Union Warns Pilots Not To Come Work For American Airlines

It isn’t often that a union tries to get people not to join. Usually the incentive is to grow its ranks. However the American Airlines pilots union is warning pilots if they go to work at American Airlines they’ll be stuck at American for their whole career thanks to the senior system which makes jumping carriers not a viable option (since you lose schedule flexibility and pay).

American’s pilots union is in negotiations with the airline, and things have seemed to progress slowly (if at all). Pilots themselves have griped about lack of information from their union.

Perhaps the union feels it can,

  • publicly embarrass the airline as a pressure tactic in negotiations

  • make it harder for them to find new pilots, increasing the urgency of mollifying the group they have

The wage page that the Allied Pilots Association set up highlights criticisms of American Airlines. Some of those criticisms are relevant to pilots, others not (mishandled checked bags, really?).

Nonetheless, there are very legitimate gripes that the union does have with the airline.

  • During the pandemic, United, Delta, and Southwest managed to retain all of their pilots while American furloughed pilots.

  • Some pilots are reluctant to volunteer for daily open trips, because the airline will ‘bait and switch’ get pilots to volunteer for one trip and send them somewhere else

  • I’ve heard similar nightmares about pilots working reserve, where they get sent on different itineraries mid-trip despite contractual provisions against this.

  • And while this issue is reportedly getting better, the system for providing lodging for pilots during trips has been broken for months. By the way when the airline changes where a pilot is going mid-trip, the limo desk doesn’t actually get this information into its system. Fly into one area airport, and now going out of another? Pilots may be getting an itinerary with ground transportation but there’s no ground transport actually arranged.

Still, warning pilots ‘don’t join our union’ is a bit of an odd play, they’re an independent union telling pilots ‘go join ALPA instead.’

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is exactly why it doesn’t pay to work for someone else for the next 20 or 30 years wondering about “job security.” True job security is when you take a leap of faith into the entrepreneurial abyss of uncertainty and get that “side hustle” going. Side hustles are today’s new norm for overcoming the traditional employment scene and being at the mercy of an unthankful employer. Long gone are the days of going to work for 20 to 40 years on a high school diploma or college degree and successfully transitioning into retirement with a healthy pension check. True job security is in starting a business on the Internet and “working from home,” or working on the go as an “affiliate marketing digital nomad.”

  2. I’m curious how many pilots have a choice in who they work for – do they actually get multiple offers from competing airlines? Or is it you apply to everyone and grab at the first chance you get? I don’t know any pilots, the closest I got was the mother of one who told me her son applied to every commuter line out there and grabbed the first chance he got to gain hours at a crappy salary because he was so desperate to fly anything.

    Maybe ex-military pilots who fly cargo and tanker aircraft get multiple offers? There aren’t exactly a ton of those out there.

  3. Anyone who starts work now at American Airlines in any capacity is nuts. Look how the current rank and file are being treated. You want to join that??

  4. I’m in a complete tizzy trying to decide who sucks worse, AA’s highly compensated, never satisfied, bad attitude pilots or the massively and consistently inept management team.

  5. It’s a terrible shame that Marriott is partnered with United, while happening Hyatt is partnered with awful AA.

    Marriott and AA should be partners (instead), as both companies seem to have adopted the same ‘screw the customer’ playbook.

    Meanwhile, Hyatt and United would be the perfect pairing for my travel habits/interests.

  6. E.K. Gann’s Fate is the Hunter is a fantastic book, and a good episodic account of flying for American before, during, and after WW2. While he has many eye-raising tales of his close calls and casual mentions of others’ fatal events, what ultimately did his career in was the number he got when he joined.

  7. Depending on experience pilots can get multiple offers. So the decision comes down to where are the hubs, pay and benefits and long term outlook for the airline.

  8. My dad had a copy of “Fate Is The Hunter” on his bookshelf for as long as I can remember, although I never knew what is was about. Still regarded as one of the best aviation books, still in print. And the first edition brings a pretty penny. I’ll have to see what edition and printing it is, as the dustjacket does match the first edition.

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