More than 700 pilots at Horizon Air, Alaska Airlines’ lower-paying regional sister carrier, have won a blowout contract that provides surprising pay increases.
The pilot union announced Friday that captains will get an average pay raise of 74%, while first officers will receive 85%.
First-year captains at Horizon will make $81 to $149 an hour, the highest at any regional carrier. Newly hired first officers now earn $48 an hour, rising to $90 an hour.
Based on an average of 950 hours per year, a first-year captain’s salary jumps from about $77,000 to $142,000. The new first officer’s salary is almost doubling, from $46,000 to $86,000.
Horizon Air pilot Henry Simkins, who heads the executive board of the Teamsters Local 1224 pilot union, said that “our male and female pilots were in tears” when news of the contract broke.
“They are excited. We had pilots selling cars for food. We’ve had pilots who couldn’t afford their spouse’s medical bills,” Simkins said. “It’s life-changing.”
Horizon Air President Joe Sprague said the new deal is aimed at retaining talent as larger carriers continue to hire pilots at record levels away from regional airlines like Horizon. The loss of pilots has forced Horizon to reduce its flight schedule.
“The ongoing industry pilot shortage has hit the service hard, and attracting and retaining our talented pilots is more important than ever,” Sprague said. “We are focused on making Horizon the regional carrier of choice for pilots, and this agreement positions us well.”
The new salary agreement will complement other Horizon efforts to expand and diversify the pilot pipeline through investments in pilot training and development.
Together, Alaska Airlines and Horizon estimate they will need to hire 500 pilots annually through 2025 to accommodate projected growth.
The union’s local president, Joe Muckle, said the deal represented “a new era for the industry.”
“A newly hired Horizon pilot can finally make a living, raise a family and save for retirement,” Muckle said. “Highly experienced aviators may choose to stay in the regions for a successful career.”
The next Alaska Airlines pilots?
The staggering scope of the Horizon Air labor contract shows what’s ahead for pilots at Alaska Airlines and all US carriers.
Pilots in the region owned by American Airlines – PSA, Envoy and Piedmont – received a 50% temporary pay increase for the next two years in June.
That month, the Horizon pilots rejected the initial agreement and extended negotiations. The deal, now finalized, provides for larger increases than in the American regions, and the rate increases are permanent.
And with lower-paid regional pilots earning such increases, major U.S. airlines will have to offer correspondingly large pay increases for long-haul pilots to maintain some margin.
Typically, pilots begin their careers at regional airlines, accepting a lower salary to increase their flight hours so they can graduate into a higher paying specialty.
American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue are currently in the midst of intense contract negotiations with their pilots. Alaska Airlines lost pilots who fled to Delta and other specialties.
The first officer of Alaska Airlines, who asked not to be named because he doesn’t like employees talking to the media, said there are wild numbers around, but everyone in the Alaska Airlines pilot community now expects at least a 50% increase. new contract.
Improvements in general
The Teamsters said 91% of local 1224 members voted for the contract and 99% approved the deal.
The contract provides for large wage increases from the bottom of the scale to the top. A senior captain’s salary now increases from $129 to $215 an hour, or more than $200,000 a year.
The new wage rates are effective immediately. The contract includes an additional 1.5% increase next year and the year after that.
As pilot groups negotiate across the airline industry now that things are changing rapidly, the Horizon contract includes a “me-too” clause: If pilots at SkyWest, the largest regional carrier, negotiate a higher raise at any time in the next two years. , Horizon pilots will receive an automatic raise equal to the SkyWest rate of $1 an hour.
In addition to the wage increases, the new contract offers enhanced 401(k) retirement benefits. For senior pilots, Horizon will contribute an additional 12% of the pilot’s earnings to retirement.
The agreement also adds more pay for instructor pilots, better vacation pay and improved rules for pilots who must fly on a scheduled flight.
Greg Unterseher, deputy director of the airline division of Teamsters International, said the deal restores ground pilots lost to concession contracts negotiated in the industry’s downturn after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 global financial crisis.
These contracts paid poorly, despite the fact that regional pilots across the industry typically went into serious debt to pay for flight school and earn the right to fly.
“It’s obviously a monumental leap,” Unterseher said. “It will allow people to work here for their careers.”
“When we get hired at Horizon, our people are living in their parents’ houses because they can’t afford the rent,” he said, adding that “$40,000 or $50,000 a year doesn’t go very far when you’ve got $150,000 or $100,000 in student debt.”
“It’s a huge leap forward in people’s quality of life,” Unterseher said.
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