The more than 700 pilots of Horizon Air, Alaska Airlines’ low-wage regional carrier, have won an explosive contract that includes eye-popping pay increases.
Captains will get an average pay increase of 74% while co-pilots will get an 85% pay increase, the pilots’ union announced on Friday.
First-year captains at Horizon will drop from $81 to $149 an hour, the highest rate of any regional carrier. Newly hired co-pilots who are now earning $48 per hour go up to $90 per hour.
Based on an average of about 950 hours per year, a first-year captain’s salary increases from about $77,000 to $142,000. A new co-pilot’s salary nearly doubles, from $46,000 to $86,000.
Henry Simkins, a Horizon Air pilot who chairs the executive council of the pilots’ union, Teamsters Local 1224, said when the deal was announced, “we had pilots, men and women, who were crying “.
“They’re thrilled. We had pilots selling cars for food. We had pilots who couldn’t afford their spouse’s medical bills,” Simkins said. “It’s life changing.”
Joe Sprague, president of Horizon Air, said the new contract aims to retain talent as major carriers continue to hire pilots away from regional airlines like Horizon at record levels. The loss of pilots forced Horizon to reduce its flight schedule.
“The continued industry shortage of pilots has put a strain on this service, and attracting and retaining our talented pilots is more important than ever,” Sprague said. “We are working to make Horizon the regional carrier of choice for pilots, and this agreement positions us well.”
The new salary agreement will complement Horizon’s other efforts to expand and diversify the pilot pipeline through investments in pilot training and development.
For the expected growth, Alaska Airlines and Horizon together estimate they need to hire 500 pilots each year through 2025.
Joe Muckle, president of the union’s local, said the deal represents “a new era for the industry”.
“A new Horizon pilot can finally earn a living, afford to raise a family and save for retirement,” Muckle said. “Highly experienced Airmen may choose to stay in the regions for fulfilling careers.”
The next Alaska Airlines pilots?
The stunning scope of Horizon Air’s labor agreement is a preview of what awaits pilots at Alaska Airlines and all US carriers.
Pilots in regions owned by American Airlines – PSA, Envoy and Piedmont – in June won temporary pay increases of 50% over the next two years.
That month, Horizon pilots rejected a tentative agreement and extended negotiations. The now finalized deal provides for larger increases than the US regionals and the rate hikes are permanent.
And, with the lowest-paid regional pilots getting such raises, major US airlines will have to offer proportionately large pay increases to mainline pilots in order to maintain some of the gap.
Typically, pilots begin their career with a regional airline, accepting lower pay to rack up flight hours so they can upgrade to a major for much higher pay.
American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue are currently in the midst of intense contract negotiations with their own pilots. Alaska Airlines lost pilots who defected to Delta and other majors.
An Alaska Airlines first officer, who asked not to be named because the company disapproves of employees who speak to the media, said there are some outlandish numbers floating around but everyone in the airline community Alaska Airlines pilots now expect a raise of at least 50% in the new contract.
Improvements at all levels
The Teamsters said 91% of its Local 1224 members voted on the contract, with 99% approving the deal.
The contract provides for large salary increases from the bottom to the top of the scale. The salary of a senior captain increases from $129 per hour to $215 per hour, or more than $200,000 per year.
The new wage rates apply immediately. The contract provides for additional increases of 1.5% next year and the year after.
And because pilot groups are now negotiating in the airline industry with rapid changes in jobs, the Horizon contract includes a “me too” clause: if pilots from the largest regional carrier, SkyWest, negotiate a higher high at any time over the next two years. , Horizon pilots will receive an automatic markup equal to the SkyWest rate plus $1 per hour.
In addition to salary increases, the new contract offers enhanced 401(k) retirement benefits. For senior pilots, Horizon will contribute up to an additional 12% of the pilot’s income towards retirement.
And the contract also adds higher pay for instructor pilots, better holiday pay and improved rules for pilots who have to fly to their scheduled flight.
Greg Unterseher, deputy airline division manager for Teamsters International, said the contract recovers ground pilots lost in concession contracts agreed to in the industry downturn following the September 11 terrorist attacks and in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.
These contracts had left the industry’s regional pilots poorly paid, even though they usually go into serious debt to pay for flight school and qualify to fly.
“It’s obviously a monumental leap,” Unterseher said. “It will allow people to work here for their careers.”
“We have people who live in their parents’ houses when they get hired at Horizon because they can’t pay the rent,” he said, adding that “$40,000 or $50,000 a year don’t get very far when you have $150,000 or $100,000 in student debt.
“It’s a huge leap forward in people’s quality of life,” Unterseher said.
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