Atlas Air and Polar Air Cargo Worldwide filed suit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia Sept. 25, seeking a preliminary injunction against Teamsters (IBT) Local 1224 to stop what the two carriers are calling “an illegal and intentional work slowdown and service interruptions … to gain advantage in pilot contract negotiations [now] underway.”

The cargo carriers are subsidiaries of Purchase, New York-based Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings. Atlas has not publicly specified the nature of the slowdowns, but said the interruptions “are causing significant flight delays and harm” to the company and its customers. In its filing, Atlas is accusing the IBT of violating its status quo obligations under the Railway Labor Act by “encouraging the slowdown and failing to prevent and discourage it.” The company said it will continue to negotiate with the IBT for a joint contract for Atlas and Southern Air crewmembers in connection with the pending merger. Atlas completed its acquisition of Cincinnati-based Southern Air in April 2016.

APA Teamsters Local 1224, which represents pilots from Atlas Air, Southern Air and Polar Air, told ATW it was still reviewing the 1,000-plus page court filing. "But our initial assessment of AAWW’s lawsuit suggests it is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to abdicate responsibility for its failures and refusal to address the long-expected decline in global pilot supply," APA IBT Local 1224 president Daniel Wells said. "Meanwhile, Atlas has intentionally expanded its flying operations, all while pretending that it has the staffing capacity to do so. It should come as no surprise therefore that Atlas’ operations are now subject to criticism and scrutiny from its customers and the public ... we are disappointed that rather than facing reality, Atlas would prefer to shift the blame for its mismanagement onto the pilots.”

In May 2016, Atlas signed a long-term agreement to wet lease 20 Boeing 767-300 freighters to Amazon as part of global e-commerce giant’s new dedicated air cargo network. Atlas is expecting to have all 20 767Fs flying for Amazon by the end of 2017, according to Atlas president and CEO Bill Flynn. The company boosted its 2017 second-quarter net profits by 89% year-over-year to $39 million, which the company credited to its growing presence in Asia as well as its wet-lease flying for Amazon.

Mark Nensel