Frontier pilots strike bus arrives in Orlando

Frontier Airlines pilots’ rolling-strike center has arrived in Orlando as the airline and its pilots negotiate a salary contract. Talks have dragged on, raising the possibility of a strike. Frontier pilots are members of the Air Line Pilots Association.

The refitted RV started out from Denver in late August in a tour of U.S. cities where the Denver-based airline operates.

The airline, in other media reports, has described the mobile-strike center as resorting to “publicity stunts.” But Frontier largely has been sparing in its public response to pilots’ quest for higher pay.

“We are engaged in negotiations with our pilots for a new contract and continue to exchange proposals under the guidance of the National Mediation Board,” Frontier spokesman Jonathan Freed said. “We look forward to working toward an agreement that is fair, sustainable, and provides security for everyone.”

What is this mobile-strike center about?
It’s a traveling billboard to go around the country to alert our current and future passengers that Frontier pilots are in the midst of a hotly contested labor contract. This lets us motivate our pilots, to give us something to rally around.

What is the issue for pilots?
The pilots are operating under a bankruptcy-era contract last signed in 2011, where we conceded more than $55 million in pay and benefits, and now the airline is one of the most profitable in the country and our management has refused to negotiate a meaningful increase in pay.

What’s going on now?
The pilots have taken a strike vote amongst themselves and authorized the union leadership to call a strike and the vote was 100 percent. We are still under mediated negotiations with the National Mediation Board and if they declare an impasse we can be released to strike with 30 days.

Why would the public care?
Frontier is a new generation of carrier in this country called an ultra, low-cost carrier and we have made flying affordable to many more people than in the past and we are committed to the success of Frontier Airlines. But when you consider the pilot marketplace is tightening up more and more, in order for Frontier to expand they are going to need offer market-rate wages. They are now canceling our vacations because they can’t hire enough people to staff the airline as it is and every month between five and ten pilots leave for other jobs for economic reasons.

Is the job enjoyable and rewarding otherwise?
The job looks glamorous from the outside but we are away from home between 15 and 20 days a month. Our work days are often 10 to 12 hours long and pilots do it because they love it.

What are pilots paid now and what do they want to be paid?
A typical pilot starting at Frontier is going to make between $33,000 and $35,000 a year. If a pilot gets on with a larger carrier like United or a Delta, they are in the range of $75,000 to $80,000 a year. We want Frontier to come up to be not market leading but market rate. We want to be up there with JetBlue, with Spirit and other airlines our pilots would want to go to and that’s in the range of $50,000 to $60,000 a year.