Allegiant Air’s pilots union says airline is scraping by on safety

The union representing Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air’s pilots has turned up the heat on company management by publishing a letter to customers warning them of safety concerns they have with the airline.

APA Teamsters Local 1224 has purchased advertising on Google directing prospective Allegiant customers to a letter telling them that passengers could be “flying an airline that is content with just barely meeting acceptable safety standards.”

“This is not something we prefer to do,” said Daniel Wells, president of the union that represents pilots of 10 other airlines in addition to Allegiant. “We believe in a progressive approach (to labor negotiations), but this is a sign of how bad it’s gotten and how concerned we are.”

Allegiant officials called the letter “a scare tactic” and that the union is in engaging in “heavy-handed bullying tactics.” They said they plan to be back to negotiations in late April.

In January, pilots voted 465-8 to authorize a strike against Allegiant. Negotiations between the union and Allegiant management have been fruitless since December 2012 when contract talks began. At issue in the negotiations are pay and pilot work rules involving seniority and scheduling.

The union contends that Allegiant is the nation’s most profitable airline but that pilots are underpaid.

The pilots’ letter to passengers said they “are uncomfortable remaining silent about company practices that negatively impact our customers’ travel and vacation, including your comfort, and – most importantly – your safety.”

The letter says Allegiant represents the worst in an economy today where greedy CEOs disregard needed investments into a company’s workforce and infrastructure at the expense of passenger safety and for the benefit of Wall Street.

“Pilots at Allegiant Air are speaking out because our passengers’ safety is our top priority and we know that investments in the company’s infrastructure, fleet, pilots and mechanics are needed to ensure its long-term success,” the letter said.

The complete text of the letter is at www.apa1224.org/AllegiantAirPilotLetter.asp.

A top executive with Allegiant said safety is the company’s top priority.

“The safety of our passengers and crew is, above all, our number one priority,” said Steve Harfst, Allegiant’s chief operating officer.

“Allegiant has one of the best safety records among passenger airlines in the world and complies with all Federal Aviation Administration regulations,” Harfst said. “As we have said throughout this entire process, Allegiant and its leadership are committed to negotiating a contract with our pilots that is in the best interest of our pilots as well as our other work groups and the health of our business.”

Harfst said the National Mediation Board, which is overseeing negotiations, earlier this month directed the company and the union to return to the collective bargaining process with meetings scheduled in Washington April 29 through May 1.

“Instead of addressing their issues at the bargaining table, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has unfortunately chosen to engage in scare tactics, including manipulating facts in an attempt to manipulate our customers,” Harfst said.

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

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