Regional Pilots Call for Sickout for Labor Day Weekend
Using the name “pilotstrike.com,” the organizers, who are not identified and apparently not affiliated with a specific union, are asking pilots of regional airlines not to show up for work between September 1 and September 5. The website has a prominent image of a United Express aircraft but it is not clear that the action is directed at any single carrier.
Federal law severely limits the right of airline employees to strike. Any action by individual pilots would be at a grass roots level and not sanctioned by a union representing airline pilots.
The possibility of any kind of job action by pilots is being taken seriously by passengers and airline employees, who are discussing both the idea of a strike and contingency plans for travelers in online travel- and aviation-themed forums, including airliners.net, expressjetpilots.com, and talkairline.com.
The airline industry has maintained that there is a shortage of pilots to staff regional airlines, while the Air Line Pilots Association contends that there is only “a shortage of pay and benefits for pilots in the regional airline industry, not a shortage of pilots who are capable and certified to fly.”
According to the Air Line Pilots Association, starting pay for a regional first officer, the entry-level position, would be $22,400, “which compares very poorly with the starting salaries of other fields for which university aviation program graduates are qualified to enter.”
American Airlines pilots staged a sickout in 1999. When a federal judge issued an injunction in an attempt to end it, pilots defied the court order to return to work and the number of pilots taking sick days increased. At the time, an official of the Allied Pilots Association told a reporter, “My prediction: Court order or not, the numbers will not go down.” In 1998, TWA flight attendants defied a similar court order and called in sick.
A phone call and e-mail to the contact for the strike’s website were not answered at the time this article went to press.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)