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American pilots want raises to keep pace with Southwest, United

American Airlines pilots union president Dan Carey poses for a photo at the Allied Pilots Association headquarters in Fort Worth, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Special/Brandon Wade
American Airlines pilots union president Dan Carey poses for a photo at the Allied Pilots Association headquarters in Fort Worth, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Special/Brandon Wade Star-Telegram

Allied Pilots Association President Dan Carey said he’s optimistic that the pilots union and management at American Airlines will be able to work out pay raises and improved work rules for pilots at the world’s largest airline.

At a press conference at the union headquarters in Fort Worth on Wednesday, Carey said he doesn’t want to wait until 2020, when the union’s current contract becomes amendable, to get new pay raises for pilots. After Southwest Airlines and United Airlines pilots approved new contracts with substantial pay raises this year, American’s pilots have fallen behind other pilot groups in the industry when it comes to pay.

“We don’t want to open the contract [for negotiations]. We want a mid-term adjustment, that would be our objective, on pay and profit-sharing,” Carey said. “And we would like a timely implementation in the next four months of the contract that our members ratified over two years ago.”

Carey, a Boeing 777 captain based in New York, was elected president of the APA in July. He has worked as a pilot at American since 1984. The APA represents 15,000 pilots at American.

Carey discussed a variety of topics at the media briefing. Some other highlights:

On the current contract: “Our agenda is to get out of this bankruptcy contract. We negotiated the contract with a knee to our chest and a bayonet to our throat. We took a deal in the 11th hour from the previous administration and while the deal at the time had industry-leading pay, it was industry-lagging in essentially every other benefit and work rule. Our pilots on average work 30 more days a year to achieve the FAA maximum of 1,000 hours and if they can achieve that with working and being away from the family, friends and loved ones, an additional month a year than our brothers and sisters at United, Delta, FedEx, UPS. At the end of that 1,000-hour marathon, our pilots still fall short 20 to 30 percent in renumeration from those pilots ... We are a solid number 5 or 6 in pay and benefits.”

On his relationship with management: “I’m hopeful and optimistic that management will work with us on trying to inch back towards the United, Delta pay scales and profit sharing. It’s beneficial to them to have a more efficient pilot group. We are willing to make some changes where we can get more work done in less amount of time.”

On operational issues: “Every day, as an airline with over 3,000 flights a day worldwide, we cancel flights because pilots run out of duty time. We offered the company six weeks ago a package ... where they could waive our contractual duty time and go to the [less strict government flight rules] anytime they want ... it just had a premium pay scheme attached to it... [Management] actually said they were looking at it but it was six weeks ago.”

On possibly rejoining the Air Line Pilots Association: “The ALPA debate should be a healthy debate.... We’ve had two domiciles, Los Angeles and Phoenix, at their local union meetings in the last few months pass resolutions to have an ALPA exploratory committee. That resolution will go through the other nine pilot domiciles, and that will be presented our board of directors... We have members who are former ALPA members who want us to go back and we have members who don’t want to go back.... In the end, it’s all about getting a better contract for the pilots we represent.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk