Reversing course from three weeks ago, leaders of the American Eagle pilots union have decided to let its members vote on a tentative contract agreement with the regional carrier.
The Air Line Pilots Association’s master executive council for American Eagle will schedule a ratification vote on the proposed 10-year contract that would allow Eagle pilots to fly new, larger regional aircraft in exchange for freezing pay scales until 2018 and eliminating profit sharing.
“After discussion and analysis, the [Master Executive Council] voted to send the proposal to the pilots as a tentative agreement so that the pilot group can weigh in individually on the agreement,” Eagle-MEC Chairman Bill Sprague said in a message sent to pilots on Friday afternoon.
Voting will begin on March 13 and close on March 28.
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If the agreement is ratified, American Eagle President Pedro Fabregas said, Eagle pilots will make up at least 50 percent of each hiring class at American Airlines and in some cases up to 100 percent.
“Our pilots will have an unmatched flow-through agreement, an industry-leading fleet commitment and new, large regional jets, which better meet the needs of our customers and mainline partner,” Fabregas said. He added that the hiring portion of the agreement will help Eagle attract more pilots to the carrier.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines Group plans to rename the regional carrier Envoy later this spring as it expands its use of outside carriers to fly routes under the Eagle brand.
One of those contract carriers is Republic Airways, which also recently negotiated a new contract with its pilots union. Its pilots are scheduled to vote this month on a four-year contract that includes significant pay increases and a signing bonus. The contract comes as the regional airline announced in January it was grounding 27 jets because it didn’t have enough pilots to operate them.
When the Eagle union leadership initially voted against sending the agreement out to its 2,800 members, Sprague said the pilots were unwilling to accept a lengthy contract that would lock them into wage rates near the bottom of the industry. American then said it planned to move aircraft away from Eagle to other carriers, putting the future of the regional airline in jeopardy.
In January, the union's negotiating committee and management reached an agreement guaranteeing that 60 of the new Embraer 175 aircraft that American Airlines Group ordered in December would be used with Eagle. The deal included options for 90 other aircraft to be operated by the regional carrier.
Although pilots would receive 1 percent pay increases starting in 2018, the captain pay scale would be capped at 12 years of service, and the first-officer pay scale would be capped at four years of service.
At American Eagle, a new hire makes $26 an hour. Based on a guarantee of 72 hours a month, the first officer would make about $22,464. Eagle is offering $5,000 signing bonuses to new pilots who agree to stay for two years. Captains, however, can earn significantly more, with pay rates of $67 to $104 an hour.