Pilots and Hawaiian Air arrive at pact


POSTED: Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hawaiian Airlines and its pilots union, ending nearly three years of often acrimonious negotiations, have tentatively agreed on a new five-year, eight-month contract that would increase wages about 19 percent over the life of the pact and provide operational improvements for the company.

The agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the Air Line Pilots Association unit's 418 pilots, ends the threat of a pilots strike against the airline.

“;We are pleased to have reached this agreement with ALPA during such challenging times in our industry,”; Hawaiian President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Dunkerley said yesterday. “;This agreement will provide Hawaiian's pilots an outstanding pay and benefits package while also addressing some of the operational issues that are important to the company.”;

Eric Sampson, chairman of ALPA's master executive council at Hawaiian, called the contract “;a positive agreement”; and said he was “;confident”; it will be ratified by the pilots. That ratification process will take place in the coming weeks.

“;The company has received increased productivity, and, at the same time, the pilots have kept their quality of life in addition to the pay rate they received for the five years, eight months of the contract, which basically keeps us where we're projected to be in the middle of industry standards,”; Sampson said. “;Because of this agreement, we're confident it will pass ratification with the members.”;

Hawaiian's pilots union had been seeking a 17 percent wage increase, among other things, over four years, while the company had been offering a 20 percent raise over five years in addition to work-rule changes that would make Hawaiian more competitive within the industry and improve its efficiencies.

The agreement follows two intense weeks of negotiations between the union, the company and the National Mediation Board.

“;We're extremely happy that we've come to this agreement because had we called for a strike, that would have helped absolutely no one—the traveling public, the company or the pilots,”; Sampson said. “;It would have hurt everybody and caused irreparable harm to Hawaiian Airlines' reputation.”;

Hawaiian was ranked first in the nation for service quality and performance last year in the 19th annual Airline Quality Rating study and has led all domestic carriers in on-time performance for each of the past five years.

The pilots, frustrated with the progress of labor talks, sent a letter in October to the National Mediation Board claiming that negotiations were at an impasse, and requested that the union be released from mediation—a move that could have set the stage for a pilots strike. In September the airline's pilots voted to authorize such a strike.

Still, a pilots strike, which would have been the first in Hawaiian's 80-year history, was not imminent since there would have been several more hurdles to clear before a walkout could have occurred.

All along, the company insisted that the offer it was making to the pilots was “;very generous.”;

Sampson said the length of the contract—following the previous three-year contract that became amendable in June 2007—will work well for both sides.

“;To have a contract that's signed for the next five years, eight months—that works to both our advantages,”; he said. “;It will give us labor rest at the airline.”;

Hawaiian has reached similar agreements that have been ratified by its flight attendants and its dispatchers, and recently reached a tentative agreement with its airport customer service personnel. The airline is still seeking a contract with its mechanics.