Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pilots want raise as Amazon ramps up Prime Air

Amazon is risking another brand-bruising delivery debacle as it ramps up its Prime Air program in the face of a pilot shortage, the union for the pilots said Monday.

Scores of contract Amazon cargo pilots plan to descend on Amazon’s annual meeting in Seattle on Tuesday to let Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and other brass know of the impending problem — and to put pressure on their employers to raise their pay.

The pilots, who deliver Amazon goods via a contract the Seattle company has with their cargo airlines, have been without a contract for several years.

The low pay has resulted in dozens of pilots exiting the cargo airlines for better paying jobs at passenger airlines, the union claimed.

The pilots — who are employees of two cargo companies, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings and Air Transport Services Group, of which Amazon has warrants to buy up to a 20 percent stake — warn that the retailer could face a delivery crisis like the debacle several years ago when Christmas presents arrived late.

Amazon was forced to refund shipping charges and gave out $20 gift cards to its unhappy customers.

The pilots are represented by the Teamsters and have been in contract negotiations with the airlines for several years.

Other airlines, including big passenger carriers, pay pilots as much as 60 percent more than Amazon’s two contract airlines, the union claimed.

At least one regional passenger airline, Air Wisconsin, is wooing pilots with a $39,000 first-year bonus — roughly 80 percent of first-year total compensation, according to a statement it made in February.

“Air travel is expanding rapidly but the number of available pilots has not kept pace,” said David Harris, senior editor of Cargo Facts and Cargo World.

Amazon is the cargo companies’ biggest customer and will contract 40 planes by 2018 for its Amazon Prime Air services.

Amazon, in a statement, said it is “pleased” with the airlines’ ability to service its Prime Air service.

(Lisa Fickenscher - New York Post)

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