Money Matters

United Contract Talks Hit Early Snag As Airline Seeks More Regional Jets and Pilots Say No Way


In their earliest stages, contract talks between United and its pilots may have already hit a snag after President Scott Kirby said Tuesday that his plan to boost capacity and restore lost flying is “entirely dependent” on relaxation of the contract’s scope clause.

In a letter sent to United’s 12,500 pilots early Wednesday morning, Todd Insler, president of the United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, said the call for relaxation represents a “distraction.

“Despite the public statements from the company about needing ‘scope relief,’ they have the ability to add 76-seat aircraft under current [contract] language,” Insler wrote. “No relief is needed.”

United “can add 76-seaters tomorrow with no restrictions if they are flown by mainline pilots,” he said. “We have done the math and know that mainline United pilots can deliver the current 76-seat product with better economics, improved reliability and with a superior customer experience for our passengers, just as we do on our current fleets. “

Moreover, Insler said, the number of 76-seaters flown by regional pilots could also increase if United were to add more small narrow body aircraft, such as the Bombardier CS 100, because a contract provision specifies that 76-seaters can account for a percentage of the fleet of small narrow bodies. United does not currently fly any small narrow bodies.

Typically, scope clauses restrict the number and size of the regional aircraft that can be flown by a mainline carrier or its regional partners. Under the existing contract, United can fly up to 253 regional jets with 76 or fewer seats.

The contract becomes amendable Jan. 2, 2019; Talks started early. The United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association represents about 12,500 pilots.

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