May 14, 2007

AmWest pilots to US Air counterparts: Quit griping

Pilots at the old America West are shooting back at counterparts from the old US Airways over claims by the latter that they're getting a raw deal as the "new" US Airways merges the seniority list of its two pilots groups.

Saying "it's suddenly East vs. West among pilots flying for the new US Airways," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that America West pilots say "the old US Airways pilots should quit griping and instead be thankful they have a job due to America West's takeover of the twice-bankrupt carrier in 2005." Captain Eric Peterson, a 49-year-old America West pilot, has this to say to the Post-Gazette about pilots coming from the old US Airways: "They need to lose their misplaced sense of entitlement."

He notes that his view does not necessarily mirror his union's position, but adds: "Before their bankruptcies, for their entire career the US Airways pilots were enjoying industry-leading pay, a defined pension plan (something we never had), work rules -- everything. I don't begrudge the East pilots for their former fortunes at all, but they should recognize that we in this industry have all been there ... we at the old America West should not be penalized for acquiring US Airways."

But Bill Pollock, a US Airways pilot who previously was the pilots' chairman, argues the other side. He tells the Post-Gazette that the new seniority lists fail to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the old US Airways pilots during that airline's struggles. And he says he thinks the new seniority lists make it unlikely "old" US Airways pilots will be able to achieve the seniority needed to upgrade to captain. America West pilot T.J. Hvasta is not sympathetic. "Their salary and benefits cuts have finally brought them down to what we have been paid all along," Hvasta says to the Post-Gazette. "And now because we saved their bacon from the fire we should be junior to them?"

So, what's the issue with the seniority lists? Pilots from the old US Airways argue that seniority should be determined by date-of-hire. Most consider that method to favor US Airways' pilots over America West's since US Airways is an older airline than America West. "Instead," the Post-Gazette writes, "the arbitrator put 517 US Airways wide-body pilots at the top of the list but then filled out the rest of the spots by pairing the most senior US Airways pilots with the most senior America West pilots -- a decision viewed as fair by the America West contingent and unfair by the old US Airways pilots." The arbitrator making the decision was agreed to by both sides, The Arizona Republic reports.

By Ben Mutzabaugh

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