Real Answers from Real Pilots

Unions and Contracts

I know this topic is step 836 and most of you are on step 1, 5 or 25, AND (more important) it’s really not something you should even be thinking about for quite a while. That said I’d like to 'plant a seed" for harvest in the future.

I was recently elected as a Block Rep/LEC member for our union (basically means I represent and advocate for the pilots should they have issues and in negotiations with the company). While I’m very honored and excited to serve, I’m quickly beginning to realize it’s a HUGE responsibility and an even bigger pain in the butt! We (the newly elected reps) don’t take “office” till next year but to insure a smooth transition we’re now getting cc’d on all the emails and attending the meetings. This is what brings me to point of this post.

I am AMAZED at how few people actually take the time to READ their contract. Now granted most are 400-500 pages, there’s a ton of legalese and it’s hardly Tom Clancy or the Lord of the Rings BUT it is IMPORTANT. These documents will control EVERY aspect of your job at the airline from pay to vacation to training to uniforms to trip assignments to mergers etc etc etc. EVERYTHING is in there. The majority of pilots know the Compensation, Vacation and Sick Call Sections but not much else. Now many of the calls and emails are for “clarification” which I understand (as I said there’s ALOT of legalese) but many are not. Many are calls “after the fact” when there’s not a whole lot we can do to help (“I forgot to bid vacation and was randomly assigned this week I don’t want”… or “the company reassigned me to fly this bla bla bla”). Again it’s not sexy but knowing your contract vs not can make a huge difference in your quality of life as a pilot.

Again I appreciate at this point this information is less than meaningless (and should be) but hopefully when you sit down to your first Alpa Newhire Welcome lunch and they mention the contract you’ll remember this post and do some training. Or you can just call your Rep like everybody else does :wink:



Having done the scheduling for my previous job (40FTEs), I can somewhat understand the headache! It’s amazing how many people skate by and hope that by crying to someone they’ll magically get what they want.
Props to you for taking on the extra responsibility! I’m sure you’re getting a huge pay raise because of it :wink:


Although I am still in school (working on my commercial and multi) I do appreciate your information and willingness to step up and help.
My question is, you mention people not knowing what is in their contact and it sounds like some of the issues that they have, because of the way it is mentioned, makes me wonder about how much negotiation room there is in what will eventually be my contract? I figured they were cookie cutter contacts that were take it or leave it?? Can you shed some light on that?


You will not sign an individual contract with an airline. The union signs a collective bargaining agreement that covers all of the pilots that work for a certain airline. Adam is simply saying that the contracts can have a lot of good things (work rules, fringe benefits, etc), but that many pilots do not spend the time to know what their rights are under the contract.



It’s exactly what Chris said. While contracts do vary from airline to airline, the problem is individuals not knowing what’s in their contracts that’s the issue. The contracts offer many protection that the union works hard to negotiate and enforce but it’s up to the pilot to know their rights and what those protections are. It’s not that the airline is evil or intentionally trying to harm the pilot either, many of them don’t know the contract either.


On a parallel, I do not yet work for an airline but I am a long time union member in public safety. Same issues abound; people don’t know their own contract because they don’t generally read more than the pay and time off sections until they have a personal crisis or disciplinary issue. It is step 836 for most of us on this site, but plant the seed now and read your contract when you get it. If nothing else, it will make a new employee a solid junior mentor/leader for the other new employees.

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