The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents 15,000 American Airlines pilots, has formally requested to enter negotiations with the airline’s management on a new labor contract.

The APA made the request in a Nov. 19 letter to American CEO Doug Parker and president Robert Isom, triggering an early-opener provision in its contract, paving the way for negotiations to begin in January 2019.

The existing pilot contract, which was signed in early 2015 after the company exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy, granted pilots a 23% pay raise, followed by annual pay raises of 3% over the next five years, although overall compensation still falls short of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Chicago-based United Airlines.

American increased pilot pay by an additional 8% in April 2017.

“Five years after emerging from bankruptcy, it’s time to move beyond a labor agreement borne out of a desperate era,” wrote APA president Daniel Carey in the letter to American’s management. “It’s time to change the way pilots are scheduled, the reliability of our operation, how passengers are served and how the airline and its pilots work together.”

Carey said APA intends to conclude negotiations “in months, not years,” adding that “the sooner we reach an agreement, the better for all concerned, including our pilots, our investors and the passengers we serve.”

“The Allied Pilots Association and American have accomplished a great deal by working together to improve the lives of our 15,000 pilots over the past several years, and we are eager to build on that relationship as we enter negotiations,” American spokeswoman Leslie Mayo said.

Ben Goldstein,