Las Vegas-based ultra-LCC Allegiant Air has asked for a court order that would prohibit its pilots from striking over the lack of progress on a new scheduling system, claiming the move would violate their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The dispute is over a provision in the parties’ August 2016 calling for implementation of a Preferential Bidding System (PBS) via a letter of agreement (LOA) amending the CBA by mid-April 2017. Allegiant, at the request of its pilots and their International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) representatives, selected Crewing Solutions to provide the key software that matches pilot requests with required work days. 

“At the outset, the process of negotiating and signing a contract with Crewing Solutions went on for several months and was hindered by delays,” the airline said in a filing before the US District Court, District of Nevada. Among them: “It was unclear if the SmartPref program the IBT wanted could be adapted to meet Allegiant’s needs at all and, if it could, how much time would be required to tailor it to Allegiant’s operational structure,” the airline added.

The union and the airline created a list of needed features, and Crewing Solutions conducted a test to demonstrate the product could work. The test ended in February.

Allegiant said that changes have been agreed upon, and Crewing Solutions is working on the modifications.

The union counters that Allegiant has not been willing to discuss including a few key features to the software, notably resolving situations where needed crew pairings—or “stacks”—are left unfilled after pilots’ preferred schedules are assigned. The “unstacking” function fills the gaps, taking precedence over pilot bid preferences. Negotiating the stacking/unstacking parameters and implementing them are key issues for the pilots and must be part of the LOA that green-lights the new system, IBT said. Allegiant, IBT claims, is avoiding the problem—and delaying the entire process as a result.

“Allegiant Air agreed to implement a negotiated scheduling system no later than April 19, 2017. For two years, we have seen management delay progress and renege on agreements it previously made,” said Andrew Robles, an Allegiant Air pilot and the carrier’s International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 1224 executive council chairman. “We are disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that management has chosen to continue this approach by hiding behind a frivolous lawsuit.”  

Allegiant counters that the stacking features must be tested in a more complete version of the software before they can be finalized and included in the LOA. It also disputes whether stacking/unstacking is required to be in the LOA. The airline said it has proposed finalizing an agreement “that addresses only those elements required by the CBA, namely the software requirements of the PBS, the timeframes for completion of all automation requirements, the availability for use by the pilots in the monthly bid process, and the date for implementation of an automated” system.

The pilots have told Allegiant they are done negotiating. The two sides last met in mid-June, and the pilots, frustrated with the process, believe Allegiant has violated the CBA by not having the PBS agreement in place within 180 days. As a result, they are prepared to strike.

Allegiant in its filing counters that the issue falls into the “minor dispute” category, which calls for resolution through CBA and related Railway Labor Act procedures. The airline has asked the court to intervene and prevent a work stoppage. 

“The IBT does not have a legal right to strike under these circumstances,” Allegiant said.

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviationweek.com