Continental pilots say transatlantic JV needs union nod

Washington DC
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Pilots at Continental Airlines say an element of the current contract they have with the carrier requires union approval for the airline to engage in revenue sharing with Star Alliance partners in their planned transatlantic joint venture.

Star members Air Canada, Continental, Lufthansa and United secured regulatory approval earlier this year for their transatlantic joint venture, which will rival a similar arrangement Delta Air Lines has with its SkyTeam partners. In October Air Canada said the carriers were aiming to launch the agreement in early 2010.

But pilots at Continental Airlines, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), claim the carrier's management needs relief from a scope provision in the current contract to begin revenue sharing with its Star partners.

The head of Continental's ALPA master executive council, Jay Pierce, says the scope provision prohibits revenue sharing unless pilots agree to give the carrier relief from the prohibition.

A Continental spokesman clarifies that the current contract requires the carrier to obtain ALPA's consent prior to commencing revenue sharing with United, but the airline is free to share revenue with Lufthansa and Air Canada without receiving pilot approval.

"We are working in good faith with our pilots to obtain their consent to revenue share with United, as the transatlantic joint venture is clearly beneficial for our pilots," says Continental's spokesman.

Continental and ALPA have been in contract negotiations since 2007, prior to the contract's amendable date in 2008.

Pierce says earlier this month ALPA presented Continental's management with a contract proposal that contemplates relief for revenue sharing. Job protection for the carrier's pilots is tied to that relief.

"It is on the front burner for them [Continental]," says Pierce. "They need know by early summer if we will grant relief or not."

Continental's pilots in 2005 ratified a contract that included annual concessions of roughly $213 million.