Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

American Airlines Pilots Union Rejects Bonus Pay Aimed at Fixing Understaffing Problems

The union is rejecting the holiday offer in favor of more permanent changes.


With holiday travel ramping up, airlines are desperate to alleviate staffing problems that have plagued the industry over the past few months.

COOPER NEILL | Getty Images

American Airlines has aimed to address this labor shortage by offering a 50% pay increase to pilots who work during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's season. However, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which consists of more than 14,000 American Airlines pilots, rejected the offer. 

"The Board received a full briefing from the Negotiating Committee and thoroughly considered all aspects of the proposed [letter of agreement] before voting 20-0 to reject it," the APA wrote in a statement on Tuesday. "While understanding that its rejection creates a disparity among our fellow work groups 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."

Related: Southwest Pilots' Union Sues Airline Over COVID-19 Response

Union spokesperson Dennis Tajer told CNBC the extra pay was “lazy” and “a clear admission you mismanaged the airline." Instead, the union said it wants more permanent improvements, like with how the airline creates its schedule.

“We are, of course, disappointed, especially since we have holiday pay programs in place for all other frontline groups at the company,” Kimball Stone, American’s senior vice president of flight operations, and Chip Long, vice president of flight operations, wrote in response, according to CNBC. “But we will continue to look for opportunities to work with APA to support you during the holidays, as well as explore our options to maximize availability of existing premiums.”

American Airlines isn't just extending the holiday bonus to pilots in its attempt to fix its staffing problems. It's also offering to pay flight attendants triple for trips during select periods this holiday season, along with extra pay for perfect attendance between mid-November and January. In addition, the carrier is offering other employees $1,000 for perfect attendance between November 15 and January 2.

American Airlines has already exemplified how holiday disruption can descend to disaster. Over Halloween weekend, it was forced to cancel more than 2,000 flights after turbulent weather created staffing issues.

Related: American Airlines Pilots to Picket Over Staff Shortages, Fatigue