Some American Airlines’ pilots are lobbying for their union, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), to consider merging with the much-larger Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA).

A recent survey of American’s pilots – represented by APA – found that 67% of respondents favour “seeing what a merger between APA and ALPA looks like”, according to results, published on 9 November. Some 52% of responding pilots “strongly favour” the idea, while 18% “strongly oppose” it.

The results were published on the website of “AA Pilots for ALPA”, a group describing itself a ”a grass-roots effort by American pilots for American pilots”. About half of American’s pilots, or 7,722 flight deck professionals, participated in the survey, AA Pilots for ALPA says.

Pilots outside aircraft

Source: Thiago B Trevisan/Shutterstock

Some American pilots support a possible merger between their union, APA, and ALPA

“The purpose of a merger between APA and ALPA is to retain the aspects of APA that benefit our pilot group the most, while gaining access to resources and a governance structure that sets us up for success for this contract cycle and beyond,” the group says in an email to subscribers to its website.

American’s pilots left ALPA in 1963 over political differences with ALPA national leadership.

The move to re-join comes as both unions broker new contracts for pilot groups.

ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing 66,000 pilots at 40 US and Canadian airlines, including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and numerous regional carriers. It recently scored several contract victories for pilots at regional carriers that include Mesa Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, CommuteAir and Envoy Air. The pay hikes came as airlines attempt to attract and retain pilots amid surging travel demand.

But at major carriers, negotiations seem to be on rocky ground.

In October, an overwhelming majority of Delta pilots voted to authorise union leaders to call a strike, if necessary. The move came after the union and airline failed to reach a new contract agreement.

A day later, United’s pilots also rejected a contract proposal.

APA, meantime, which represents American’s 15,000 pilots, last month agreed to ask federal mediators to intervene in contract negotiations with the airline.

AA Pilots for ALPA says its survey was conducted prior to the request for mediation, and after talks about a tentative agreement that would have given pilots a 19% pay hike broke down.

“If the survey was conducted after the events of the last two weeks, then the survey would likely have been more favourable to an ALPA merger discussion,” the email says.

APA and ALPA confirm on 11 November that discussions will commence. 

”Our board approved a resolution to explore a possible merger of APA and ALPA,” the union tells FlightGlobal. “This resolution was in response to a recent poll of our membership, which affirmed interest in pursuing a possible merger.”

ALPA adds that it’s ”committed to strengthening the voices of frontline aviators and further advancing the piloting profession”.

”We look forward to the next phase in this process and engaging with the APA leadership on how best to ensure that airline CEOs recognise the extraordinary contributions of our pilots,” ALPA says. 


Updates on 11 November to add comments from APA and ALPA.