Atlas Air v. Pilots gets nastier as Amazon looks on

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There is no more bitter and unpleasant airline versus pilots battle anywhere on the planet right now.

Atlas Air, rather than sit and discuss its pilots grievances, seems set on a fighting them to the very last, arguing every claim, and every point, regardless of the PR disaster it represents. Not being much of a passenger airline, it has little impact on the daily lives of the public. Yet many of us are indirect recipients of the air cargo that the company moves around the world, not least of which is for Amazon Prime.

Pilots argue that they are under paid, ignored, work too many hours, are forced to work on their days off, are badly treated if sick, and on and on. Atlas Air says none of its true, even having a website set up to rebut every claim the pilots make.

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Pilots claim that servicing and safety are being compromised. The airline says that’s nonsense.

Atlas Air is one brand on the top of a cargo conglomerate. Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. This covers Atlas Air with 82 aircraft, Florida West International Airways which is still owned by ceased operations in 2017, Titan Aviation Holdings which operates a virtual service, and Southern Air with 17 aircraft.

Atlas Air flies aircraft under its own brand, Polar, Panalpina, & DHL. It also operates 3 737-800BCF for Amazon Prime Air under its Southern Air subsidiary, and another 21 763F’s from Atlas Air, again for Amazon Prime Air.

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The pilots regularly take the protest to Amazon shareholder meetings, protesting outside, but Amazon seems to find it more convenient to look the other way and whistle in the wind hoping nobody notices. It has more than enough trouble with the public’s view of the working conditions of its own warehouse staff.

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Atlas Air seems determined to fight the battle to the end. This may not work out so well. There’s a chronic shortage of pilots in North America and one of Atlas Air pilots claims is that people don’t want to work for the airline, and that so many are leaving it’s putting even more pressure on those that stay. Again the airline says this isn’t true.  In the end this may prove to be the one statistic that really does break the airline or the pilots. If they can’t fly aircraft they’ll breach their contracts and be forced to give in. Or the pilots will find others quickly fill their shoes for the sake of a job.

Either the airline is going to have to negotiate or the pilots will have to give in. Right now the chasm between them is so great it could go either way.

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