Hawaiian pilots seeking to settle contract
The union wants to increase wages but the company says high fuel prices pose a challenge
As Hawaiian Airlines
prepares for a major fleet expansion, the union that represents its pilots is calling for a resolution to more than a year of contract negotiations.
This month marks one year that the pilots have been flying without a union contract, with talks slated to continue in July between the carrier and the Air Line Pilots Association. The last negotiation talks were held Friday.
The airline may be forced to cut back on flights if the union does not agree to continue short-term relief, provided on a month-to-month basis since the shutdown of Aloha Airlines at the end of March, said Capt. Eric Sampson, chairman of ALPA's Hawaiian Airlines Master Executive Council.
"Crews are being worked to the bone and are asked to give up hours at home," he said. "We still have no light at the end of the tunnel as far as a contract agreement."
Under a new contract, pilots are asking for a wage increase more closely in line with inflation than the 1 percent hike offered by Hawaiian, Sampson said. They have been flying under the same contract since Hawaiian emerged from bankruptcy in 2005. The union represents all of Hawaiian's 313 pilots.
"Hawaiian would like to find a way to increase the pay of its employees as long as it doesn't put the company at a competitive disadvantage," according to a statement e-mailed by Hawaiian. "Given today's record high fuel prices, this presents all of us a significant challenge."
In April, the airline added 6,000 seats to its daily flights, including a reserve Boeing 767-300 widebody aircraft to Maui to help handle demand. Hawaiian has since reduced that additional capacity by about 1,500 and plans to return its 767 as a spare once four Boeing 717s that it has leased are phased into service later this year.
Pilots can now fly up to Federal Aviation Administration limits of 100 hours in any calendar month and 120 hours within 30 consecutive days under an agreement made in response to the shutdown of Aloha, as well as the ATA closure on April 2. Other relief that the union has provided has included the agreement in February to allow Hawaiian to buy up to 24 new Airbus planes for a total list-price value of $4.4 billion, and allowing Air New Zealand pilots to fly Hawaiian aircraft to Auckland.
Hawaiian will increase its interisland fleet of 717s to 15 with the addition of the four planes, boosting its capacity up to a net 15 percent. Hawaiian operates 150 interisland flights daily between Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island as well as 16 flights daily to 14 destinations outside Hawaii.