The Allied Pilots Association (APA) filed a lawsuit against American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) (AA) to halt a volunteering program that encourages pilots to participate in simulator training sessions on their days off.
In a press statement released by APA, the union said the lawsuit, filed to the federal court on April 14, 2022, is a measure to “prevent the airline from eliminating the longstanding practice of using experienced Check Airmen during a critical stage of the pilot training program.”
Check Airmen also known as ‘Check Pilots’ are certified instructors that oversee flight proficiency tests and evaluate and certify the knowledge and skills of pilots during training and flight evaluations.
The APA represents 14,000 of American Airlines’ (A1G) (AAL) pilots and claims that the plan from AA violates the Railway Labor Act, which prevents the unilateral change in working conditions under the existing collective-bargaining agreement between the union and the airline according to the suit.
APA President Capt. Eric Ferguson commented that the airline’s staffing issues are due to ill-preparation for a rebound 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.
Ferguson added: “Management continues to fall behind and is scrambling to increase the volume of the pilot training funnel. Consequently, they are now soliciting all pilots to volunteer to replace our specially trained Check Airmen as ‘seat fillers’ during a critical training evaluation stage under terms and conditions that remain largely unknown to APA.”
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.”
Feguson stated that the airline may face additional operational challenges due to shortage of properly qualified pilots.
“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
In response to the lawsuit American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) said the program would increase its training capacity and give pilots the opportunity to assist in simulator sessions according to the Seattle Times.
“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.
According to the Bloomberg report, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) is looking to add 2,200 pilots in 2022.