Pilot unions call for ATSG-owned airlines to be defined as a single system

US pilot unions have asked the National Mediation Board (NMB) to investigate and determine if two subsidiaries of freighter lessor Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) should be considered “a single transportation system”.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Airline Division have made a formal request to the NMB concerning ABX Air (ABX) and Air Transport International (ATI), two cargo carriers owned by Wilmington, Ohio-based ATSG.
In a statement, the teamsters said that the two carriers “together employ an estimated 400 pilots and operate in the same mid-size cargo freighter segment of the industry, serving the same key customers DHL and Amazon.
The Teamsters and its affiliated local union, Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, contend that ATSG has operated the two carriers “as a single transportation system while maintaining a facade of two separate carriers”.
“That charade has to end,” said Rick Ziebarth, a long-time ABX pilot.
In response, ATSG chief financial officer Quint Turner said: “ATSG owns and operates two airlines with separate and distinct US FAA Part 121 Air Carrier certificates, ABX Air and Air Transport International.
“ATSG believes that it is in the best interest of its airlines’ customers, including the United States military, our shareholders and our employees to continue to operate ABX and ATI as separate certificated carriers.”
The unions stated that ABX and ATI “operate in the same segment of the air cargo industry, serve the same key customers, swap equipment and use common flight and labor related programs and policies. Yet, ATSG characterizes the two carriers’ operations as separate from one another.”
It continued in its statement: “Historically, airline holding companies have owned and operated multiple airline subsidiaries and kept them separate from one another for various reasons, some of which were designed to artificially suppress labor costs and conditions.
“The historical model no longer works due to vastly changed economic conditions affecting the airline industry, including the increasingly dire shortage of pilots across the world, which are now straining airlines’ ability to efficiently, effectively and safely serve their customers.”
The union added: “Through a combined ABX and ATI pilot group, ATSG would benefit from greater operational efficiencies, reductions in overhead and overtime costs, and the elimination of duplicative management and departmental functions.”
“It makes no sense from an economic or a labour perspective,” said Daniel Wells, president of the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, adding: “All it does is run up the customers’ bills and drive pilots away to other carriers.”
“The pilots want to provide the best possible service to our customers, including DHL and Amazon, but ATSG is jeopardizing that service, its reputation and our jobs by clinging to the remains of an outdated labor-cost model,” said Ziebarth.
“I know that we fly planes and not rockets, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that ATSG is way off course and that it needs to stop trying to manipulate its pilots and start focusing on what it takes to run a successful and efficient operation in today’s airline industry.”

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