Sky Talk

American, US Airways pilots still working on a combined seniority list

Pilots at American and its merger partner US Airways may not get a combined seniority list until 2016. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)
Pilots at American and its merger partner US Airways may not get a combined seniority list until 2016. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner) Star-Telegram

Bringing together three pilot groups into one seniority list at American Airlines is taking longer than expected.

Recent court rulings have delayed arbitration hearings that were scheduled for late June, making it unlikely that an arbitration panel will be able to come up with a seniority list by the original target date of December. The panel’s task is to create a seniority list that combines American pilots, former US Air pilots and former America West pilots.

For airline pilots, where they fall on a seniority list determines what flights they can work and what types of aircraft they are allowed to fly. Pilots typically on the top of a seniority list fly long-haul international flights where they get paid higher rates. Pilots lower on the list usually fly shorter, domestic routes that don’t pay as much.

Prior to US Airways’ merger with American in 2013, the pilots at US Airways never combined into one list as the former US Air and former America West pilots fought several legal battles related to seniority

The arbitration hearing delay stems from a June 26 ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that stated the former US Airline Pilots Association, which was representing US Airways pilots, had to advocate for a seniority list based on a previous arbiter, called the “Nicolau Award.” In the Nicolau Award, former America West pilots had better seniority positions than the former US Air pilots and USAPA did not agree with the Nicolau Award.

On June 29, USAPA decided to pull out of the arbitration hearings. But the Allied Pilots Association, which is the union representative for all of the pilots at the combined American-US Airways, said there still needed to be a group advocating for the former US Air pilots during the arbitration process.

“APA is committed to fulfilling its duty of fair representation to the pilots it represents, desiring nothing other than a fair and equitable process for integrating the seniority lists,” said APA president Keith Wilson in an e-mail statement this week. “Our goal in the seniority integration process is a fair and equitable outcome.”

Arbitration hearings are now scheduled for the end of September, October and early January. Even though the panel had a deadline of December 9, that is clearly being pushed into 2016.