One of the things holding back American for a while now is that they had no provision in their pilot contracts for how to staff flights of over 16 hours. I guess back when American last negotiated their contracts they weren’t expecting to have any flying of over 16 hours, though in the meantime this has been a real hindrance for their growth, as it has meant they’re not able to fly routes like Miami to Tokyo, Dallas to Beijing, Chicago/Dallas to Hong Kong, etc.
In theory you’d think pilots would love ultra-longhaul flights. Keep in mind that flights of over 12 hours are staffed by four pilots, and each of them gets to rest for nearly half of the flight. They’re all being paid for the duration of the flight, though spend half of them resting in an international first class seat. Not bad when you’re making $200+ per hour. Furthermore, the more longhaul flying American has, the more growth they experience, the more pilots they need to hire, etc.
So why did pilots refuse to fly longer flights? I suppose because it was a way to “stick it” to management through a technicality in hopes of getting a better contract. While I can certainly understand the frustration among pilots when it comes to upper management, I think they were shooting themselves in the foot by fighting this battle, since they only had things to gain by flying longhaul flights.
Well, it seems they’ve finally reached an agreement. Currently longhaul flights of over 12 hours are staffed by one captain and three first officers. Through the new agreement, ultra-longhaul flights of over 16 hours will be staffed by two captains and two first officers.
This seems like a nice gain for the pilots. Requiring two captains means more pilots will be promoted to captain, and captains get paid considerably more than first officers (at American a senior captain on the 777 makes $205/hour, while a senior first officer on the 777 makes $139/hour). In order words it’ll cost an extra $66/hour to operate the flight, meaning a 16-hour flight would cost an additional ~$1,050 in pay for the pilots.
Now here’s to hoping American finally starts service to Hong Kong!