Could Pilot Strikes Disrupt Summer Travel?

Could Pilot Strikes Disrupt Summer Travel?

There is a scene in the film “The American President,” almost a throwaway scene, where a change in the president’s plans happens. Apparently, there is an airline strike in St. Louis and he is intending to fly there with the hopes of mediating.

As he is putting on his coat, he says, “You know what my economics professor once told me?”

His chief of staff then quickly quips back, “Never have an airline strike at Christmas?”

Add the busy summer travel season, especially this summer, to that list.

A strike by airline pilots could be a major thorn in the side of summer travel this year. In fact, it could disrupt it quite a bit. Both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines pilots have recently voted to authorize a strike.

“The lack of leadership and the unwillingness to address the failures of our organization have led us to this point,” Casey Murray, the president of Southwest’s union, said in a statement. “Our pilots are tired of apologizing to our passengers on behalf of a company that refuses to place its priorities on its internal and external customers.”

Nothing is imminent, however. Federal law prohibits immediate strike action. But it could come in the heart of the summer season. As seems to be the case with every one of these potential strikes, money is the heart of the issue, as well as better scheduling for American Airlines. American has been in negotiations with its pilots for a long time and apparently is under the gun to match or come close to the 21 percent raise that Delta gave its pilots.  

As negotiations go, there are always comparisons with who wins first. The Delta raise was for 34 percent over four years, and the American offer was similar, but with more upfront, including a 21 percent bump the first year.

“We remain confident that an agreement for our pilots is within reach and can be finalized quickly,” American Airlines said in a statement Monday. “The finish line is in sight.” 

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