Despite a merger that likely saved US Airways and re-established the carrier as major player in the U.S. airline industry, the company has so far failed to achieve one important milestone: “Efforts to unite the 5,000 pilots from America West and US Airways, critical to combining the airlines’ operations, are going on 3 1/2 years and counting,” The Arizona Republic writes. The paper adds “resolution does not appear to be around the corner. Pilots from each side are locked in a bitter battle about seniority. That is the ranking system that determines a pilot’s pick of flights, vacation time, promotion track and more.”
The divide between the two sides –- the “East” pilots from the old US Airways and the “West” pilots from the old America West -– has deepened since the airlines merged. The Republic notes East pilots “have gone so far as to toss out the airline’s incumbent union in their pursuit” to have seniority lists merged based on the dated of hire. “They say their side of the business is the profit center,” the Republic adds.
The Republic notes West pilots “have long believed America West saved bankrupt US Airways,” an airline many though to be on the brink of liquidation prior to the merger. The West pilots’ support remains behind plan to merge the seniority lists that “puts the most senior US Airways pilots at the top of the list, those furloughed at the time of the merger at the bottom and a proportionate blend of the others in the middle,” according to the Republic. That list was issued by a federal arbitrator last year, and West pilots think “the former union’s merger policy dictates that the arbitrated list is final and binding.”
What’s next for the airline’s pilots remains unclear. The Republic says that in a recent interview with the paper, US Airways CEO Doug Parker thinks the seniority issue “will sort itself out” and that the two sides will eventually negotiate a joint contract. However, Parker wouldn’t commit to a timetable for how long he thought the impasse would last. “It’s something that I would very much like to get resolved,” he tells the Republic.