Keep America Flying Safely and Fairly

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In a May 20 speech before the International Aviation Club of Washington, D.C., I affirmed our union’s determined call for North American government leaders and lawmakers to advance the U.S. airline industry and its workers by safeguarding fair competition in the global marketplace and fostering air transportation modernization by passing a clean Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization.

I took the opportunity to highlight how subsidies received by Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Airways from their respective governments distort the global marketplace as well as the threat that unusual employment practices pose to the free market, the U.S. airline industry, and U.S. workers’ jobs.

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No Shortage of Ideas to Attract Regional Pilots

For several years, ALPA has warned that a pilot shortage could emerge at some point in the future if regional airlines did not act to increase pilots’ starting pay, promote career advancement, and provide pay and benefits that reflect pilots’ qualifications, responsibility, and experience.

In April 2014, ALPA told members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Aviation, “While no shortage exists now, avoiding one in the future depends on whether U.S. airlines offer pilots competitive wages and benefits and a solid career—a market-based solution.”

This sentiment still holds true today. Right now, plenty of qualified pilots are out there to serve as flightcrew members on U.S. airlines. They just aren’t willing to work for the wages and working conditions currently offered by regional airlines, especially after paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to become an airline pilot.

Some regional airlines are beginning to heed ALPA’s warning. They have temporarily implemented signing and retention bonuses. They have also set up career progression paths that give interested regional pilots the opportunity to interview with or in some cases the right to advance to the major airlines. In the short term, these efforts are working to alleviate some of the pressure. These regional airlines are maintaining their workforce levels and attracting new pilots—proving ALPA’s position of a pilot pay shortage.

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Pilots’ Vital Voice in Airline Operations

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At a key industry gathering recently held in Phoenix, I brought aviation policy stakeholders from around North America news about “atypical” employment practices in the airline industry in Europe—an attempt at labor restructuring that ALPA rejects and is on guard against for the sake of airline passengers and air shippers as well as our members.

The traditional employer-employee relationship that exists in the North American airline industry works and wins for everyone who flies or ships by air. The success of the corporation is the success of the workers—the link is direct. Because of it, airline pilots have a straightforward and vital voice in their airlines’ operations.

When bad weather, like this past winter’s snowstorms, strikes the United States or Canada, ALPA’s leaders often immediately reach out to their managements to work together to keep flights moving and get passengers and freight to destinations safely and quickly. The same will be true this summer as thunderstorm season gets under way. Whether it’s scheduling concerns or safety and security, the ability of organized pilots to directly engage with their company’s management means more efficient and safer flying for everyone.

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Celebrating Women in Aviation

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By Jolanda Witvliet, ALPA National Membership Committee Chairman

Every spring, we celebrate the contributions of women throughout history. This year, ALPA continued this tradition, honoring Women’s History Month with a significant presence at the 26th annual Women in Aviation Conference.

This conference, hosted by Women in Aviation, International (WAI), focuses on encouraging and assisting women who have chosen aviation careers. From seminars on the current state of the industry to meeting with representatives from all corners of aviation, attendees access valuable exposure to a wealth of education and networking opportunities.

A team of pilots from ALPA’s Education and Membership committees, supported by ALPA staff, attended this year’s conference and served as the face, and the voice, of the professional female ALPA pilot to the more than 4,500 attendees. From young girls who were curious to learn more about our role in the airline industry to military pilots interested in furthering their careers at ALPA carriers, we spoke with a lot of people! Read more on the conference in “Connecting, Engaging, & Inspiring” in the April issue of Air Line Pilot.

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The Law of the Land Affects our Skies

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The important issues facing airline pilots and the North American airline industry require real, lasting solutions. Airline pilots, airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers, small communities, general aviators, and many others live by the decisions of a nation’s lawmakers and regulators. Aviation policies and laws also affect passengers and air cargo shippers in small towns and major metropolises.

For this reason, ALPA persists in advancing our pilot-partisan agenda and is constantly present in the halls of Congress and Parliament to make certain pilots’ perspectives are considered. On many issues, ALPA is the only voice lawmakers hear that is solely focused on ensuring the safe operation of our aviation industry and system. As the professionals who are ultimately responsible for operating airplanes and safely delivering passengers and cargo, airline pilots have a unique, and the most credible, point of view on issues affecting the safety of their operations.

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Strengthening our profession globally

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In today’s highly competitive aviation marketplace, globalization continues to be a driving force. And as pilots, we are on the frontlines of connecting the world. With such vast expansion comes a unique set of challenges for our profession. For this reason, hundreds of pilots from across the globe convened last week for the 5th annual Global Pilots’ Symposium (GPS) to discuss our common challenges and to develop and commit to executing a plan of action.

The GPS is a joint initiative of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), the Associations of Star Alliance Pilots (ASAP), the Oneworld Cockpit Crew Coalition (OCCC), and the SkyTeam Pilots Association. ALPA was instrumental in creating this annual event, which is held in conjunction with the IFALPA conference, in order to enhance our status and collective bargaining efforts at the international level.

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Providing Assistance Beyond the Cockpit

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On March 24, the world heard about the tragic, fatal crash of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525. Our thoughts and profound sympathies are with all the families and friends of the victims as we all struggle to come to terms with this terrible loss.

As the largest nongovernmental safety organization in the world, we felt an enormous responsibility to offer support and assistance to those affected by the Germanwings accident. Upon hearing of the crash, ALPA immediately contacted the German Cockpit Association (Vereinigung Cockpit) and did just that. In addition, we continue to coordinate and communicate with various government authorities to stay informed and offer our expertise as appropriate.

As if the overwhelming feeling of grief for the passengers and crew has not been heartbreaking enough, unrelenting and tremendously disturbing media reports have led to rampant speculation. It is important to recognize that the conjecture by some in the media has been based on reports that, to date, come from sources other than the formal safety investigation. The information is certainly not complete and may unfortunately lead to premature or false conclusions, which we all know is harmful to a full and accurate investigation.

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