American pilots see little movement on scope

Washington DC
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Contract negotiations between American pilots and management continue as the carrier seeks to loosen restrictions on the ability of its feeder carriers to operate 76-seat jets.

American management last month approached the Allied Pilots Association (APA) about loosening scope - an element of US mainline pilot contracts that limits the maximum takeoff weight and size of aircraft flown by regional carriers.

The carrier's management believes it needs the same flexibility to operate those aircraft as its US network rivals, who are less constrained in operating larger 70-plus seat regional jets.

APA and American in 2003 negotiated an exemption for American subsidiary American Eagle to operate 25 70-seat Bombardier CRJ700s, but APA later filed an unresolved dispute regarding Eagle's operation of the 25 remaining CRJ700s on option.

American is seeking relief for the operation of regional jets with an 89,000lb maximum takeoff weight and a 76-seat configuration. Previously, American has explained it would prefer mainline pilots to perform the flying, but markets do exist that American cannot operationally or economically serve efficiently.

In its latest negotiations update APA says that in the previous contract "every scope exception was agreed to based upon assurances it would beneficial to the AA [American] pilots, not a single exception has worked that way".

The pilots explain that "on the other side of the table", American's negotiators "attempted to justify the removal of restrictions on their ability to acquire unlimited numbers of 76-seat mainline jets for American Eagle and other non-owned commuter air carriers".

Pilots also believe that American's expansion of commuter air carrier operations, its domestic codesharing and participation in international alliances "have contributed to the ongoing erosion of mainline flying opportunities".

APA late in 2008 publicly decried the proposed antitrust immunity between American and four of its Oneworld partners through a formal letter sent to the chief executives of those carriers.

The union stressed to the heads of British Ariways, Iberia, Finnair and Royal Jordanian that the proposed tie-up needed union endorsement before it could proceed. "There is no such exception for this type of joint business agreement [in the contract]," said APA.

American disputed those claims, arguing the proposed deal complies with all labour contracts.