Amazon Air Pilots Are Not Happy

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The original 2016 contract between Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and the two carriers it contracted with to create Amazon Prime Air (now known simply as Amazon Air) called for each carrier to have 20 cargo jets in the air by the end of 2018. The two carriers, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: AAWW) and Air Transport Services Group Inc. (NASDAQ: ATSG), will have the airplanes, but will they have the pilots?

A new survey of pilots at Atlas Air, Southern Air, and ABX Air finds widespread dissatisfaction with working conditions, management, benefits, and pay. Atlas Air and Southern Air are subsidiaries of Atlas Air while AXG is a subsidiary of Air Transport Services. The survey was sponsored by the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224.

More than 75% of some 1,200 pilots surveyed strongly disagreed with carrier statements that morale is high and 80% said they would not recommend their carrier to a friend working in the industry.

More than 52% of ABX pilots, 15% of Atlas Air pilots, and 23% of Southern pilots say they expect to retire in the next 1 to 5 years. More than half of ABX pilots report seeking a new job or planning to search for a new job in the past or coming year and about two-thirds of pilots at Atlas and Southern have done the same.

Other highlights from the survey:

  • More than 80% strongly disagree when asked if they are satisfied with pay and benefits at their carriers, while 91% strongly disagree that their pay and benefits meet the industry standards for their peers doing the same job
  • More than 65% of pilots have been asked to fly on their off-days in the last year
  • Nearly 65% of pilots at ABX Air say their quality of life since joining the carrier has declined significantly
  • Three-quarters or more of the pilots at each of the three carriers are most interested in applying for a job with either FedEx or UPS.

Captain Robert Kirchner, a member of the executive council of Local 1224 representing Atlas Air pilots, said:

With an alarming number of pilots at these carriers unhappy about their working conditions, management, benefits and more, it’s no surprise that they’re leaving for better opportunities. Executives need to take these survey results seriously. We are already losing the race with competitors to maintain and attract pilots. Yet executives appear to be intentionally ignoring the structural problems that are plaguing our airlines, which spells even greater problems. At Atlas Air, we’re already experiencing delays and operational disruptions and are slow to roll-out Amazon Air planes because we don’t have the pilots.

In June, Local 1224 members contracted to fly for Amazon Air staged a protest at the White House calling on the President, a vocal critic of Amazon, to defend U.S. job standards that Amazon is “undermining” by using its “growing influence and market power to drive down standards for U.S. pilots across the board.”