The Allied Pilots Association (APA) has sued American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) (AA) to put an end to a volunteer program that encourages pilots to participate in simulator training sessions on their days off.
This plan was launched by American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) in response to increase hiring to fulfill travel demand.
The complaint, filed in federal court on April 14, 2022, is a move to “prevent the airline from discontinuing the longtime practice of deploying experienced Check Airmen during a vital stage of the pilot training program,” according to an APA press release.
Check Airmen, often known as ‘Check Pilots,’ are qualified instructors who supervise flight proficiency exams and assess and certify pilots’ knowledge and skills during training and flight reviews.
According to the lawsuit, the APA represents 14,000 American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) pilots and says that AA’s plan violates the Railway Labor Act, which prohibits the carrier from unilaterally changing working conditions under the existing collective-bargaining agreement.
The airline’s staffing challenges, according to APA President Capt. Eric Ferguson, are attributable to a lack of preparation for a comeback in travel.
“Having failed to plan properly for the recovery in air travel demand, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) management now finds itself having to deal with the consequences of being the only major airline to have furloughed pilots during the pandemic and its decision to forgo training opportunities at that time,” said Ferguson.
“Management continues to lag behind and is scrambling to boost the volume of the pilot training funnel,” Ferguson continued. As a result, they’re asking all pilots to volunteer to stand in for our specially trained Check Airmen as seat fillers’ at a vital training assessment stage, under terms and conditions that APA isn’t aware of.”
In a note to all APA members, the union expressed its position against AA’s “latest management plan” and directed its pilots “not to volunteer for these Special Assignments.”
Due to a dearth of fully qualified pilots, according to Ferguson, the airline may face extra operating issues.
“This unilateral action [volunteering program] by American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) management degrades the training experience and risks long-term damage to the airline’s safety culture,” Ferguson said
According to the Seattle Times, in response to the lawsuit, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) stated the program will improve its training capacity and allow pilots the opportunity to assist in simulator sessions.
“The pilots volunteering are highly qualified and experienced, and are responsible for the safety of our customers and fellow crew members every day,” said the airline in a Bloomberg report.
American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) plans to hire 2,200 pilots in 2022, according to a Bloomberg article.