US EXPRESS-PACKAGE carrier FedEx has wet-leased seven Boeing 727-200F freighters from Express One International, as a contingency in case industrial action by its pilots disrupts services in the build-up to the busy Christmas season. FedEx pilots stopped flying on their days off after contract talks with the carrier broke down on 25 November.

FedEx leased the aircraft after imposing a settlement which included an average 4% pay rise, and implemented a "scope" provision allowing it to wet-lease aircraft to supplement operations to handle emergencies and surges. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), representing the pilots, describes the provision as "devastating" as it undermines job security.

FedEx says that it will not use the leased aircraft, which are crewed by Express One pilots, "...unless we're forced to by the actions that ALPA takes". The carrier has also switched a 727 from its South American route into US domestic service ahead of the Christmas rush. The service between Sao Paulo, Santiago and Buenos Aires will be maintained by leasing space on other carriers, FedEx says.

ALPA says that its limited action is already creating significant service problems for FedEx, claiming that the carrier has cancelled all of its training (to free up instructors to fly revenue trips), cancelled all military leave and increased the compensation for overtime flying from 150% to 200%.

Source: Flight International