $7k a week salary is in the top 5% of income earners in the US (yes, I'm also aware that not everyone is a 777 captain whose pay rate has a base of $342/hour). American management is the one offering a (significantly costly) olive branch here, and the other work groups have accepted them, so it just seems very petty of them to threaten to derail a holiday travel season that is critical not only for their employer, but to so many travelers who have not been able to partake in their regular holiday traditions for two years now. AA is only asking for about two-and-a-half weeks of commitment here, and if pilots don't cooperate and operations meltdown again over the holidays it will do long-term damage not only to the company, but to a recovering society's morale as a whole. The pilots union can return to the negotiating table after the holidays. If operations run smoothly over that period, the management will be much more willing to grant concessions to them. They just need to do their part for now.

      When I was working at a job earning about as much as a Starbucks Barista, my company would offer me extra pay to work on the holidays, and I was more than happy to accept it.

    3. Dan777 Guest

      “If operations run smoothly over that period, the management will be much more willing to grant concessions to them. They just need to do their part for now.”

      That never happens, that’s the problem

    4. ck6 New Member

      Pay has not always been at current values. I retired in '08 from DL as an Airbus CA making $139/hr. A second year FO makes that rate now. We went through hell during my 25 year career, ie pay cuts, furloughs, loss of pension and BK's.

      Give these pilots, many who also went through what I did, a break.

    5. Steve Gold

      Its like they forgot how recently AA went through bankruptcy and forgot how many pilots lost their jobs in March of 2020. So ridiculous and greedy of the pilots.

    6. Dan777 Guest

      No pilot lost their job in March of 2020...what on earth are you talking about?

    7. Barbie Guest

      Pilots are compensated for what they do when stuff goes horribly wrong. The company and the market decided what that is worth.

  20. Dennis Guest

    The pilots and their union are behaving like spoilt brats. Sure, I understand the contract negotiations are frustrating and no doubt they deserve a fair wage, but rejecting a very generous holiday bonus for cheap points simply demonstrates that nothing is ever enough for these union types. If they are so unhappy with the pay and conditions, just quit and get another job.

    1. Joe Guest

      "If you don't like it, find another job" has been thoroughly tossed out the window as a legitimate talking point.

      In case you missed it, it happened a few months ago when companies started mandating vaccines and millions of the same people who have forever said "if you don't like it, quit" suddenly felt the mantra doesn't apply to them and that situation.

      Anyhow, such a stance has always been too extreme. If we apply...

      "If you don't like it, find another job" has been thoroughly tossed out the window as a legitimate talking point.

      In case you missed it, it happened a few months ago when companies started mandating vaccines and millions of the same people who have forever said "if you don't like it, quit" suddenly felt the mantra doesn't apply to them and that situation.

      Anyhow, such a stance has always been too extreme. If we apply it across the board (as we love to do in America), that gives companies 100% of the power, and the people 0%. Doesn't help to find another job when all the companies out there are adopting "we'll treat you as poorly as we want, and if you don't like it, find another job" policies. (Policies loudly backed by many Americans)

    2. beachmouse Guest

      And then go where? Southwest might be an option if you’re trained for 737s but United requires vaccines for all employees, Delta requires them for new hires and even ULCCs like Spirit want vaccine proof because they have federal contracts. Given how an airline wants the flexibility to assign pilots and crew to routes where the destination is going to be requiring vaccine proof for probably another 2-3 years, if you want to fly the...

      And then go where? Southwest might be an option if you’re trained for 737s but United requires vaccines for all employees, Delta requires them for new hires and even ULCCs like Spirit want vaccine proof because they have federal contracts. Given how an airline wants the flexibility to assign pilots and crew to routes where the destination is going to be requiring vaccine proof for probably another 2-3 years, if you want to fly the plane, getting the shots will be part of that

  21. Tim Dunn Gold

    Airlines do not want to have to negotiate contracts in an inflationary period such as we are in right now. however, AA continues to understaff hoping that holiday incentives like this will keep the problem under control. More and more labor groups - not just in the airline industry - want permanently improved pay since inflation, what has happened and what will happen for months to come, will not go away.

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dfw88 Guest

"Deadheading" is when the company assigns a pilot to fly out of another base. Say a pilot is based in ORD. That usually means that his/her trips start out of ORD, but occasionally they may start in JFK. That's company travel and is always positive space. This is talking about something different, which is pilots who choose to live in another city that is not their base. If my base is ORD but I want to live in Des Moines I can do that, but commuting to work is my responsibility, hence I need to fly standby to get to work. In that case it's my choice to live in a city that's not where I usually work, so the company isn't going to pay (opportunity cost) to get me to base to start my work day. That's the difference. A deadhead is a company assignment with no choice, so it's always positive space, while commuting is a personal choice, so it's stand-by.

4
Weymar Osborne Gold

I understand that working your way up through regionals can be tough, and AA management isn't totally blameless here with the way they've scheduled flights basically to the limit. However, this is completely bad-faith negotiating imo and is a very bad look for the pilots. I am well aware that flight hours isn't even close to the amount that a pilot would be "on the job", but a $7k a week salary is in the top 5% of income earners in the US (yes, I'm also aware that not everyone is a 777 captain whose pay rate has a base of $342/hour). American management is the one offering a (significantly costly) olive branch here, and the other work groups have accepted them, so it just seems very petty of them to threaten to derail a holiday travel season that is critical not only for their employer, but to so many travelers who have not been able to partake in their regular holiday traditions for two years now. AA is only asking for about two-and-a-half weeks of commitment here, and if pilots don't cooperate and operations meltdown again over the holidays it will do long-term damage not only to the company, but to a recovering society's morale as a whole. The pilots union can return to the negotiating table after the holidays. If operations run smoothly over that period, the management will be much more willing to grant concessions to them. They just need to do their part for now. When I was working at a job earning about as much as a Starbucks Barista, my company would offer me extra pay to work on the holidays, and I was more than happy to accept it.

1
Evan Guest

In a way, I understand what the pilots are saying. Even after a couple of meltdowns, it's clear AA built its holiday schedules with little room for error. If the schedules crumble, front line employees have to clean up the mess and deal with the angry customers (and that includes pilots from what I've seen these days). Is this the right way for the pilots to do this? I don't know...but AA needs to build schedules to operate reliably with the staff they have, not pie-in-the-sky schedules that work only if nothing goes wrong. Also, as a side note on airline pay...too many people misunderstand flight crew pay. Pay rates are per flight hour. So yes, a pilot may be paid for 80 flight hours, but believe me, he/she is working more than 80 hours a month. For example, pilots show up at least an hour before their first flight. In addition, if they are flying multiple legs, they have procedures to perform between each leg, etc. That's all part of the job. Just because the aircraft is on the ground doesn't mean they're not working. My point is this...stop thinking flight crew works only 80 hours a month. They work much more. It's just that for pay purposes, airlines use flight hours as the benchmark.

1
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