United Pilot Deal Has Knock-on Effects For American Airlines

By Spyros Georgilidakis | July 19, 2023

A recent deal between United and its pilot union means that a previous agreement between American Airlines and its own pilots may be at risk.

We saw in previous articles that pilot contracts for multiple U.S. carriers are up for renewal. Historically, these negotiations can vary wildly, with one or the other side being in a stronger negotiating position. But in this post-pandemic era, it is definitely the pilots that hold more sway.

United Pilot Deal Has Knock-on Effects For American Airlines
Photo: Lukas Souza

Delta got the ball rolling last December. Their pilots got a 34% cumulative pay rise, setting the stage for pilot unions to negotiate with other airlines. More recently, we saw how United agreed to a 34.5%-40.2% cumulative pay rise with its pilot unions – and pilots for American Airlines took notice.

Last April American Airlines and the Allied Pilots Association (APA) which represents its pilots, arrived at a preliminary agreement for a new four-year contract. However, the final vote for this agreement is due next week. But the new United pilot contract is more favorable than what the American Airlines pilots are to vote on.

United Pilot Deal Has Knock-on Effects For American Airlines
Photo: Miguel Angel Sanz

After United – American Airlines In New Pilot Negotiations

In light of this development, APA wants American Airlines to offer its pilot members the same terms and conditions as United. According to APA, the pay gap between the two contracts is around 2%. However, APA could ask for more changes involving work-life, retirement, and other benefits and provisions.

Photo: Sachin Amjhad

For American Airlines, the good news is that this was obviously not an unexpected development. The airline has already indicated that it will “work with the union” to keep its pilots happy. APA represents over 15,000 pilots working for American Airlines.

However, it is not yet clear how quickly American Airlines and its pilot union can renegotiate their contract. The original plan was for voting to begin on Monday the 24th of July. New talks between the two parties have already begun.

Photo: Daniel Shapiro

Away from American Airlines, more details have emerged about a discrepancy in United, involving a gap between the two pilot seats. The airline has 7,500 First Officers, but only 5,900 Captains. It appears that some United First Officers are reluctant to make the switch to the left seat.

This is one problem that United hopes to solve, with the improved terms of its new pilot contract. It is just one example of how a stronger negotiating position for pilots could affect developments in the near future.


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