U.S. News

Comair Pilots OK Deal to Avert Strike


Passengers booked on Comair flights won't have to worry about a pilots strike interrupting their air travel this holiday weekend.

The Delta Air Lines subsidiary and leaders of the Air Line Pilots Association that represents Comair's 1,500 pilots have agreed to postpone the deadline for reaching a consensual wage-cutting deal.

Comair pilots had authorized union leaders to call a strike if the airline throws out their contract and imposes wage cuts and other concessions on them. The airline had planned to do that on Saturday if a deal wasn't reached by then on pilot concessions the airline says it must have to emerge from bankruptcy.

A lawyer for Comair on Thursday had asked a federal bankruptcy judge in New York to delay making a decision about the company's request to block pilots from striking pending a vote by union leaders Thursday night on whether to approve a deferral of the deadline.

Union leaders agreed late Thursday night to a deferral until Feb. 2, and both sides will continue to negotiate in an effort to reach a consensual deal. The agreement also leaves pilot pay at its current level during the deferral period.

"It's good news for the traveling public," said Denke. "Our focus hasn't changed. We are still committed to reaching a fair and consensual deal.

Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said the company agreed to the deferral as a way to continue working toward a consensual labor agreement. The airline's pilots fly 795 daily flights to about 100 cities throughout North America.

Denke said no schedule for the continuing negotiations had been determined as of Thursday night.

Comair had said it would impose $15.8 million in annual concessions Saturday if a deal was not reached by then and that it was under time pressure to do so because part of its contract requires that beginning Monday, it would be forced to pay an additional $8 million a year to pilots. Comair is seeking savings of $70 million a year, as it works toward exiting bankruptcy along with Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines.

Comair's plan also includes concessions from its flight attendants and mechanics.

The Erlanger, Ky.-based Comair, located near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, received permission from Hardin to impose the wage cuts and changes in work rules on its pilots after the two sides were unable to reach agreement in earlier negotiations.

Comair previously had an agreement with its pilots for $17.3 million in annual cuts over the next four years that was contingent on Comair getting a certain level of savings from its flight attendants and mechanics union.

Because the flight attendants approved a deal last month to cut annual costs by $7.9 million, $1 million less than originally required, the airline had to negotiate new deals with the machinists and pilots. The machinists agreed to a modified deal, but the pilots did not.