Sky Talk

Five questions with APA president Keith Wilson

Shortly after American Airlines’ pilots approved a new contract with the Fort Worth airline, I sat down with Allied Pilots Association president Captain Keith Wilson to discuss the vote results and what comes next for the pilots.

Here’s five questions he answered during the interview.

Q: How do you feel about today’s vote?

Wilson: I am proud of the pilot group for being engaged and participating to the tune of about 95 percent, just over 700 pilots didn’t cast ballots. So that’s a strong statement as to the pilots are engaged in this process. As for the outcome, the pilots made a business decision. They understand there is a lot of work to be done. The arbitration path was a path they were educated on and as to its zero cost outcome and there wasn’t much there to recover. So I believe they focused on consolidating the gains this JCBA gives them and we’ll move forward on the path to get more improvements to be in line with the industry.

Q: What were the concerns that pilots expressed to you during the road show for this vote?

Wilson: It didn’t address everything. It addressed a good chunk of the pay. It didn’t address the profit sharing issue that we still have a corporation that has a philosophical aversion to profit sharing where all the other corporations in this service industry that want to have a motivated and engaged workforce seem to embrace. There is a philosophical difference that we will try to enlighten management on that issue...We have the highest industry pay rates on average and there is some premium for the lack of profit-sharing. We understand that but does it make it complete? We don’t believe it does. The compensation rates are also based on the way we get paid on our duty rigs. We have an issue that is concerning being on the road and not being paid because the company is inefficiently laying us over for an extended period of time. United and Delta have addressed it. Southwest has addressed it. All the airlines have addressed it. We are still in the process of getting the company to focus on that issue.

Q: Are you going to approach the company about profit-sharing, even though it was not part of this contract?

Wilson: Yes. We just have to be realistic that our membership is going to see United, Southwest, Alaska, everybody, Delta, every quarter producing their quarterly reports and then stating that we’ve set aside X amount of money for our employees in the profit sharing plans and American is going to be silent on that statement every quarter. To think that we would not go forth every quarter and say where are we and why are you not understanding the engaged motivated workforce process of having skin in the game relative to profits. They’ll have to address it. We will be going to them. Our membership wants it. We understand that membership is looking at this near term that the industry is doing well and we want to participate in that because for so long we’ve been always the ones that have sacrificed the most, and all the work groups have, when the airlines didn’t do well.

Q: What’s next for the pilots union?

Wilson: The JCBA balloting finishes the MOU/MTA/JCBA process. We have some implementation issues that are still going on from the contract because we still have three pilot individual workgroups under three computer system and three operating systems so that is all our concern. Now we can focus on, we made our gains in the JCBA that is complete and we will now focus on getting implementation moving forward as quickly as possible. Basically holding the company’s feet to the fire to focus on the implementation of what we have and move forward on that. Those are the biggest concerns. The USAir East and the USAir West are moving off of their contracts in a piecemeal fashion...There is still a logistical and technological path. The JCBA now sets the path. Now they have to get three lanes to merge into one and that is going to be our concern. At the same time, for the pilots on an individual basis, the seniority integration is now next. This ending of the JCBA triggers the start of the seniority path.

Q: When do you expect to have a seniority integration list?

Wilson: There will be three committees presenting their issues and concerns to a panel of three arbitrators and that will be coming sometime soon. And then they’ll have five or six months to rule and they’ll go forth. They may have to extend a short period of time (past the December 2015 deadline)...We want our contract fully implemented and that is something we will work on. Contract implementation fully, seniority integration and seniority list so that hopefully this time next year we are one airline similar to Delta and United are now and we’ll move forward.