WASHINGTON, D.C.—Union leaders representing pilots at US Airways` wholly owned subsidiaries Allegheny, Piedmont, and PSA Airlines met this week to discuss possible actions seeking a reversal of the parent airline`s recent decision to outsource new small-jet operations to Mesa Airlines.
“We believe that the US Airways management decision to divert express-carrier small jet flying away from its subsidiaries stemmed in part out of frustration related to the inability to reach an agreement with its mainline pilots,” said Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International.
The conflict between US Airways and its mainline pilots relates to the specific type of airplane the carrier may acquire and deploy for express operations in accordance with the mainline pilots` contractual job protections. When the mainline pilots demanded adherence to weight and size limitations restricting the use of a specific type of express jet that US Airways sought to acquire, the carrier`s management converted its order for 25 of those jets to take delivery of an equal number of slightly smaller airplanes with specifications matching the labor-contract size requirements. However, management switched the deployment of those aircraft away from its subsidiaries to Mesa. The move would deprive pilots at both the mainline and wholly owned subsidiary operations of jobs within the US Airways system.
“Aside from its punitive effects on pilots, the decision makes no sense in any other context,” said Captain Olav Holm, chairman of ALPA`s unit representing pilots at US Airways subsidiary Piedmont Airlines. “By opting to use Mesa, US Airways management is trying to wedge a square peg into a round hole. There just isn`t a good fit,” Holm said.
“Mainline management underestimates the operational and cost efficiencies of using its integrated resources, including employees intimately familiar with the US Airways operation through years of exposure to it,” Holm added. “We fail to see this as a meaningful step toward successful economic recovery. According to Mr. Bruce Ashby, president of US Airways Express operations, Mesa airlines is already behind on current obligations to US Airways, and recently also made additional commitments to United Airlines. The result could be an inferior product for our customers,” he said.
According to Capt. Richard O`Leary, chairman of the Allegheny pilot ALPA unit, in the context of US Airways` recent history, management`s action becomes doubly insulting to the subsidiary employees. “US Airways` move betrays the spirit of cooperation and partnership that the pilots thought they had forged with management to get us through bankruptcy. Last year we made sizeable sacrifices and committed to providing the kind of top-shelf service that garnered the FAA’s Diamond Certificate of Excellence Award for 2002 and recent recognition that Allegheny is the top performer of all the affiliates and wholly-owned carriers flying under the US Airways code. In return, we were told the subsidiary carriers would participate in the new small-jet deployments. Management clearly isn`t keeping its end of the bargain,” O’Leary said.
In their meeting at union headquarters, the pilot leaders discussed possible recourses. “We`re looking at our options via the grievance provisions of the Railway Labor Act and through other legal avenues available under the pilot contracts,” Woerth said. “Specifically we are examining the financing arrangement related to the recent announcement that US Airways will take delivery of seventy-seat jets and lease them to Mesa Airlines.” The contracts at Allegheny and Piedmont Airlines provide that these aircraft financed by US Airways must be flown by the wholly-owned airlines.
Representing 66,000 pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada, ALPA is the world`s oldest and largest union of airline cockpit crews.