WASHINGTON, D.C.—The union representing Frontier Airlines pilots has petitioned the federal government to release them from mediation, which could start the clock for a potential pilot strike 30 days later.
In a letter submitted to the National Mediation Board (NMB), the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) said it believes further mediation would be futile and requested that the NMB make a proffer of arbitration. If the NMB does so and either the union or the company declines arbitration, the two sides would enter a 30-day cooling-off period, after which time the parties would be free to engage in self-help—such as a strike by the pilots or a lockout by the company.
Frontier’s 1,200 pilots are the lowest-paid narrowbody pilots in the United States, with captain pay rates falling 40 percent below the industry average. They are the last pilots in the United States flying under a contract negotiated while their airline was in bankruptcy. Since the last contract was ratified in 2007, the Denver-based carrier has become one of the nation’s most profitable airlines.
ALPA’s letter to the NMB explains that management has engaged in bad-faith bargaining, continues to seek bankruptcy-like concessions, has offered below-average industry pay, and can be expected to continue to resist concluding an agreement without decisive action by the Board.
“Despite its industry-leading financial performance, Frontier Airlines has insisted upon a substantially discounted pilot contract,” said ALPA’s president, Capt. Tim Canoll. “The company has made it plain that it is unwilling to pay market rates, make industry-standard retirement contributions, or enter into job-security provisions that other companies accept and negotiate routinely. ALPA believes this dispute will only be resolved by proffering arbitration.”
In a strike-authorization vote taken last August, 100 percent of participating Frontier pilots gave their leadership the go-ahead to declare a legal strike at the conclusion of the cooling-off period if the NMB releases ALPA to self-help. The two sides have been in negotiations for more than two years and in federal mediation since November 2016. The two sides’ last mediation session concluded on April 20 with no further sessions scheduled.
“Frontier pilots have been working under the same contract for more than 10 years while our peers at other airlines have negotiated big increases with their companies,” said Capt. Tracy Smith, chairman of ALPA’s Frontier Airlines group. “We are absolutely unwilling to work at a discount when our airline pays market rates for fuel, aircraft, gates, and everything else. We demand a market-rate agreement and we are 100 percent ready to strike if that’s what it takes to get one.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 60,000 pilots at 34 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at alpa.org or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.
CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or Media@alpa.org