Comair Pilots Approve Strike Authorization

A threatened strike by unionized pilots at Comair, Delta Air Lines' regional airline subsidiary, could have a ripple effect on the parent company and its affiliates, possibly affecting service in Tulsa.

Comair pilots, who are members of the Air Line Pilots Association, have voted to authorize a strike, the ALPA said Monday.

The vote came in response to the proposed voiding of their contract in bankruptcy court and the imposition of $15.8 million in cost cuts by Comair management.

ALPA represents 1,574 pilots at Comair, 1,762 pilots at Delta Connection carrier ASA and 6,932 pilots at Delta.

Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said that while the ALPA represents all three pilots groups, they are separate chapters of the organization.

"As far as Comair, it's a (pilots union) contract separate from Delta and ASA," Marx said.

But Paul Denke, spokesman for the Comair pilots, said pilots at the three airlines have the same concerns and are in sympathy with one another.

"ALPA President Duane Woerth has stated that working conditions affecting pilots have been degraded across company lines," Denke said in a telephone interview. "The pilots are coming together across company lines to assist all pilots to ensure that pilots will not work under management-imposed working conditions."

In Tulsa, Comair has three daily departures to Cincinnati. ASA has six daily departures in Tulsa -- five to Atlanta and one to Cincinnati. Delta has discontinued service in Tulsa.

Comair pilots had been voting by mail since November on whether to give union leaders authority to call a strike. The ALPA said Monday that the vote was 93.2 percent in favor of the authorization.

Delta and its subsidiaries filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on Sept. 14, 2005. Company executives said they hope to achieve $3 billion a year in cost cuts and financial gains by the end of 2007.

Comair executives and union spokesmen said neither a strike nor a work stoppage is imminent.

Comair pilots said they want the company to demonstrate that the concessions sought by management are necessary for the company's recovery and not a means of applying pressure to other Delta Connection pilots groups to lower their compensation and work rules.

The Comair pilots have proposed receiving something in exchange for contract relief, such as job security and wage snap-back provisions in later years -- especially since Comair has returned to profitability.

In bankruptcy court recently, Delta management and company documents revealed that Comair is projected to earn at least $50 million in 2006.

"ALPA pilots will only work under fair, equitable and consensual (labor) agreements," ALPA's Denke said. "As our president has stated, other pilot groups will come into play to protect our working agreements."

Comair's Marx said the strike authorization would have no immediate impact on daily operations or flight schedules.

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