Frontier pilots' union sues airline over contract negotiations, bargaining

Anger continues to build between the airline and t

DENVER – The union representing Frontier’s pilots has sued the airline in federal court claiming the airline has negotiated in bad-faith.

“The company’s conduct is designed to undermine the bargaining process and frustrate efforts to reach agreements,” the Air Line Pilots Association International, which represents Frontier’s pilots, said in a statement this week.

 “We’re asking the court to enforce a neutral arbitrator’s decision that the company bargained in bad faith and must negotiate pay increases for Frontier pilots, compel Frontier to cease their bad-faith conduct and bargain in good faith, and require the company to refrain from undermining the bargaining process under the Railway Labor Act,” said Capt. Tracy Smith, who leads Air Line Pilots Association International's Frontier Airlines pilot group.  

Frontier’s head of communication responded saying the union is spreading incorrect information.

"We continue to be engaged in negotiations with our pilots for a new contract and have exchanged several proposals under the guidance of the National Mediation Board. Frontier is disappointed that [the union] is spending energy spreading false narratives, rather than attempting to reach a new collective bargaining agreement that is fair, sustainable, and provides security for everyone,” Jonathan Freed, Frontier’s corporate communications director, told Denver7.

“Lawsuits in the midst of contentious and protracted collective bargaining are a fairly regular part of the tactical warfare between the airlines and the pilots union,” said Denver labor attorney Colin Barnacle of Akerman LLP.

He suggests passengers should not be worried, at this point, about purchased tickets or future purchases.

The labor dispute between the pilots and Frontier Airlines has been a three-year saga. The pilots' union has asked the National Mediation Board to declare an impasse.

A strike would only occur after that window has lapsed. Yet the Frontier pilots, who maintain they’re paid 40 percent less than their peers, stress that a strike is a last resort.

"If the National Mediation Board declared an impasse, then passengers should begin to take note," Barnacle said Thursday.

He says last year Spirit Airlines sued and sought a temporary restraining order against its pilots’ union for taking “unlawful job action” designed to hurt the airline’s operations.  US Air, which later merged with American Airlines, sued its pilots' union in 2011 for alleged pilot action that was aimed at sabotaging the carrier’s operations. 

“What’s different here is the switch in who is bringing the action.  Unlike Spirit and US Air, here [the pilots union] is suing Frontier on behalf of Frontier’s pilots, alleging that Frontier is the one negotiating the contract in bad faith and taking retaliatory action against the pilots,” Barnacle says.

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