Pilot’s around the country calling on airlines to address cancellations, delays

Sarah Freishtat

Chicago Tribune

After a summer of air travel marked by high prices, canceled flights and delays, pilots planned to picket at a dozen airports across the country Thursday.

About 1,000 pilots from the Air Line Pilots Association union were expected to participate in informational pickets nationwide at the start of the busy Labor Day holiday weekend, calling for airlines to address the operational issues leading to flight delays and cancellations.

The pickets come as airlines have struggled with both their own staff shortages and staffing limitations in airports and air traffic control towers that they said have posed challenges as they work to recover from the dropoff in air travel early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines have faced a looming pilot shortage for years, and that was exacerbated by the pandemic.

Airline pilots with ALPA National picket outside O’Hare International Airport in support of improved working conditions and benefits across their profession Sept. 1, 2022, ahead of Labor Day weekend, in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Pilots at many carriers are also in contract negotiations with the companies. At Chicago-based United, whose pilots were participating in the picket at O’Hare International Airport, pilots had been poised to approve a new contract but recently reengaged in talks with the company, said Capt. Rogers Phillips, spokesman for the ALPA at United.

“United pilots are here to show solidarity,” he said. Solidarity with our fellow pilot groups, solidarity with our profession and support for labor,” he said.

Capt. Joe DePete, president of the ALPA, highlighted the contributions of pilots and crew to move goods, people and equipment during the pandemic.

“Aviation workers fought to keep the airline industry afloat through significant federal taxpayer support,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, some airlines squandered the opportunity to adequately plan for post-pandemic flying, and the result has been unprecedented flight delays and cancellations. It’s time for management to prioritize passengers and pilots – and invest in the people who keep our country moving.”

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