- United Airlines and its pilots’ labor union have reached an agreement on new contract terms, the first of the major carriers to strike a deal since the start of the Covid pandemic. The crisis roiled the industry and exacerbated a pilot shortage and training backlog.
- The Air Line Pilots Association and United didn’t disclose the terms of the deal on Friday, but they will likely include higher pay and other improvements.
- United has had perhaps the least contentious relationship with its pilots’ union of the major carriers and struck early deals during the pandemic to keep aviators on staff and trained.
- “United Airlines was the only airline to work with our pilots union to reach an agreement during COVID,” CEO Scott Kirby said in a LinkedIn post. “It’s not surprising that we are now the first airline to get an Agreement in Principle for an industry leading new pilot contract.”
- The agreement still faces a vote by the union and later, by pilots.
- Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are still in negotiations with pilots unions, which have organized pickets in recent months to protest grueling schedules.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham is said to be preparing to introduce legislation that would raise the retirement age for commercial airline pilots in the U.S. by at least two years, to 67.
- Two people familiar with the proposed legislation confirmed that Graham is in the process of building support among his colleagues in Congress before introducing the bill. Airline pilots must retire at 65 today, an age that was set in 2007, when Congress raised the it from 60.
- Raising the retirement age would be a short-term fix to the pilot shortage facing U.S. airlines. Following a spike in early retirements at major carriers and a slowdown in the issuance of new airline transport pilot (ATP) certificates by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during the pandemic, the industry is facing a shortage of thousands of pilots that is not expected to ease until at least next year. The shortage is forcing regional airlines, including Mesa Airlines and SkyWest Airlines, to ground planes and cancel flights. Even mid-tier carriers, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways, say they face elevated attrition rates.
- “This just kicks the can down the road two years,” said one person familiar with the proposed legislation. Raising the retirement age does not address the industry’s need for more new pilots, something that takes years and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the government’s requirement for 1,500 hours at the controls of a plane for ATP certification as a first officer, or 2,500 hours as a captain.
- On Tuesday, Textron Aviation and FedEx Express announced the first delivery of the Cessna SkyCourier. FedEx is a launch customer of the new twin utility turboprop made by Cessna, and has 50 of the freighter aircraft on order.
- “FedEx took delivery of its first Cessna in the mid-1980s and the two companies have had a collaborative relationship over the four decades since. We’re thrilled to deliver this aircraft that will help FedEx serve its customers more efficiently as it is designed with the option to carry industry-standard prepacked cargo containers. We believe many other air freight, passenger and special mission operators also will benefit from the winning combination of low operating costs and unparalleled lift capacity that the new Cessna SkyCourier brings to the market.”
- The Cessna 408 SkyCourier is a twin-engine, high-wing turboprop that offers improved performance and lower operating costs. The aircraft has a freighter version, a passenger version, and can be used for special missions. The passenger variant of the SkyCourier has a capacity of 19 passengers and has separate entrances for crew and passengers. Separate entrances allow for smooth boarding, and the aircraft also features large cabin windows which provide natural light and great views. Both versions of the aircraft are equipped with single-point pressure refueling in order to make quicker turnarounds.
- Flight attendants at JetBlue are ‘physically drained’, ‘mentally exhausted’ and at ‘breaking point’ after a succession of recent operational meltdowns that have been made worse by staff shortages and ‘punitive’ attendance policies.
- That was the message that JetBlue’s president Joanna Geraghty received on Friday in an open letter from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) which represents flight attendants at the carrier.
- The union recently signed its first contract with JetBlue which was welcomed by management but the relationship between the two sides has become increasingly strained in recent weeks because flight attendants feel like they are being blamed for the airline’s recent operational disaster
- “Sadly, the pervasive attitude among Inflight Leadership is that the IFCs (infight crewmembers) are what went wrong with the operation, instead of the other way around,” the union told Geraghty on Friday.
- “Punishment, fear, and intimidation have become the go-to quick fix, and it’s not working,” the letter warned. “That is going to require some changes, and we hope you’ll take a hard look at the direction we’ve been going, and see where we need to change course.”
- Top of the agenda for the TWU is a ‘punitive’ attendance management policy that it is claimed has led to flight attendant burnout. “We’re only human and we’re at our breaking point,” the letter implores.