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Allegiant Air pilots picket airline’s Las Vegas headquarters

About 70 Allegiant Air pilots picketed in front of the Las Vegas-based airline’s Summerlin headquarters Tuesday, a day before the company will post second-quarter earnings.

The pilots, most in uniform shirts and ties and carrying signs that said, “It’s time to bargain in good faith,” marched along the corner of Town Center Drive and Covington Cross Drive for about an hour to call attention to stalled contract talks.

The pilots, represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1224, say the company’s executives are among the highest compensated in the airline industry while pilots are among the lowest paid. They also claim that Allegiant has underfunded maintenance and safety programs and has become unreliable with poor on-time performance.

It’s been three years since pilots voted for representation by the Teamsters and 2½ years since contract negotiations first began. Along the way, the union has been frustrated by a lack of progress and asked for a mediator to monitor negotiations. The union also took the airline to court, but couldn’t convince a U.S. District Court judge that the company had substantially changed the pilot scheduling process.

Pilots who participated in the picket line came from Allegiant’s Las Vegas and Mesa, Ariz. pilot bases and from other cities in the Allegiant system.

“We’re seeking an industry average contract and we’re upset and frustrated with the pace of negotiations,” said Steve Pozdra, a Las Vegas-based co-pilot. “They’re a very profitable airline, if not the most profitable airline in the world, and we’re among the lowest paid pilots for the equipment we fly.”

Pozdra acknowledged that initial union contracts are slow to develop, “but this is terribly slow and frustrating and unnecessary considering the economics of their success.”

The pilots also delivered a letter to airline executives asking them to modify the existing pilot scheduling system and to invest in safety measures.

In a letter to Allegiant Chairman Maurice Gallagher and Chief Operating Officer Steve Harfst, the letter from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters asks them “to put an end to the negotiating charade.”

“The Allegiant pilots care deeply about the success of the company, and we want to work with you to create a strong airline that keeps costs low for passengers while keeping quality high,” said the letter, signed “The Pilots Flying for Allegiant Air.”

“What we are asking for at the bargaining table are straightforward, industry standard policies that will ensure that pilots are compensated fairly, are able to keep up with changing safety regulations and improvements and that we are able to retain experienced pilots.”

The union says between 2011 and 2014, there has been a 600 percent increase in voluntary pilot resignations at Allegiant.

Representatives for the company did not respond to telephone and email inquiries about the pilots’ claims.

Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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