Two of American Airlines’ regional carriers have reached a deal with a union that will see pilots receive a major pay increase, as part of attracting and retaining workers.
Seeing pay up to 70 per cent higher than before, the two airlines – Envoy Air and Piedmont Airlines – will become the highest paid regional pilots in the US.
Over 2,600 pilots from the carriers are represented by Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and the union has been fighting for better pay and working conditions at the companies to reduce the chance of crew being poached or moving to competitors.
Effective until August 2024 – and a contract term through to July 2029 – Piedmont first year captain’s pay will jump from US$78 per hour to US$146 per hour. First year, first officer pay will also go from US$51 per hour to US$90 per hour.
“Piedmont has made significant investments in recent years to recruit and train the best pilots in the industry, including the bonuses we’ve previously announced,” said Eric Morgan, CEO and president.
“We want to grow this airline and we need pilots to do that. This deal will attract new first officers and the experienced captains we need for future opportunities, while also taking really good care of the pilots already flying for Piedmont.”
Envoy Air will increase its first officer pay by 6 per cent, and captains by 10 per cent. Plus, from 31 August 2024, Envoy pilots will receive an additional 50 per cent added to their hourly rate for all compensable hours.
The pilot shortage has been a consistent theme amid the ongoing post-pandemic recovery, as travel begins to rebound and airlines scramble to respond to growing demand.
“For years, regional airlines have tried to skimp and save on the most important safety feature on any flight: experienced, well-trained and rested pilots on the flight deck,” said Captain Joe DePete, ALPA president.
“The recent groundbreaking deals at Envoy and Piedmont are an acknowledgement that this approach of shortchanging frontline workers is not working and that airlines must offer competitive compensation packages and work rules to attract and retain pilots.”
Captain DePete said that contrary to the pilot shortage issues, nearly 8,000 were trained in the past year which exceeded pre-pandemic production, but “what’s been missing at some carriers is competent management, competitive wages and work rules”, he added.
According to Piedmont CEO Eric Morgan, who spoke to The Points Guy, the deal was inked efficiently, with talks only beginning last Wednesday, and finalised by Friday.
“It’s very simple right now: Our goal here was to make the pilot pathway at American the best in the industry,” Morgan said.
Meanwhile, if pilots abide by the typical “flow-through” program where they are automatically offered a job at American when it’s their turn on the seniority list, as a first officer, their pay at the regional carriers will now be roughly the same, meaning they will actually see a short-term pay cut.
TPG notes that this shows the airlines are admitting their pilots are leaving for other jobs outside of American before their flow dates.
Piedmont said that it expects to hire over 400 pilots this year, focusing on captains with the ability to train.
American’s other regional carrier, PSA Airlines, is still in negotiations with management on similar contract agreements.