Thursday, 29 November 2012

United And American Pilots To Vote On New Deals

Pilots at United Airlines and American Airlines are due to vote in coming weeks on new contracts that in some cases offer the first significant salary increases in almost a decade.

The pay gains reflect better financial times at airlines, and partially offset years of concessions the pilots made as airlines went through bankruptcies and endured huge losses.

But other groups of workers at US airlines are not being treated as generously. The carriers, citing high risks the recovery in their fortunes could stall, are not prepared to improve contracts across the board, industry experts and airline executives say. That means labour relations could remain rocky.

Indeed, flight attendants for US Airways voted overwhelmingly last week to authorise a strike, saying the carrier's latest contract offer still reflects the days when airline profits were in free-fall.

"We don't want to strike," leaders of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said, but "flight attendants still shoulder the sacrifices forced through bankruptcy a decade ago."

US airlines have posted USD$5.2 billion in profits since 2010, according to the International Air Transport Association. Many forecasts call for the industry to make money again this year and in 2013.

Still, many labour agreements date from 2001 to 2009, when US airlines lost USD$53 billion cumulatively, according to trade group Airlines for America. During that extraordinary period, the financial crisis and the September 11, 2001, attacks pummelled the aviation industry.

And the current rebound could easily collapse from a combination of rising oil prices, a US recession and further economic weakness in Europe or China, the airlines and industry experts say. A large-scale terrorist attack remains a concern too.


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