American Merger Brings Another Seniority Battle for US Airways Pilots

Charlotte ( TheStreet) -- Once again, US Airways pilots find themselves in a tough spot on seniority.

In 2005, a merger with America West led to a controversial seniority ruling, never implemented, that continues to divide pilots from the two airlines because a key provision appears to favor west pilots. Now, it appears, another divisive seniority conflict could result from the 2013 merger with American (AAL).

Last week, talks between the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American pilots, and the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, which represents US Airways pilots, broke down over the issue of the timeline for when APA takes over as the sole union representing pilots at the new American.

No airline merger has been more tarnished by a seniority dispute than America West/US Airways, which led the US Airways pilots to leave the Air Line Pilots Association after 57 years, forming a new union called the U.S. Pilots Association and dragging reluctant American West pilots along with them.

This time, the pilots from the pre-merger US Airways, still known as "the east," are where the west pilots were eight years ago -- in the minority. That could make their situation more difficult. APA has about 8,800 active members, while USAPA has about 4,400. About a third are from AWA and do not generally support the union.

The merger between American and US Airways closed on Dec. 9, 2013. That started a 30-day clock on negotiating a protocol agreement involving the logistics of seniority negotiations. Two extensions were granted, which took the deadline to Feb. 18. The conflict surfaced the next day.

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