Pilots at Las Vegas-based ultra-LCC Allegiant Air are threatening to strike over what they claim is foot-dragging by the company on installing a new crew schedule-bidding system, while the airline insists the process is moving along.

As part of a five-year contract ratified in July 2016, the pilots and the airline agreed to hammer out the specifics of a new preferential bidding system (PBS) and implement software within six months. But nearly two years later, the current, in-house PBS remains in place, and pilots say the airline is to blame.

“Allegiant has a long track record of breaking its commitments to its pilots, and we’ve had enough,” said Andrew Robles, an Allegiant Air pilot and the carrier’s International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 1224 executive council chairman. “Allegiant executives are acting in complete and utter bad faith in failing to negotiate a fair, industry-standard scheduling system.”

The union said the current system “goes against industry standards and disregards pilots’ seniority and preferences” by requiring pilots to fly on certain heavy days, regardless of their preference. Pilot preferences are often over-ridden in favor of company needs, with the so-called “must-fly” days taking priority. As a result, “There is no rhyme or reason for how a pilot can get seniority honored within the current system,” Robles said.

The airline counters that pilots have long known that must-fly days are part of Allegiant’s scheduling, because of the airline’s unique service patterns, such as clustering flights in and out of certain markets to specific days of the week. 

Allegiant added that development is taking longer than the 180 days specified in part because the chosen vendor, Crewing Solutions, has to modify its software to meet Allegiant’s needs. 

“The vendor has one other airline client and they use the product in a much more limited fashion,” Allegiant said. “As a result, Allegiant is paying for significant development work necessary to enable the system to solve schedules in compliance with the Federal Aviation Regulations and our collective bargaining agreement.”

Allegiant is installing Crewing Solutions’ SmartPref scheduling software. A three-month integration test wrapped up in February, and Robles said the results showed the system was capable of taking over for the internal tool—matching pilot preferences to company needs without saying additional pilots were needed. “They know that and they have that information,” Robles said of Allegiant’s management. 

However, Robles said the company has shown little interest in establishing the new software’s preferences, let alone moving forward with a full implementation. 

The authorization to strike over the issue is meant to show how serious the pilots are about getting the issue solved.

The pilots attempted to strike over the issue in 2015, claiming that work-rule changes made by the airline were illegal. But a US District Court disagreed, and ordered the pilots to keep flying. 

The union believes it can strike this time around, based on the 2016 agreement. The airline disagrees. 

“Under the Railway Labor Act, as well as the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement, this issue would not constitute grounds for a legal work stoppage,” the carrier said. “We remain committed to, and are actively working towards the completion of implementing the scheduling system, working with the vendor selected by IBT.”

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviationweek.com