Frontier Airlines pilots prepare to go on strike ahead of the holidays due to low wages

The warning of a pilot strike comes on the heels of an expansion for Frontier Airlines in Jacksonville. In less than a year, Frontier added 12 destinations at JIA, including 6 new cities in the last month. Pilots tell First Coast News that as profits soar for the company, they feel like they’re in a tailspin.

Author: Shelby Danielsen

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Pilots for the budget airline Frontier are preparing to go on strike just before the holidays. They want the public to know about it, so they’re taking their message across the country.

Pilots are taking turns by spending their off days going to different states in a “Mobile Strike Center” bus spreading the message that they’re grossly underpaid and they won’t stand for it much longer.

On Wednesday, they stopped in Jacksonville.

The warning of a pilot strike comes on the heels of an expansion for Frontier Airlines in Jacksonville.

In less than a year, Frontier added 12 destinations at JIA, including 6 new cities in the last month.

Pilots tell First Coast News that as profits soar for the company, they feel like they’re in a tailspin.

Captain Alan Christie has more than three decades of professional flying experience. The last 13, of which have been dedicated to Frontier Airlines.

“People are leaving every month to go to much better-paying pilot jobs,” Christie said. “So far, the company has just refused to negotiate in good faith with us.”

For nearly three years, he says pilots have been in contract negotiations with Frontier management.

“We are the lowest paid pilots in the country by more than 50 percent,” Christie said.

A federal lawsuit against Frontier claims “bad-faith bargaining” by the airline. It states that in 2008, “pilots agreed to cut wages” to keep the company afloat during bankruptcy, and it worked because the next year, the company emerged from bankruptcy, but pilots felt like they were left in the dust.

“They refuse to acknowledge the very pilots that made this successful again,” Christie said.

As the spokesman for the Frontier Air Line Pilots Association, Christie said 100 percent of their pilots are ready to go on strike now, but there is a legal process for doing so. They must get approval from the government.

They’ve requested the National Mediation Board to recognize an impasse with Frontier management. Once the Board acknowledges the negotiations aren’t going anywhere, they can go on strike, but they have to wait for 30 days after getting the green light. Christie said all Frontier service would stop if it comes to that.

Frequent Frontier flyer Chelly Roberts is a fan of the airline’s affordable prices, but not at the cost of their pilots’ well-being.

“It’s cheaper for a reason,” Roberts said. “The way a company treats its employees will go to how they treat their customers too. If they leave the company and go somewhere else, then potentially Frontier is facing a pilot shortage, they can only fly so long without breaking the law, so they would have to cut down on flights.”

In response to the controversy, Frontier sent First Coast News a statement, saying in part:

“We look forward to working toward an agreement that is fair, sustainable, and provides security for everyone.”

On Wednesday morning, Frontier tweeted that its flight from Jacksonville to Buffalo would cease because the customer base wasn’t “robust” enough. They say it does not have to do with the possible strike.

JIA says they have no involvement in the situation but any airline that stops flights must give them 90 days notice.