Airlines & Airports Patrick Clarke August 10, 2017
PHOTO: Frontier’s 1,100-plus pilots could stage a walkout in the near future. (photo via Flickr/Alex Ford)
The stakes have been raised for Frontier Airlines heading into its next round of negotiations with frustrated pilots.
The Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) announced that pilot leaders at the ultra low-cost airline will ask members to authorize a strike if wage and benefit negotiations are unsuccessful and a walkout is approved by the federal government.
ALPA’s Frontier Airlines Master Executive Council (MEC) voted unanimously Wednesday to conduct a strike-authorization ballot, which is scheduled to open on Aug. 22 and close on Sept. 8.
Contract negotiations began as far back as March 2016, and the two sides have been working with a federal mediator since October 2016.
The next mediation session is scheduled for the week of Aug. 21
If the National Mediation Board (NMB) releases the two parties from mediation and offers a binding arbitration that either side rejects, a 30-day cooling period would begin. If the aforementioned ballot is passed, pilot leaders would be authorized to declare a strike at the conclusion of the cooling period.
Meanwhile, the company could potentially organize a lockout at the end of the cooling period.
“We are still working under a bankruptcy contract negotiated 10 years ago. For the past two years, Frontier has enriched its owners and management with personal dividends paid from historically high revenues and profits, while our members are the lowest-paid Airbus pilots in North America,” said Frontier MEC chairman, Capt. Tracy Smith, in a statement.
Frontier pilots sacrificed salary and benefits to help the airline avoid bankruptcy in 2011.
“We lag behind our peers in virtually every aspect of pay, benefits, and job security,” Smith added. “Our pilots repeatedly agreed to concessions to keep our company in business over the past decade, and it’s time for management to reciprocate by agreeing to a fair contract without further delay.”
Smith said the pilots would prefer not to strike but expressed confidence the group would receive the green light from its members to organize a walkout if necessary.
In April, more than 250 Frontier pilots picketed the airline’s corporate headquarters in Denver to protest the stalled wage negotiations. The picket came just two weeks after Frontier filed for an initial public offering, reporting a profit of $200 million in 2016.
Last month, the airline was fined $400,000 by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for violating DOT’s oversales and disability rules.