Airline Pilots Protesting For Better Working Conditions And Quality Of Life

Protests in airports have been occurring all across America as pilots are fighting for better working conditions with quality of life issues taking center stage of their requests. 

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Airline pilots from major airlines such as Unites, American, and Southwest airlines have been protesting all across America over better working conditions and quality life issues that they want mended. 

Pilots and airline employees have been in talks and negotiating for increased pay since 2019, however, the pandemic delayed any progress they were making at the time. Delta pilots were able to secure a 34% raise this past March, with United and American airlines claiming they will be matching the increase. 

Alex Cole, a 737 captain for United Airlines, recently spoke to NPR about how due to a multitude of issues within the industry, he’s away from home around 15 days a month, missing holidays and family birthdays. “These are special moments you don’t get back.” Captain Dennis Tajer, a 30-year veteran of American Airlines and spokesman for the union representing 15,000 pilots at American, also spoke on the pilot shortage exacerbating issues.

“To meet demand, American is giving pilots tighter schedules, less buffer time around flights and more nights away from home. Not only does that destroy our family life, but when a trip falls apart on day one, that leaves all that extra flying out there to be picked up somehow.” 

Early on in the pandemic, many pilots were offered early retirement packages to combat the major lack of travel that was occurring. The past two summers, however, showed a major influx in air travel, even surpassing pre-pandemic levels in some areas, leaving airlines scrambling to hire more pilots and other trained professionals in the industry. 

Now, for pilots, there are fewer trips made on a one to two day schedule, and more often made on a four to five day schedule, forcing pilots to be away from their homes for longer periods of time. 

Within the past year especially, pilots have been asking for limits on reassignments, as well as incentives when they have to take on schedule changes or accommodate pilots who want to pick up extra flying time for themselves. 

Jerry Glass has been representing airlines with negotiations for the past 40 years through the FH Solutions Group, and recently spoke on the current discussions happening in the airline industry.

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“What’s called irregular operations are going to happen. I think it’s the extent that it’s happened. The pilot shortage isn’t the only challenge airlines are facing. More frequent bad weather is also causing havoc.”

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Glass explained that he’s advising companies to reassess how they schedule workers or else they could risk finding employees. 

“You’ve probably heard the expression ‘time is the new money.’ For this generation of workers that’s coming into the workforce – their quality of life is very important to them. Much more so than my generation where, you know, if you have to work, you work.”

Summer travel, however, will ideally not be impacted by these protests, as many of the major airlines are reaching deals with their pilots. American reached a preliminary agreement with its pilots that is likely to be closing soon. 

Helane Becker, senior airline analyst with TD Cowen, stated that Americans should also be prepared for air travel costs to increase, “not only because pilot pay is going up, but flight attendant pay is going up as well, as well as mechanic pay.”