United & Continental airline pilots align efforts in face of new alliance


The pilots of United and Continental Airlines announced their intent to align efforts geared toward promoting the careers and futures of their respective groups in the face of the recent Global Cooperation agreement between their respective airlines. Leaders of the two pilot groups, both represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), decided to build upon the relationship formed when merger discussions involving Continental and United brought them together earlier this year.

On June 19, United Airlines and Continental Airlines announced an agreement to link their networks and operations worldwide and for Continental to join the Star Alliance. This agreement not only represents a new dynamic for both airlines, it also has the potential for significant impact on the careers of the pilots of both airlines.

“Just as United and Continental management have decided to form an alliance to strengthen the relative positions of their airlines against competitors and reap the benefits of a cooperative relationship, we are also positioning ourselves to use the combined strength of our pilot groups to leverage opportunity and defend against any threats their alliance presents,” Captain Steve Wallach, chairman of the United Chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association and Captain Jay Pierce, chairman of the Continental Chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, said in a joint statement. “Both our pilot groups have given up millions upon millions of dollars in pay, retirement provisions and benefits so that our airlines could survive. As our management teams develop their new business plans to meet the challenges of today’s airline industry and economic environment, we must be included in the process. The corporate arrangement hashed out between United and Continental will only be maximized with the full involvement and support of both airlines’ pilots.”

As part of the effort, the pilots from both airlines will coordinate information sharing, will work together to develop strategy, and will cultivate a joint action plan aimed at enhancing the careers and futures of both airlines’ pilots. The relationship expands beyond the normal level of commitment shared as members of ALPA, and involves a greater level of communication, coordination and planning.

“The alliance between our two pilot groups will provide our members a strong, unified and determined voice; one that will have to be reckoned with as our two airlines move forward under their new agreement,” said the two union leaders. “We will work together to ensure that the pilots of United and Continental are heard and our concerns are addressed.”

The Houston-based Continental MEC, which represents 5,000 pilots and the Chicago-based United MEC, which represents 6,700 pilots, are part of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), which represents nearly 55,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the United States and Canada.