FedEx Express is encouraging unhappy pilots to take a job with an American Airlines subsidiary as flight operations "are significantly overstaffed," VP of flight operations and training Pat DiMento said in a memo to crew members on Friday.
Air cargo demand remains down at FedEx and other carriers, but passenger airlines continue to hire pilots at a strong pace, DiMento said. American Airlines approached FedEx about hiring the logistics giant's pilots for jobs at PSA Airlines through an expedited interview process.
DiMento said this opportunity, intended to address booming demand for passenger carrier pilots, could also help with FedEx's overstaffing. The program is available through Dec. 1 and offers a $250,000 signing bonus and guaranteed flow to American Airlines.
"While I understand that this is not something that will appeal to every pilot, for those of you who are frustrated with current flight hours, career progression, or have just been on the fence about available options, you may consider this unique opportunity enough of an incentive to make a move," DiMento said.
FedEx Express revenue fell 9% year-over-year for the quarter ending Aug. 31. The company continues to reduce flights, match staffing to shrinking demand and park aircraft to minimize operating costs. It's also contending with reduced volume from the U.S. Postal Service, a major customer, as the agency looks to trim spending on air transportation.
DiMento told crew members in July that the company had an excess of about 700 pilots, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
"A slowing economy, large customer contract negotiations, and slowing pilot retirements with an already overmanned crew force have forced me to accept the fact that I might be seeing more folks that I once personally called to offer a position at FedEx accept offers elsewhere," DiMento said in Friday's memo.
The leader of the FedEx pilots union, Billy Wilson, said in a message to members Friday that the timing of DiMento's message is "suspect at best." The National Mediation Board is convening a bargaining session between the pilots union and FedEx management on Monday and Tuesday as the two sides continue to work on a new labor contract. Pilots rejected a tentative contract agreement earlier this year between the union and management that included a 30% pay increase.
"If management is comfortable with pilots leaving, they should instruct their bargainers to make proposals to entice pilots who are otherwise waiting to retire," said Wilson, chair of the FedEx Master Executive Council. "UPS, a fully unionized company, made the smart business decision to offer buyouts of their most expensive pilots to help with possible overmanning issues."