SURVEY: Cargo Pilots at Amazon Air, DHL-Contracted Airlines are Seeking Employment Elsewhere



11-16-2018

For Immediate Release: Friday, November 16, 2018
Contact: Dean Pearce, dean.pearce@berlinrosen.com, 646.992.8312

A new survey of more than 1,000 pilots reveals long-standing staffing problems continue to plague the carriers as peak season arrives

WILMINGTON, OHIO - More than 60 percent of pilots at carriers owned by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (AAWW) and Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) who participated in a survey revealed they are preparing to leave their carrier and are seeking work at competitors like UPS and FedEx. With peak holiday shipping season around the corner, the results show the precarious situation at AAWW and ATSG, which are responsible for a growing amount of Amazon Air and DHL deliveries.

The survey results were collected from more than 1,200 pilots at AAWW’s subsidiaries Atlas Air and Southern Air, and from pilots at ATSG’s subsidiary ABX Air. Atlas Air is currently contracted to fly 20 planes for Amazon Air, while ABX Air flies six planes for Amazon Air. Both carriers also fly for DHL, which Southern Air flies for exclusively.

According to the survey, more than 75 percent of pilots who responded strongly disagree that morale at their carrier is high and 80 percent said they would not recommend their carrier to a friend working in the industry.

“With an alarming number of pilots at these carriers unhappy about their working conditions, management, benefits and more, it’s no surprise that they’re leaving for better opportunities,” said Capt. Robert Kirchner, a long-time Atlas pilot and Executive Council Chairman for Atlas Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224. “Executives need to take these survey results seriously. We are already losing the race with competitors to maintain and attract pilots. Yet executives appear to be intentionally ignoring the structural problems that are plaguing our airlines, which spells even greater problems. At Atlas Air, we’re already experiencing delays and operational disruptions and are slow to roll-out Amazon Air planes because we don’t have the pilots.”

The survey was conducted online in October and November 2018 by the pilots’ union, Teamsters Local 1224, which annually surveys its members to ensure that ongoing bargaining efforts are in line with the interests of its membership. Complete survey results can be viewed here.

Of those who responded to the survey:
• More than 80 percent strongly disagree when asked if they are satisfied with pay and benefits at their carriers, while 91 percent of pilots strongly disagree that their pay and benefits meet the industry standards for their peers doing the same job.
• More than 65 percent of pilots have been asked to fly on their off-days in the last year.
• Nearly 65 percent of pilots at ABX Air say their quality of life since joining the carrier has declined significantly.
• A majority of the pilots at each of the three carriers have applied for positions at other carriers or plan on doing with the next year, including more than two-thirds of the Atlas and Southern pilots.

In addition to pushing pilots away, the carriers continue to have a difficult time recruiting new pilots. As revealed in the survey, more than 80 percent of pilots who responded are concerned about their carrier being able to recruit and retain qualified pilots, while nearly 70 percent had little confidence in management’s ability to adequately staff the airline.

“More than half of surveyed ABX Air pilots plan to retire in the next five years, and that should be a huge wake-up call for ATSG executives who’ve been tuned out for too long,” said Capt. Rick Ziebarth, an ABX Air pilot and Executive Council Chairman of ABX Air Teamsters Local 1224. “A new contract is desperately needed to enable ABX Air to hire and retain the pilots needed for the future.”

Pilots at the carriers say there is widespread concern about being able to deliver for clients like Amazon Air and DHL. According to data from AAWW, the airline’s prolonged delays have increased by 70 percent since December 2016. More than 65 percent of the pilots who responded from Atlas Air and ABX Air have little faith that their cargo carrier has enough pilots to meet the long-term needs of Amazon and its Amazon Air program. Cancellations and flight delays for Amazon Air were reported by almost 50 percent of the pilots who responded from Atlas Air and ABX Air.

For years, Atlas Air, Southern Air and ABX Air have been stalling negotiations to improve their outdated contracts, arguing they can maintain and attract a sufficient number of pilots to work for them at current wages, terms and benefits that are far below industry norms. But pilots say the carriers’ strategy is not working and is impeding the ability to secure new business opportunities. Although AAWW hired 288 new pilots this year, 145 pilots left. Similarly, at Southern Air this year 37 new pilots were hired while 46 left. Meanwhile, captains and first officers at AAWW are paid 48 to 49 percent behind UPS pay.

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The Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224 represents pilots and flight crewmembers from 10 airlines operating across the country.