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The AirlineGeeks Podcast Episode 15: United Airlines Protects Pilots Among Staffing Lawsuit as FAA Saves Slots

The AirlineGeeks Podcast Episode 15: United Airlines Protects Pilots Among Staffing Lawsuit as FAA Saves Slots Photo: (AirlineGeeks)

Thank you for reading the AirlineGeeks Podcast Recap. This article gives a brief look at this week’s episode of our news podcast. For our full analysis of each of these stories, you can listen to The AirlineGeeks Podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, or through our distributor, Anchor.

For our first story, we discuss United Airlines’ tentative agreement with its pilot union to protect 3,000 pilots from involuntary furloughs. The agreement makes available a new early leave package for pilots over 50, while pilots under 50 at risk of being furloughed will be able to keep their jobs. We also take a look at how United’s relationships with regional airlines affect this deal: both how regional pilots may be affected by United’s decision and how United’s relationship with the soon-to-close ExpressJet may have opened opportunities for the mainline carrier to protect its own staff.

United’s deal is not official yet. Union members will vote on the package starting Sept. 21.

Our second story dives into a lawsuit that accuses United of practicing discriminatory policies for its sports charter flights. United has contracts with dozens of teams across multiple professional sports leagues in the U.S. to fly charter flights to away games. And the new lawsuit filed by two United cabin crew alleges United encourages its customers to choose dedicated crews made of “young, white and predominantly blond/blue-eyed women” that “fit a specific visual image” instead of letting all United crewmembers bid to serve the flights. We consider the implications of this lawsuit and the situations that surround it, most notably the global coronavirus outbreak that has seen flight capacities drop drastically. United denies the lawsuit’s claims.

Last, we discuss the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s considerations of extending slot forgiveness at multiple major hub airports across the country. At these airports, airlines need to use their slots at a specific frequency or they risk losing the slots during the subsequent season.

Since airlines have cut back their schedules in response to the coronavirus crisis, the FAA allowed them to retain their slots for the winter 2020/21 season even though slots were largely underutilized throughout the summer. While some praise the move by allowing airlines to retain valuable assets without needing to waste gas running ghost flights to retain them, some airlines say that the FAA’s move is anti-competitive because it prevents underdogs from getting into new markets – where they could force competitors to cut ticket prices – because airports are too full. We consider the implications for such a decision by the FAA and briefly look at how slots are applicable in certain foreign markets.

We hope you’ll give our episode a listen at our links above for a more in-depth discussion of each of these stories. Monitor our pages on your favorite streaming service each Friday to hear the latest episode just as it’s published – at 12 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time each week. Let us know what you think in the comments.

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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