Amazon investors and board members gathering yesterday for the annual shareholder meeting were greeted by dozens of pilots who fly for Amazon Air at contracted carriers including Atlas Air, Southern Air and ABX Air.
Pilots are protesting outside the meeting, holding picket signs and running a mobile billboard that declare ‘Amazon Air pushing pilots to limit risks safety daily’.
Today’s protest comes after a few contentious months for Amazon Air’s contracted carriers and their pilots. Simultaneously, the pilots launched a website (PilotsDeserveBetter.org) and a mobile billboard calling on their carriers to improve working conditions in order to meet Amazon Air’s expanding business.
In April, Atlas Air and ABX Air pilots protested outside the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucy International Airport – a major hub for Amazon Air – urging their carriers to improve working conditions and agree to an industry standard contract.
Atlas Air and Southern Air are owned by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (AAWW) while ABX Air is a subsidiary of Air Transport Services Group (ATSG).
The pilots are represented by their union, Airline Professionals Association (APA), Teamsters Local 1224. AAWW and ATSG’s major customers include Amazon, DHL, and the Armed Forces.
“Atlas Air pilots are proud to deliver for a customer as notable as Amazon. But our carrier’s executives are ignoring the reality of our workplace problems if they think we can meet the needs of these expanding business partnerships while hundreds of pilots leave for better opportunities,” said Captain Robert Kirchner, Atlas Air pilot and executive council chairman for Atlas Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224.
“Pilots at Atlas Air are overworked, underpaid and disrespected. Our planes are not adequately staffed or maintained. The bottom line is right now the future is shaky and we’re misleading customers like Amazon. Atlas Air executives need to sit down and negotiate an industry standard contract with the pilots so we can follow through on our promises to customers.”
The recently launched website, PilotsDeserveBetter.org is a resource for current pilots, investors and prospective pilots looking for a career with Atlas Air, Southern Air or ABX Air. The website offers a resources section with videos, fact sheets, copies of current union/carrier contracts and much more.
“The pilot seniority list at ABX Air is not growing and without a new contract many of our most experienced pilots are leaving,” said Captain Rick Ziebarth, ABX Air pilot and Executive Council Chairman for ABX Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224.
“The expansion of ABX Air’s partnerships especially with a company like Amazon and its growing internal logistics network is welcomed by our pilots but executives at our carrier are underestimating the troubles ahead if they don’t come to the table and negotiate a fair contract.”
Pilots at the three carriers say they face serious operational problems that are exacerbated by labor contracts far below industry standards.
In order to fill customers’ needs, the companies ask pilots to fly last-minute flights around the globe; a recent survey conducted by the pilots’ union found that more than 65 per cent of respondents have been asked to fly on their days off in the last year.
The union’s survey found that more than 60 per cent of pilots who participated at these carriers are preparing to leave their carrier and are seeking work at competitors like UPS and FedEx. 65 percent of respondents from Atlas Air and ABX Air said they have little faith that their carrier has enough pilots to meet the long-term needs of Amazon and its Amazon Air program.
Meanwhile, AAWW and ATSG are growing their businesses. In March, AAWW’s Southern Air struck a deal to operate a minimum of five new aircraft for Amazon Air with the possibility of adding up to 20 aircraft to the fleet. Amazon also has the option of purchasing up to a 40 per cent in both companies.