THE ALLIED PILOTS Association (APA), which represents 9,000 American Airlines pilots, has told flightdeck crews to prepare for a strike over wage and contract issues which could begin on 15 February and last for two months. United Airlines' pilots, meanwhile, are considering an overtime ban in a similar dispute.

American pilots conducted picketing at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Texas, in late January as the APA prepared to enter "super-mediation" on 10 February, having rejected an American offer of binding arbitration. "We don't want a strike, but we know we cannot accept APA demands and remain a viable, competitive airline," says Don Cary, American's president.

In January, 61% of American's pilots rejected a four-year deal offered by the airline. Among other things, the pilots object to a provision in the tentative contract allowing regional jets to be flown by AMR Eagle pilots, who are represented by a different union. Both sides entered a cooling-off period which expires in mid-February.

The union told American pilots to be ready to "-shut down the airline on 15 February-We advise you to be prepared for a strike of at least 30 days and, hopefully, no longer than 60 days. If a strike does occur, how long it lasts is up to management."

The labour group labels its demands as "reasonable". APA says: "It would be bad business for management not to accept them. However-management has made some bad business decisions in the past, and this may be one more."

Some 80% of United's pilots, which are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), rejected a wage offer in January. A "mid-term wage increase" was provided for under the 1994 employee buy-out of United, but the pilots do not consider the offer sufficient. The issue has gone to binding arbitration, which must be completed by 30 April.

Source: Flight International