US Airways Pilots Infighting Grows Worse by the Day

Last Updated Jan 11, 2010 10:46 AM EST

If you're looking for a model for a dysfunctional pilot group, you should look no further than the US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA). That union represents the combined US Airways (US East) and America West (US West) pilot groups, but its existence has been marred by constant fighting between the two sides. Now, the US East pilots have tired of fighting others and have no turned on each other. This is an absolutely miserable situation.

The USAPA was formed after the US East pilots decided they didn't like the results of seniority arbitration (the Nicolau Award). So, they decided to toss ALPA off the property and create the USAPA, an independent union. The US West pilots couldn't do anything to stop them because the US East pilots had the majority. You can read more about the US Airways/America West pilot fight in a previous post.

Since the USAPA took over, their behavior has become increasingly questionable. In regards to the company, it appears their goal is to oppose anything management supports regardless of whether it is good or bad for them. That's the only way I can explain their opposition to the slot swap with Delta in New York and Washington. Their latest efforts have been against closing down the Las Vegas hub. Ok.

But now, the union has really lost it. There is now a ton of infighting going on within the US East pilot ranks and things are getting very ugly. USAPA Executive Vice President Dave Ciabattoni turned in his resignation from the organization's leadership team before Christmas. In it, Dave, a US East pilot, states:

I must be blunt here: the mutation of USAPA from a democratic, line pilot oriented and controlled union into the current administration that is about enrichment and ease of life style for President Cleary and his supporters is nearly complete and in record time.
All of these players are US East pilots. In the new year, Dave gave more of an explanation about what his problems were with the team. He details a variety of problems with the leadership, in particular, President Mike Cleary. He makes accusations of violation of bylaws, misappropriation of money, and favoritism. It's a compelling read and it begs a single question . . . what is wrong with these people?

This is a union that continues to hold fast, refusing to budge on its stubborn position on the Nicolau Award despite court rulings against them. The US West pilots have been alienated from the beginning, yet it's the US East pilots who are in worse shape. The company offered to bring US East pilots up to the US West contract in the beginning but they have held out. Now, they've foregone higher wages for years and there doesn't appear to be any end in sight.

This has to be the most dysfunctional union around.