American Airlines pilots REJECT offer of 50% bonuses to ward off staffing shortages over holidays

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Pilots with American Airlines have rejected an offer by the company to increase holiday pay over the holiday season in order to ensure adequate staffing during the busiest travel times of the year.

The carrier offered pilots a 50-percent pay increase if they agreed to work during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, the Dallas Morning News reported.

In addition, the airline offered pilots double pay if they agreed to pick up extra shifts during those periods.

However, the pilots union, representing around 14,000 American Airlines fliers, said that it was more important to instead concentrate on overall contract negotiations instead of taking temporary raises in salary.

There have already been mass cancellations of flights due to pilot and airline staff shortages over the late summer and early fall, some due to pushback against President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal employees and federal contractors. Airline personnel constitutes the latter.

“While understanding that its rejection creates a disparity among our fellow workgroups that have accepted management’s proffered incentives, the board concluded that the need to achieve meaningful permanent improvements in a new collective bargaining agreement must remain APA’s focus,” noted a Tuesday evening memo from union leaders to members.

Over the past week, the carrier has been negotiating with several unions to include offers of pay bonuses amounting to $1,000 for perfect work attendance, reported Fox Business.

The airline has offered flight attendants a pay premium of 150 percent as well as triple pay for working shifts over the holidays if they do not record any absences.

“We thought it just a really an important gesture, recognition, and encouragement to our team to make sure that we have incentive programs out there as we get to the busiest travel days of the year,” noted American Airlines President Robert Isom on Wednesday during the Baird Global Industrial Conference.

“We’re certainly mindful of making sure that when disruptions happen, which they inevitably will, that we have the resources in the right place to recover as soon as we can,” he added.

American is planning to fly an aggressive schedule over the holidays and is attempting to staff up in advance to cover the flights.

During a five-day period over Halloween, American was forced to cancel more than 2,700 flights, claiming high winds in the Dallas-Fort Worth area grew into nationwide staffing problems because pilots and flight attendants were stranded out of position.

The airline first began new contract negotiations with pilots in early 2020 but they were put on hold as air travel came to a near standstill during the opening months of the COVID pandemic.

Last month, the CEO of United Airlines warned of higher fares as fuel prices skyrocket under the Biden administration as well as cancellations due to staff shortages that could be caused by the vaccine mandate.

“Customers can book with confidence on United,” Kirby told CNBC. “But if you’re booking on an airline that doesn’t have a vaccine requirement, they’ve got government rules they have to follow.”

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines announced last month they would not put unvaccinated staffers on leave if they had applied for a medical or religious exemption to the vaccine mandate.

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