Uh Oh: American Airlines Pilots Reject Extra Holiday Pay

This is not good news for American Airlines' operational reliability during the holiday travel periods.
American offers pilots holiday pay up to 200%

American Airlines experienced an operational meltdown on Halloween due to staff shortages. This is something the airline wants to avoid for the busy holiday travel periods (Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year, etc.). Employees are offered significant pay increases to ensure they show up at work during the holidays. This is a costly option, but it will be cheaper than having the entire operation rescheduled.

A few days ago, I wrote about American Airlines' flight attendants receiving 150% for flights on peak holidays and 300% if they maintain perfect attendance records over several weeks.

American Airlines made the same offer to pilots. Pilots who work on the following dates would be affected by this offer:

November 23-November 29, 2021

December 22, 2021 through January 2, 2022

This is the idea:

All flights during peak holiday periods would be paid 150% to pilots

Pilots who take up flights during this period will receive 200% compensation

Positive space travel would be provided to pilots to allow them to fly to work.

This is a generous offer. Pilots will be pleased and see it as an incentive. A senior 777 captain at American might get a pay increase of $342 to $513-682 an hour. This is not a mandatory offer by American, but the airline wants to give people an incentive to show up for work.

American offers pilots up to 200% compensation

American pilot union rejects holiday pay bump

American Airlines' pilots are represented by the Allied Pilots Association (APA), who has rejected the offer. It was rejected by 20-0, not just narrowly. Why would you reject extra pay? According to the union's press release:

Although the Board acknowledged that it creates a gap among the work groups that accepted the management's offered incentives, it concluded that the Board must continue to focus on the need for meaningful permanent improvements in a new collective agreement. APA communicated with bargaining partners and at higher levels of discussion about its frustrations with Section 6 negotiations' pace and the need to make meaningful Section 6 progress. Ironically, many of the operational issues that led management at first to offer incentives were addressed directly in APA's Section 6 proposal. Management has held these proposals for several months. APA's targeted approach aims to advance the contract and address quality-of life concerns. It also seeks sustainable solutions that improve operational integrity.

The union wants to negotiate a better contract all around for pilots. Instead of negotiating a holiday pay bump, pilots would rather see the airline negotiate a long-term contract now than waiting.

American pilots rejected additional holiday pay

This could become a serious problem.

For a long time, there have been concerns about American's ability over the holidays to operate a reliable operation. The airline does not have enough pilots, so they do not have any extra pilots in case of an emergency. A slight shortage of staff can cause huge operational problems for airlines due to the complexity of airline scheduling.

Already there were concerns that pilots might not show up for work during the holidays to protest the vaccine mandate. This has been delayed until January. They might also not show up for work because of a new contract.

This seems to be quite a flex by the union.

The union rejected the holiday bonus pay. It's possible that they will accept something similar in the days ahead, but for now the union claims it'll settle only for a new contract.

It is hard to believe that pilots will be offered a permanent contract with a better deal before Thanksgiving.

You can bet that Thanksgiving will be a failure operationally if the pilots don't get extra pay or a new contract.

American's operations will be a mess again during the holiday season.

Bottom line

American Airlines pilots union unanimously rejected the offer of bonus pay during holidays and instead requested a better contract. American Airlines' pilots are essential to keeping the operation running smoothly during holidays. This is due to the fact that they're specially trained to fly specific aircraft and that the workforce cannot grow quickly enough to meet training requirements. It seems like they're ready to stop operations if they don’t get what they want.

Although there won't likely be an official strike I would be surprised if more pilots than usual end up getting sick over the holidays, if nothing else changes. They won't work for 100% pay if they don't work for 150-200% of their salary.

If you plan on traveling during the holidays, it is best to hope that the pilots' union and management will come to an agreement to encourage you to work over the holidays.

What do you think of this situation with American Airlines pilots ending?