Monday, July 09, 2007

Spirit Airlines pilots claim contract violations

Spirit AirlinesPilots at Spirit Airlines are angry. They claim that the airline's management is forcing pilots to work longer hours on international routes in violation of contractual limits. Worse yet, the pilots are not being appropriately compensated.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing the pilots, explains the situation for pilots at Spirit Airlines:
Spirit pilots stepped up to help the company with a concessionary contract in 2003 that was designed to allow Spirit to survive and grow. At that time the Company demanded that Caribbean and Latin American flying be treated as domestic flying, thereby allowing the company to avoid paying international overrides to pilots performing such assignments. To protect pilots from fatigue and enhance the safety of Spirit operations, the union insisted that in agreeing with the demands, the company had to follow domestic hours of service rules, which are more restrictive than international hours of service rules. This system has worked for more than three years.

Now, in the face of its self-inflicted staffing shortage, Spirit management insists that it can require pilots flying into the Caribbean or Latin America to perform additional flying pursuant to international hours of service rules, but still deny them the international override.

“This is a case of the company wishing to have its cake and it eat too,” said Captain Matt Nowell, head of Spirit ALPA unit, “but our pilots are not interested in being played for saps in this fashion and ALPA will fight this absurd violation in every forum necessary, seeking full redress for any member affected.”

Along with demanding that pilots fly additional hours under international rules while refusing to pay for it, Spirit Airlines management is also circumventing the union and its contract on the domestic front by trying to persuade Spirit pilots, who already fly more than most legacy carriers, to risk fatigue by flying more. The Spirit pilots’ contract contains specific limits on how many times you can be ordered to fly when you are not scheduled to do so (i.e. junior manned). The company is trying to persuade pilots to circumvent these limits and ALPA by offering pay incentives not negotiated with the union.
ALPA says that "it is disappointing that Spirit Airlines has followed the example of Northwest Airlines’ recent fiasco with respect to inadequate staffing and pressuring pilots to bypass contractual protections and limits."

Contract negotiations between Spirit Airlines and the pilots' union have been underway for more than 10 months.

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