Breeze Airways Pilots Vote To Unionize, But…

Breeze Airways Pilots Vote To Unionize, But…

13

Pilots at US airline startup Breeze Airways have voted to unionize, but the airline plans to contest the vote.

Breeze pilots vote 29-21 to unionize

Breeze Airways was founded by David Neeleman (the same person behind Azul, JetBlue, etc.), and launched operations in 2021. There has been some controversy surrounding the carrier’s employment techniques and pay, and it looks like those issues are about to be taken to the next level.

By a 29-21 vote conducted by the National Mediation Board, Breeze Airways pilots have voted to unionize. The Air Line Pilots Association, which is behind the unionization efforts, had the following to say:

“With 85% of eligible pilots participating in a representation election that concluded today, Breeze Airways pilots voted in favor of union representation and chose to join ALPA. The National Mediation Board is expected to certify ALPA as the official bargaining representative for the airline’s pilots in the next few days.”

Breeze Airways won’t be accepting the results, though, and plans to file a legal challenge:

“Breeze was disappointed to learn of the National Mediation Board’s decision that the Air Line Pilots Association, International had won an election as union representative for Breeze pilots. Breeze plans to file a legal challenge to the election since the NMB used a flawed election process that unlawfully denied a majority of Breeze’s pilots the right to vote in the election.”

What’s the basis of Breeze’s objections? The vote was among pilots who were actively flying as of March 31, 2022. At the time Breeze was just flying smaller Embraer E190 jets, but in the meantime Breeze has started Airbus A220 service.

Breeze executives thinks a lot more pilots should have been eligible to vote. Presumably they also think that A220 pilots may be happier, as they get somewhat higher pay, nicer (brand new) planes to fly, and can also operate longer routes.

Breeze is contesting the results because of the A220

My take on Breeze unionization efforts

Breeze Airways certainly started off rather controversially when it came to hiring:

Breeze’s pilot pay has evolved a bit since then — first officer pay now starts at $75 per hour and can go up to $130 per hour, while captain pay now starts at $142 per hour and can go up to $196 per hour. You can generally expect that pilots will fly up to 1,000 hours per year, so best case scenario that comes out to annual pay of $75,000 to $196,000.

Obviously that’s objectively good pay compared to most professions, though at the moment pilots are really in demand:

  • Connect Airlines, a US airline startup flying turboprops, is offering captains $250,000+ in pay
  • Just as a point of comparison, Delta pilot pay starts at $92 per hour for first officers, and goes up to $354 per hour for captains
  • Due to the pilot shortage, regional pilots have seen massive pay increases; for example, Piedmont pilot pay now starts at $90 per hour for first officers, and goes up to $214 per hour for captains
A new airline startup is paying regional captains $250K+ per year

It seems pretty clear what’s going on here:

  • Obviously many Breeze pilots are on some level tempted to stay at the airline, because as it continues to grow, the initial pilots will have really high seniority, which is great for work-life balance
  • At the same time, without being unionized, the pilots can’t really negotiate the much better pay that so much of the rest of the industry is getting at the moment
  • It seems inevitable that Breeze pilots will eventually unionize, but clearly the airline is just trying to stall a bit, to push pay raises further into the future

Bottom line

Breeze Airways pilots have voted to unionize, which doesn’t really surprise me. The airline is trying to dispute the vote, though, by claiming that more pilots should have been eligible to vote. It seems inevitable that pilots at the airline will eventually unionize, though I’m guessing the airline is just trying to delay the inevitable.

What do you make of this Breeze Airways unionization vote?

(Tip of the hat to Ethan Klapper)

Conversations (13)
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  1. Marty Guest

    Unions are the kiss of death for any new company.

  2. Max Power Guest

    I have to laugh at the comments written by people who aren't pilots and have no idea how our industry works. Every major Airline in the United States is unionized, and nearly ALL of the rest are, too. Your seniority is only good at your airline, not in the industry, so if you are already a senior captain at one Airline and want to change to a different Airline you start over at the bottom....

    I have to laugh at the comments written by people who aren't pilots and have no idea how our industry works. Every major Airline in the United States is unionized, and nearly ALL of the rest are, too. Your seniority is only good at your airline, not in the industry, so if you are already a senior captain at one Airline and want to change to a different Airline you start over at the bottom. If you don't understand how an industry works, why are you even commenting? Jealousy is an ugly thing.

    1. Rotuma Gold

      You're so right. Eventually I left piloting to work in other aspects of aviation (including training). For many years new jobs for pilots paid minimum wage, if you average the time spent at work, whether flying or sitting on the ground waiting and not being paid. Working as a manager at a fast-food place paid more. You put up with the misery of long days, always away from home, and finally make second-year pay. Then...

      You're so right. Eventually I left piloting to work in other aspects of aviation (including training). For many years new jobs for pilots paid minimum wage, if you average the time spent at work, whether flying or sitting on the ground waiting and not being paid. Working as a manager at a fast-food place paid more. You put up with the misery of long days, always away from home, and finally make second-year pay. Then the company goes bankrupt or merges with another, and the pilot has to start all over at the bottom at a new airline with the same pay as other new hires. Eventually you run out of tomorrows and options. Young people have it better now, but it's still an uphill climb and there's still no certainty that the new airline will stay in business. The alleged "pilot shortage" is mostly caused by the airlines themselves and the absurd pay scale where experience counts for nothing.

  3. Guest Guest

    Unions are required when management creates an unequal playing field. So pay, overtime, vacation, health benefits, schedules, bidding may all be at the whim of whoever is managing that portion. If you were to investigate the pilots concerns, you might get a better picture of the false promises and inequity that's probably happening daily at breeze.
    It's kind of like the modern classroom. The gifted student sitting next to the regular student who is...

    Unions are required when management creates an unequal playing field. So pay, overtime, vacation, health benefits, schedules, bidding may all be at the whim of whoever is managing that portion. If you were to investigate the pilots concerns, you might get a better picture of the false promises and inequity that's probably happening daily at breeze.
    It's kind of like the modern classroom. The gifted student sitting next to the regular student who is sitting next to the special needs student all get the same assignment, but only have to complete what they feel they can accomplish. In the end the teacher gives them all A's but the learning that occurred may be drastically different. That creates a great deal of animosity and inequity that kids take to heart. Maybe students need unions?

  4. Rich Jones Guest

    Pay is not the reason pilots unionize. It is more about schedules, job protection, training, advancement etc based on my 20 years in a pilot union.

  5. FlyerDon Guest

    None of this matters because, in a few years, we will be referring to Breeze in the past tense.

  6. dander Guest

    Pilots are way overpaid. Pilots didn't say anything when many of the Mechanics jobs were outsourced did they?

    1. Rotuma Gold

      Some pilots at the top of the pay scale do have high salaries, but the starting pay is ridiculously low at most places. Take the hourly pay and multiply by 1,000 for a rough measure of annual salary. Hourly pay counts only when the airplane is moving, not the 3-5 hours a day between flights, checking weather, schedule changes, pre-and post-flight checks, and waiting.
      Whenever an airline goes bankrupt, the pilot must start over...

      Some pilots at the top of the pay scale do have high salaries, but the starting pay is ridiculously low at most places. Take the hourly pay and multiply by 1,000 for a rough measure of annual salary. Hourly pay counts only when the airplane is moving, not the 3-5 hours a day between flights, checking weather, schedule changes, pre-and post-flight checks, and waiting.
      Whenever an airline goes bankrupt, the pilot must start over at the bottom somewhere else. Experience counts for nothing. Imagine a surgeon making $60,000 a year, while some of his or her colleagues are making $300,000 a year for doing the same work. Of course, that doesn't happen, but the idea would be that with enough years working for the same hospital the younger surgeon will eventually make enough money to pay off student loans and have financial security. But oops, downsizing. The last hired is the first to go, and must start off at the bottom somewhere else in a few months when hiring takes place, so that surgeon has a hard time ever getting ahead. Of course, in the medical world, as with most industries, employees actually are compensated based on experience.
      And many of us expressed concern about mechanic jobs being outsourced. The quality of maintenance went down. But if a mechanic starts at another airline, his experience actually counts in his favor when it comes to pay. Not so for pilots. And with some exceptions, the mechanic gets to go home every night or day to be with his family.

  7. Frank Guest

    It's the same old story that is why big corporations do not want unionization because they fear having to pay higher pay scale and more benefits, just look around America all the people who only live on social security and do not even know what the word pension means anymore

  8. Mantis Guest

    If you're a good pilot, and pilots are in such high demand, then why do you feel the need to join a union? Just go get another job. That's how 99% of the world works. It's usually the worst workers with the lowest skills that are pushing for the union. These people would rather destroy a company than be accountable for themselves.

    1. Love to Fly Guest

      I suspect this union vote isn't just about pay but also about, schedules, vacation, health insurance, retirement, sick pay, layover hotels, and a whole host of other issues.

      And if you want to make this simply about pay then look at it this way, for pilots who obtain their commercial license through civilian schools by the time they finally land a job at an airline they have anywhere between $150,000 to $250,000 dollars in...

      I suspect this union vote isn't just about pay but also about, schedules, vacation, health insurance, retirement, sick pay, layover hotels, and a whole host of other issues.

      And if you want to make this simply about pay then look at it this way, for pilots who obtain their commercial license through civilian schools by the time they finally land a job at an airline they have anywhere between $150,000 to $250,000 dollars in student loan debt. Some people aren't interested in flying for United, Delta, American or Southwest, they like the chance to get in on the ground floor of this brand new airline. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be fairly compensated like pilots who are flying similar size aircraft at other airlines. Breeze is has 80 or so A220-300s on order they need to pay a fair hourly wage to their pilots and they are not doing that right now. Demanding fair compensation doesn't make an individual a terrible, low skill pilot.

    2. Rotuma Gold

      "That's how 99% of the world works." And exactly the opposite of the pilot world, where experience counts for nothing when it comes to pay. So many good pilots left the flight deck because they can't afford to keep starting over at the bottom whenever an airline goes bankrupt, or simply closes a base and demands that the pilots move (uprooting their families) to whichever city the airline decides.

  9. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Breeze's model wouldn't have worked given the significant pilot shortage that is resulting in a shift of pilots toward the highest paying airlines. This is not a time to think that paying bottom of the barrel wages will work.
    And if you pay pilots real market rates, you have to do the same for other employees.

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FlyerDon Guest

None of this matters because, in a few years, we will be referring to Breeze in the past tense.

2
Rotuma Gold

Some pilots at the top of the pay scale do have high salaries, but the starting pay is ridiculously low at most places. Take the hourly pay and multiply by 1,000 for a rough measure of annual salary. Hourly pay counts only when the airplane is moving, not the 3-5 hours a day between flights, checking weather, schedule changes, pre-and post-flight checks, and waiting. Whenever an airline goes bankrupt, the pilot must start over at the bottom somewhere else. Experience counts for nothing. Imagine a surgeon making $60,000 a year, while some of his or her colleagues are making $300,000 a year for doing the same work. Of course, that doesn't happen, but the idea would be that with enough years working for the same hospital the younger surgeon will eventually make enough money to pay off student loans and have financial security. But oops, downsizing. The last hired is the first to go, and must start off at the bottom somewhere else in a few months when hiring takes place, so that surgeon has a hard time ever getting ahead. Of course, in the medical world, as with most industries, employees actually are compensated based on experience. And many of us expressed concern about mechanic jobs being outsourced. The quality of maintenance went down. But if a mechanic starts at another airline, his experience actually counts in his favor when it comes to pay. Not so for pilots. And with some exceptions, the mechanic gets to go home every night or day to be with his family.

1
Max Power Guest

I have to laugh at the comments written by people who aren't pilots and have no idea how our industry works. Every major Airline in the United States is unionized, and nearly ALL of the rest are, too. Your seniority is only good at your airline, not in the industry, so if you are already a senior captain at one Airline and want to change to a different Airline you start over at the bottom. If you don't understand how an industry works, why are you even commenting? Jealousy is an ugly thing.

1
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