Getting Pilots Onboard

Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines have engaged their pilots unions in discussions on the seemingly imminent merger proposal between the two airlines, according to published reports. That's probably a good idea. [more]

Everyone knows that labor integration is among the more difficult tasks in airline M&A. But these days, even before it gets to that stage, pilot leaders likely would have a say in an airline's decision to propose a merger.

In January 2007, US Airways dropped its attempt to assume control over Delta. "Those close to the fight know for a fact that the Delta pilots played a key role in the defeat of the hostile takeover," wrote Lee Moak, chairman of the Delta Air Line Pilots Association Master Executive Council, in a Jan. 31 letter to union members. "We stepped outside the traditional box of 'labor activism' and added 'stakeholder activism' to our role. ... We are an even more formidable force than we were one year ago."

At Northwest, pilot leaders also vowed to work for the best possible scenario for the rank and file. ALPA's William Zoller, a Northwest captain, is a member of the company's board of directors.

Meanwhile back at Delta, flight attendants tomorrow will file for union representation of their own, according to the Association of Flight Attendants.

"They want a seat at the table--whether it is during regular contract negotiations or mergers," said AFA president Patricia Friend. The National Meditation Board will determine if there is enough support to move forward the unionization effort. Delta's flight attendant counterparts at Northwest, also represented by AFA, support that effort.