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Why a US Airways Pilot Kept American Pilots From His Jumpseat

CHARLOTTE (TheStreet) -- No pilot group has paid a higher price, since the Sept. 11 attacks triggered a round of airline industry restructuring, than the one at US Airways.

But that doesn't excuse what happened recently when a Charlotte-based US Airways pilot wouldn't let three American (AAL - Get Report) pilots sit in the jumpseat of his aircraft. American and US Airways merged on Dec. 9.

In a letter sent to members Thursday night, leaders of US Airways' Charlotte domicile informed members of the incident. They added that the pilot in question twice hung up the phone when contacted by union leaders. "This captain's immature actions have put our jumpseat privileges with American Airlines in jeopardy," they wrote. Later, they referred to him as a "rogue pilot.

"We knew going into this merger that there would be disagreements regarding seniority," the letter continued. "There is a process to handle this and it will work out in the end. There are three places that we should never let politics interfere: safety, training and the jumpseat."

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Jumpseat privileges, widely observed in the airline industry, allow off-duty pilots to ride in the cockpit of an airplane, theirs or another's, typically to get to work or return home from work. It is especially important in an industry where many pilots live in one place but work from a base that is somewhere else.

The letter concluded on a conciliatory note: "If you see an American pilot please take the time to introduce yourself and apologize on behalf of the US Airways pilots for this senseless selfish display of power and let them know they are welcome on our flight decks."

The Charlotte leaders wrote the letter even though their union, the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, filed a lawsuit Feb. 27 against the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American pilots, as well as US Airways and American. The lawsuit contended that under the McCaskill-Bond legislation, USAPA should represent US Airways pilots during the seniority integration following the American/US Airways merger. The dispute is largely over the timetable for when USAPA will cease to exist -- an event that everybody agrees will happen.

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