Thursday, November 05, 2009

NetJets to lay off 495 pilots in the U.S.

by B.N. Sullivan

NetJetsFractional jet operator NetJets, Inc. has announced plans to cut 495 pilot jobs in the U.S. The layoffs will become effective on January 15, 2010.

Earlier this year NetJets had offered pilots early retirements and voluntary unpaid leaves of absence in an effort to downsize without having to resort to involuntary furloughs. Apparently those measures were not sufficient to relieve overstaffing.

NetJets pilots are represented by the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP), an independent union. Today NJASAP President Capt. Mark Luthi said, "After several months of continuous efforts to mitigate a pilot furlough, we have reached a point at which the economic realities that challenge our employer can no longer be offset by the ground-breaking initiatives implemented earlier this year."

From a news release issued by the NJASP Executive Board:
Recognizing the seriousness of the economic crisis early on, Association leaders sought to supplement its furlough mitigation efforts by forming the NJASAP Furlough Working Group, which was tasked with preparing a robust pilot assistance initiative should a reduction in force take place.

"Hoping a working group's efforts prove unnecessary is hardly an appropriate mindset for a responsible leadership group; however, I freely admit the Board and I would have preferred the group's year-long preparations been for naught," Luthi said.

Almost one year of planning has positioned the Association to offer immediate access to information and resources designed to assist each furloughed crewmember and his or her family. In addition to a series of informational teleconferences, the Union has launched a web-based Furloughed Pilot Resource Center and has prepared a comprehensive resource guide that outlines financial, unemployment, and worker retraining benefits as well as alternate insurance options and various assistance grants.

The Executive Board has also approved a seven-month dues refund and the immediate cessation of dues collected from affected pilots and has purchased a year-long subscription to two aviation job sites for each pilot. Additionally, the FWG is finalizing an outreach program that will keep furloughed pilots in touch with their peers by paring them with active pilots.
In a statement to the press, NetJets CEO David Sokol said, "This difficult decision resulted from a comprehensive analysis of current and projected flight demand. As we move forward, we will continue to adjust our operations to meet customers’ needs and act in a fiscally responsible manner."

Union leader Capt. Luthi says that the NJASP "remains willing to engage in mutually beneficial talks intended to hasten our pilots' return to the flight line."