Unions warn of pilot distraction
Pilots at US and Southwest airlines are being warned to keep vaccine warrant issues out of the cockpit due to potential flight safety concerns.
The Allied Pilots Association, which represents America’s 14,000 pilots, sent a memo to members on Tuesday about increased distractions due to looming deadlines for getting vaccinated and sharply divided views on the subject.
The subject line: “Distractions can’t affect safety.” “
“We are seeing distractions in the cockpit which can create dangerous situations,” said the note from the union’s safety committee.
The number of pilots themselves reporting the vaccination warrant or their concerns to the Federal Aviation Administration as a distraction on the job has increased, union spokesman Dennis Tajer said.
Tajer called the increase in reporting to the FAA’s Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) “big, big deal.” He likens the program to a âsee something, say somethingâ report.
âIt doesn’t mean that an incident has happened,â he said.
But it does mean that pilots have voluntarily reported some level of concern about vaccination mandates – whether for, against, or indifferent – as a distraction, he said. Pilots must attach their names to reports, which are designed to be informative and non-punitive, he said.
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Tajer said some distractions are to be expected during this “stressful” time, as some pilots fear losing their jobs soon if they do not get vaccinated. But he said it was essential for the pilots to put those concerns aside and focus on their jobs.
âThis is not a message of rebuke, it is a message of reminder,â he said. “I hear you, I hear you on this (vaccine warrants), but let’s get back to the (flight) checklist.”
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) sent a similar alert to its pilots on October 9, amid the airline collapse that some blamed on a pilot walkout over vaccine issues. The company and union have vehemently denied that this was the cause, but that hasn’t stopped those who oppose the vaccination warrants, including Sen. Ted Cruz, from cheering the pilots on on social media. .
The Note to Pilots Southwest acknowledged that increased fatigue was a distraction among pilots this year as travel increased and staffing levels could not keep up. The announcement of the vaccine’s mandate, he said, “only exacerbates” the situation.
“We are not here to debate the merits of the vaccine mandate. We are here to stress that every SWAPA pilot should focus on operating the aircraft at the highest levels of safety in the industry,” said the union’s note. âThere is absolutely nothing more important or more sacred.
Like the American Pilots Union, Southwest cited an increase in ASAP reporting to the FAA, along with other measures of distraction.
âRecent ASAP reports have shown that distractions entered the cockpit, hampered performance, and became contributing factors to many chains of errors,â the memo said. “These distractions need to be alleviated.”
The FAA said in a statement to USA TODAY that it is aware of the concerns of the pilots’ union.
“We take all reports seriously and will follow up with our well-established security programs,” the statement said.
Airlines are subject to the vaccination mandate for federal contractors, President Joe Biden announced in September, as they carry US government and mail employees and operate charter flights. Delta estimates that federal contracts bring in “hundreds of millions” in revenue each year.
Major airlines take different approaches to adhering to the mandate and vaccinations in general. United are at the forefront, implementing an internal mandate a month ahead of Biden’s federal mandate.
Instead of a warrant, Delta Air Lines plans to charge workers who refuse the vaccine $ 200 per month.
American has told employees they risk being made redundant if they don’t get vaccinated by a looming deadline, while Southwest says it won’t fire workers but hasn’t said what will happen to those who are not vaccinated. The airline, trying to keep the peace with workers, some of whom demonstrated at the airline’s headquarters earlier this week, has encouraged workers to seek exemptions.