The union that represents American Airlines (AAL) - Get Report pilots, pushing hard for the airline to make mid-term contract adjustments, was encouraged by two events this week.

"Since last Thursday, I've been getting signals that the company is putting out feelers through chief pilots: 'What would the pilots expect from a mid-term contract adjustment?'" said Allied Pilots Association President Dan Carey in an interview in Charlotte, American's second-largest hub.

Additionally, in a recent note, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analyst Andrew Didora wrote, "In our opinion, AAL may want to consider renegotiating its pilot contract before the (2020) amendable date to bring pay in line with recent contracts from peers."

Didora wrote the note following a March 23 meeting with American executives including CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom.

An American spokesperson provided no indication that the airline is considering re-opening the contract talks. "Our approach is to provide industry leading pay when contracts are signed," the spokesperson said.

In 2015, American signed an industry-leading, five-year contract with APA, which represents 15,000 pilots. The contract becomes amendable in 2020; opening talks are scheduled for 2019. Since the contract was signed, American pilots have fallen behind their peers at other carriers.

Carey wants American to make the mid-contract adjustments this year. He is not seeking full-scale contract talks.

"When I came into office in July, I had no intention of sitting around here until 2020 to make improvements in the contract," he said.

In the note, Didora wrote, "AAL noted it is highly focused on improving labor relations and believes it has made some progress.

"Further efforts will be focused on 'doing trustworthy things over time' like adding profit share," he said.

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Carey listed six top items that APA would want to have included among the contract adjustments. He  noted that other items might also be included.

The list includes:

♦ A minimum payment per day. If a pilot, on a three-day trip, sits in the hotel during the middle day, no payment is offered. Delta pilots get a minimum credit, five hours and 15 minutes, for the middle day of a trip. "This is a sacred cow for us," Carey said.

♦Pilot pay. "We make 25% less than Delta and United," Carey said. United's contract includes a match with Delta. The 25% figure includes hourly pay rates and 2016 profit-sharing.

♦Credit for more years for pilots who returned to work after being furloughed. This issue impacts about 1,400 pilots who were laid off in the early 2000s and returned in recent years. Their seniority credit for the furlough time was two years.

♦Improvements in the long-term disability package. Following the merger, the payout from both American and US Airways long-term disability plans diminished.

♦Confirmed space for pilots who are returning to their base in the event that bad weather has forced a flight cancellation. This is provided in the contract at wholly-owned regional carrier PSA and was also included in the pre-merger US Airways contract.

♦Higher pay for Airbus A321 pilots, who are paid the same as pilots on the smaller A320. A321 pilots should be paid the higher rate offered to pilots on the Boeing 757, which is similar in size, Carey said.

Bob Frear, chairman of the APA Charlotte domicile, said American pilots continue to work under a contract that was largely negotiated in bankruptcy court. While the pay is far better, Frear said that in several areas the American contract is not as good as the one US Airways pilots had before the merger.

The joint contract bargaining agreement "was not negotiated in good faith," he said. "The only option was to take a bankruptcy {contract} under the threat of 1113, or 'take what we're saying.' Doug Parker threw a couple of dollars in there."

Section 1113 of the bankruptcy code enables a bankruptcy judge to approve a company's rewrite of its labor contracts.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.