Pilot Roundup: Air Canada Wants More, United Wants Even More Than That, Southwest Authorizes Strike
The pilots’ unions of Air Canada, Southwest, and United are bracing for negotiations and showdowns with their respective carriers as things heat up this summer.
Air Canada pilots expect negotiations to begin this summer as their 10-year contract approaches its end. The Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) must decide by May 29 if it will opt out of its current deal to begin new negotiations, and all signs point to it doing just that. The union told Reuters that its pilots are working at a steep discount compared to other North American pilots and it also insists that the pilots will no longer accept half their salary in the form of Tim Horton’s gift cards.
United pilots are also looking for major pay bumps, with their union treating Delta pilots’ 34% raise including $7 billion in higher pay as the starting point in negotiations. United and its pilots have been negotiating for nearly five years straddling the pandemic and its effect on the industry. United pilots plan to picket at 10 airports today – making the strategic choice to voice their concerns at four Hawaiian airports, three in the Caribbean, Cancun, Paris, and Rome.
Last – but not least – Southwest’s pilots voted Thursday to authorize a strike, making it the fourth domestic carrier to do so in recent months. Voting to authorize a strike isn’t as big a deal as it sounds – it doesn’t mean a strike is imminent, and is often nothing more than a negotiating tactic. Despite that, the overwhelming results, with 99% of pilots voting to approve the strike authorization does signal dark storm clouds ahead with the 1% who voted against being reassigned the manage the boarding process for the carrier instead of flying planes.
Federal Government Seeks EC261-Type Rule in U.S.
President Biden announced the government will seek to add a new rule requiring airline passengers to be compensated to potentially a greater extent than is required now when flights are canceled or delayed significantly.
During the announcement Monday at the White House, the president, along with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the rules would shield passengers from having to foot the bill for travel disruptions under the airline’s control. Airlines all immediately announced that going forward, no delay will ever be under their control.
In a shocking turn, Airlines for America (A4A) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) criticized the move, as IATA Director General Willie Walsh said airlines work hard to get passengers where they’re going and do everything they can to operate an on-time operation, implying this wouldn’t make things any better, just more expensive. And let’s be honest – if anyone knows about disappointing its customers, it’s the guy who used to run British Airways.
The secretary said the new guidelines would apply to passengers of most carriers, but anyone who chooses to connect through Newark or fly Spirit would be on their own as a consequence of their actions. EC261 has been in place for nearly 20 years and it guarantees passengers between €250 and €600 if their flight is canceled or significantly delayed, but what the US version of that would be is anyone’s guess.
United to Delta About Haneda Slot Waivers: Not So Fast
United Airlines is not amused by Delta’s proposal to loosen the restrictions on slot requirements at Tokyo/Haneda, calling the concept a “self-serving scheme for an unprecedented and untested pilot program for limited gateway flexibility”. Other than that, United seems fine with it.
Delta requested the DOT allow two of each carrier’s slots be used for different U.S. gateway airports than currently assigned to allow them to react to changes in demand since the pandemic. American supported Delta’s request, with the assumption it would want to alter its slot destinations from HND which are currently just Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles. Hawaiian also came out in favor of the waiver with similar reasonings as AA based on changing demand since the pandemic and shifting demographics for POG juice drinkers.
United also would say that Delta’s proposal is without merit and totally arbitrary along with being mean and hurtful. UA plans to resume LAX-NRT service this fall, and is ready, willing, and able to add new flights from Tokyo/Haneda to Houston/IAH and Guam if any additional slots become available.
Ryanair Acquires Amazing Amount of Airplanes
Ryanair placed the largest aircraft order in its history this week, spending a rack rate of $40 billion to purchase 300 Boeing 737 MAX 10s with delivery starting in 2027. The actual price is likely much less than $40 billion as carriers never pay rack rate, and there’s no one who can squeeze more life out of a nickel than Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary.
The agreement consists of a firm order for 150 planes and an option for 150 more. Ryanair and Boeing finally came to terms when the carrier managed to get Boeing to smush a few extra seats on the airplane, including in the lavs, the cargo hold, and turning half the overhead compartments into private bunks available for just a small fee.
The MAX 10 is the largest current variant of the MAX, and Ryanair plans to fill them with a snug 228 seats. Ryanair says these planes will offer 21% more seats, 20% less fuel burn, and be 50% quieter than its previous generation B737-800s.
All-Digital Mostly-Digital at its Dubai Hub
Emirates Airline will begin to require passengers use a mobile boarding pass for all departures from its Dubai hub beginning this Monday, May 15. Emirates says it’s doing this to both reduce paper waste and limit the risk of lost boarding passes to give travelers more peace of mind when traveling.
The exception to the policy will allow paper boarding passes for those with lap infants in their party, unaccompanied minors, passengers with onward connections on other carriers – and all passengers traveling to the United States. The carrier will allow passengers to seek out an Emirates agent at check-in to print a boarding pass, but those who do so will be required to staple the BP to their forehead for their entire journey as an exercise in shame.
The plan also includes luggage receipts, which will be emailed to passengers and available in the app. This comes as EK announced Thursday it would put $200 million into a sustainability fund designed to create opportunities for the airline to tell customers it put $200 million into a sustainability fund.
- Air France-KLM is batting its eyes at TAP.
- Air New Zealand‘s final B777-300ER has been removed from pandemic-era storage, and the airplane will re-enter service tomorrow when it flies to San Francisco.
- Alaska released a bitchin’ new Xáat Kwáani special livery.
- American named Steve Johnson Vice Chair and Chief Strategy Officer. His first assignment for his new job is to figure out exactly what a loyalty point is and how one accrues them. In other possibly related news, AA announced Vice Chair, President of American Eagle and Strategic Advisor Derek Kerr is retiring.
- Asia Pacific Airlines resumed flight operations following an FAA grounding.
- Canadian North sent its final B737-200C to the big airplane hangar in the sky.
- Delta seems to be claiming it’s invented the concept of streaming content on the internet.
- Emirates reported a record $2.9 billion profit figure for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Due to the significant windfall, the carrier plans to offer a profit-sharing bonus of 24 weeks pay to all employees.
- GOL met several self-imposed goals with a 19% YoY jump in passenger volume for April.
- Himalaya Jet is a thing. Sorta.
- Jin Air is going to borrow another $22 million.
- Lufthansa Technik signed with JetSMART, its first partnership in South America.
- Qatar Flight 960 on Wednesday from Doha to Bali was forced to divert to Bangkok due to severe turbulence. The carrier was unable to convince customers that Bangkok was “just as good a vacation destination as Bali.”
- Ryanair was victorious in EU court over its issues with pandemic aid offered to Lufthansa and SAS by their respective governments.
- Turkish is probably going to order a lot of airplanes next week.
- TUI fly took delivery of its first E195-E2. We assume it has already been parked due to lack of functioning engines.
- United expanded its codeshare with Azul to include six new U.S. destinations: Chicago/O’Hare, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington/Dulles.
- Virgin Australia‘s B737 MAX delivery delays will cause the fleet to miss the start of its new service to Tokyo.
My wife and I stopped at the gas station near our house to buy a Mega Millions ticket last week because it was up over $100 million. On the ride home, she asked me “If you won the lottery, would you still love me?”
“Of course I would,” I replied.
“I’d miss you, but I’d still love you,” I added.
I do not have a degree in law… “… but anyone who chooses to connect through Newark…” meaning folks opt to fly from or to Newark are still covered, right? RIGHT??
For those doing hidden city ticket and ditching their EWR-ABE bus to have fun in NYC. Can they claim Newark was their actual final destination hence they are still covered? Or they lost their coverage because they breached the contract first?
Those Amercan Loyalty points…no idea how they are accrued or on what basis.
No mention of PR’s A350-1000 MoU?
Screw Airbus and all its works.
Am I the only one who dering if these big pilot pay increases are sustainable? The current demand hides those 34% raises and higher fuel costs. But the other labor groups are watching the pilots, and expecting the same. Take those added costs, then see fuel spike further and demand slack off, and things could get very interesting.
Other labor groups are much more replaceable than pilots due to the required flying hours so they can’t make the same demands.
It will hurt airlines when demand cools off, but it gets that bad the airlines can threaten to (or actually) declare bankruptcy and labor will be forced to take a pay cut.
If you factor in inflation, pilot costs have been going down ever since the 70s. The reason there is a pilot shortage is the pay and benefits got so low that it wasn’t worth the increasing training costs. With the new contracts the motivation has reverse and the pilot pipeline is filling up rapidly again.
Whether intentional or not, to me it feels like the current wave of pilot contract negotiations is a push to get the pilots wage increases at (close to) the peak of the current cycle, before air travel demand softens and airline profits fall.
I’m not sure that I would call it “unsustainable,” but I agree with you that things could get VERY interesting if pay increases for pilots + other labor groups go into effect before the air travel demand (and profits) start to shrink back to more “normal” levels.
That said, I don’t blame the labor groups for trying to get pay increases while they can and while the market is hot; it’s just part of the game.