United Pilots Seek Delay In Alliance Immunity

May 20, 2009

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Pilots at United Airlines on Tuesday called on the US government to delay the granting of antitrust immunity that would allow Continental Airlines and United to cooperate in marketing routes and pricing, saying it could result in the loss of US jobs.

Continental won the government's nod last month for its plans to join the Star Alliance, which includes United and Lufthansa.

Antitrust immunity allows alliance members to operate as one carrier on certain routes. Carriers are able to share pricing and scheduling information, ticketing and facilities.

United pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association union said in a statement that the immunity not only could lead to the outsourcing of tens of thousands of US jobs, but could also take experienced pilots off international routes.

United pilots are asking Congress and the Obama Administration to delay the granting of antitrust immunity set for May 31 to allow unions to offer input on possible effects.

"With its tentative approval of antitrust immunity for the Star Alliance, the Department of Transportation has opened the door for more job losses and pay cuts for American workers," Captain Steve Wallach, chairman of the United pilots union's executive committee, said in a statement.

United spokeswoman Jean Medina said the carrier was puzzled as to why the pilots did not make their objection known sooner.

"As the DOT recognised more than 20 years ago, alliances have created some 15,000 US airline jobs and enable service to communities that otherwise would not be served," Medina said.

She added that United wants its pilots to "fly for an airline that can compete on a level playing field with the world's largest two carriers that already enjoy antitrust immunity today," referring to Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM, which are part of the SkyTeam alliance.