Nathan Coats

Arbitrators have told pilots engaged in a long-running stand-off with Atlas Air to conclude the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  

Pilots represented by the Airline Professionals Association (APA) were told by the System Board of Adjustment on Wednesday to “promptly” finalise the contractually required CBA.  

The panel said: “We can conclude with some certainty, however, there’s been a delay inspired by the union’s misapprehension of contractual requirements and that they must now respond vigorously to the company’s request to proceed.” 

Atlas and its pilots have been locked in a bitter dispute in recent years, with pilots claiming they faced “dangerous” working conditions.  

Last month, the carrier retaliated, saying the claim was a “myth” and it had an “uncompromised commitment to safety”. It described the APA claim as a negotiating tool.  

This was then denied by the APA. A spokesperson said: “The terrible conditions at Atlas and Southern Air need no exaggeration from the union to ‘leverage negotiations’, as Atlas contends, because facts speak for themselves.”  

Now, however, the dispute has escalated, with Atlas coming under pressure from customers to wrap the problems up swiftly.

Among them is Amazon, which receives half its US air capacity from Atlas. A spokesman told Business Insider: “The continued inability of Atlas and their pilot union to resolve these negotiations could result in a change to the allocation of our current and future aircraft. We have an obligation to deliver to our customers, and so do they.”   

Amazon has become increasingly reliant on service providers Atlas and ATSGand could become more so following FedEx’s decision not to renew its US domestic express contract with the retail giant.  

One source told The Loadstar the move by FedEx could lead to Amazon buying out one of its air cargo providers to shore up capacity.  

“I talked to some Atlas pilots a couple of weeks ago and, according to them, Amazon has folks in the Atlas office more or less overseeing Amazon air movements/operations … although Atlas denies this,” said the source. “But [a minority stake] is an option, under Amazon’s agreement with Atlas [and ATSG].”  

When asked if the decision by FedEx could be followed by other logistics providers, the source said she did not think it likely, although UPS “margins are negative as well”.  

She added: “It could raise rates elsewhere to offset these… another thought is that UPS carries more volumes, including ground, for Amazon so perhaps it could possibly raise rates. But I’m not sure what kind of rates it is charging Amazon.”

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