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March 31, 2014

Why some Eagle pilots voted no to the contract

Over the weekend, I spoke to a few American Eagle pilots who voted against the proposed contract with the regional carrier.

Here's some of the reasons the pilots gave for why they voted no on the 10-year contract that would have guaranteed Eagle would receive larger aircraft to fly in exchange for pay scale freezes until 2018.

-The length of the contract was too long. The pilots said they felt like after agreeing to an 8-year contract in bankruptcy, that ten years was just simply too long. The unions at American Airlines' mainline operations agreed to six-year contracts that included concessions and the pilots at Republic Airways, another regional carrier, are currently voting on a four-year contract proposal. Pilots said they didn't want to be locked in to a lengthy contract while other pilots in the industry were able to negotiate new contracts.

-Mistrust of management. Part of the proposed contract included flowing through Eagle pilots to American's mainline operations at the rate of at least 30 pilots per month. Pilots said they don't believe that American's management team will follow through on that promise. The union already had an agreement in their existing contract that said about 25 to 30 pilots would be flowed through to mainline each month but recently American came back and said they could only take 20 pilots a month because they were having difficulty replacing those pilots at Eagle.

-Frozen pay scales means frozen pay for several. One of the first officers I talked to has been with American Eagle for six years and makes $39,000. Under the proposed contract, first officers would be capped at $38,000 after four years. The argument made by management was that with the flow through to American mainline operations would create movement in the seniority lists, bumping several first officers up to captain pay scales. The FO I spoke with said he has at least 200 first offiers in front of him on the seniority list and so he was most likely two years away from the captain's seat if he chose to stay at American Eagle.

-Why wait to flow through to American when other carriers are hiring. With several airlines, like American, Delta and Southwest, hiring pilots for the first time in years, pilots at American Eagle feel like there are options other than waiting to flow through to American. Foreign carriers such as Emirates, are also hiring experienced commercial pilots. Eagle pilots told me they feel like they have career options and aren't stuck at American.

-Andrea Ahles

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