Monday, February 12, 2001

Questions, answers on effects of a strike

        Question: When is the soonest either Comair or Delta pilots could strike?

        Answer: April 1. Both airlines and their pilots (represented by separate branches of the Air Line Pilots Association) are in federally mediated negotiations scheduled to end on Feb. 28.

        If federal mediators feel there is an impasse on that date, they can offer arbitration. If either the airline or the pilots refuse, a 30-day cooling off period ensues. After that, both sides are allowed “self help,” meaning the pilots can strike and the companies can impose their own work rules.

        President Bush could intervene and appoint a presidential emergency board, which could keep the previous contract in
place for an additional 60 days, and negotiations could continue.

        Then if no agreement is reached, Congress is allowed to impose its own contract through a floor vote to keep the airline running.

        Q: How would a Delta strike affect the airline's operations?

        A: Delta pilots have said that if a strike is called, they would completely stop working, walking off planes after 12 midnight or thereafter if they are en route.

        And Delta officials said the airline would shut down all mainline operations in the case of a strike. Locally, Delta operates 376 daily departures and arrivals at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport — its second-largest hub. That's about 33 percent of all operations.

        If Comair does not go on strike, it would stay in operation — even in the case of a Delta strike.

        Q: How would a Comair pilot strike affect its and Delta's operations?

        A: Comair officials would not comment on what would happen in the case of a strike, saying only they were making preparations. Comair pilots say they would completely stop working, meaning a complete shutdown.

        Comair operates 646 departures and arrivals daily at Cincinnati, its largest hub. It's the busiest operator at the airport, which has about 1,130 flights daily.

        A Comair shutdown would also mean a loss of connecting flights for mainline Delta flights. About 45 percent of Comair's 8 million annual passengers transfer to the main Delta network.

        Q: What should I do if I have already bought tickets on either Delta Air Lines or Comair to travel after April 1? And should I start looking for another airline if I have to book a flight for April or May?

        A: Officials with both airlines said that they have not released customer care contingency plans. That's because, they say, the possible strike date is so far off and they both are committed to reaching a new agreement by Feb. 28.

        Both Comair and Delta said that ticket-holders should plan on normal travel, and they say potential customers should book future flights normally. (Some travel agents, however, have been placing passengers on other airlines for summer travel.)

        However, Delta and Comair said that in the case of a strike, the airline would make every effort to either reroute or reimburse ticket holders, but stopped short of guaranteeing refunds.

        Q: What if I work for either Comair or Delta but I'm not a pilot?

        A: Both airlines said they would continue paying salaries and benefits for non-pilot employees in case of a strike. Some positions, such as flight attendants and mechanics, would not be required to actually work. However, others — ticket and telephone agents, for instance — probably would still have to report to work.

— James Pilcher

Contract deal elusive for Comair, pilots
- Questions, answers on effects of a strike

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