U.S. News

Comair and Pilots Union Reach Tentative Agreement


Comair and the union representing its pilots reached a tentative agreement Tuesday, forestalling a plan by the U.S. regional airline to impose wage cuts and other concessions.

The company has agreed to delay implementation of the concessions unless the agreement is not ratified by March 4, Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said.

The proposal must now be reviewed by union leadership before going before the 1,500-member union for a vote, said Air Line Pilots Association union spokesman Paul Denke.

"The tentative letter of agreement is a significant development for Comair and its employees, who have struggled with the difficult sacrifices of restructuring for 15 months," Marx said in a statement.

Neither Comair nor the union were releasing details of the proposal.

"It's the best we could do given the situation and circumstances," Denke said.

The Erlanger, Kentucky-based Comair, near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, was planning to impose $15.8 million in concessions at 11:59 p.m. Monday if an agreement was not reached. The Monday deadline had been extended from an 11:59 p.m. Friday deadline after the union presented Comair with a new proposal just hours before time ran out. Comair had said it extended the deadline through the weekend to give the airline time to evaluate the proposal.

Delta Restructuring

Comair, a Delta Air Lines subsidiary, has said that the pilot concessions are necessary to its restructuring plan to save $70 million annually. Comair, along with its Atlanta-based parent, filed for bankruptcy in September 2005.

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

Because the flight attendants approved a deal in November 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.

Although the two sides continued to negotiate into last week, pilots had authorized their union leaders in early December to call a strike if concessions were imposed.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Adlai Hardin on Dec. 21 ruled that the regional airline could impose those concessions if no agreement was reached, prompting the airline to ask that he block any strike by the pilots. Hardin granted that request last Wednesday.

Comair operates 795 flights daily to about 100 cities in North America.