Atlas Air & Pilots on collision course

It’s been going on a long time. Atlas Air which through a complex web of trading and contract names and companies handles everything from Amazon Prime Air to Polar Cargo, Panalpina and various sub brands contracted to work with DHL and other airlines, is fighting its pilots rather than talking to them.

A District of Columbia court has finally been petitioned by the company to stop what it describes as illegal walkouts by pilots, using tactics more familiar to some as the “blue flu”.


This involved NYC police phoning in sick some years ago, as they weren’t allowed to strike. The pilots, the airline alleges, have been doing the same thing.

The pilots who have for months been protesting pay and conditions, are concerned not just for what they earn, but the fact they’re being made to work unreasonable shifts and for lengthy periods barely within the law, due to growing lack of pilots. Many have left for better jobs, putting more and more strain on those who stay.

The airline isn’t having any of it, and both while saying they have a framework for talks, don’t seem to be able to agree on what that is and get down to resolving issues.

The pilots claim the airline doesn’t really want to talk, and is bullying them into submission, and the longer it goes on the more you can see their point.

The world is short of pilots. Pilot shortages are forecast to grow at a horrific rate, companies from BA to United and Virgin Atlantic to China Southern, are all actively looking at training and recruiting pilots in ways they haven’t done for years.

So why is Atlas Air prepared to fight its pilots, when it’s doing well, and when they have genuine alternative employment options? It seems like a bizarrely short-sighted move in the longer term.

Atlas Air Pilots protest in Miami