NEWS BLOG
LovelandPolitics
Loveland's Independent News Source
Loveland - August 29, 2012 (Updated Aug. 28, 5:30 PM)

The recent announcement by the Las Vegas based carrier Allegiant Air that they will no longer service the Ft. Collins-Loveland
Municipal Airport came as a surprise to City of Loveland officials this week.  

Today's above the fold headline story in the Loveland Reporter-Herald, "
City Officials Seeking Clues" quotes Loveland Mayor Cecil
Gutierrez, "This was clear out of the blue..we need to have better information..."   The story describes Loveland officials as
"mystified" by Allegiant Air's decision to exit the Loveland market.

Allegiant's announcement that they are cancelling all routes to and from the Ft. Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport is the direct
result of a recent vote by the airline's pilots to form a Teamster's Union franchise, according to sources within the airline industry.  
That vote and its likely outcome were hardly a mystery in Las Vegas as news reports about the upcoming vote were abundant.

Last Thursday (Aug. 23) a majority of the 350 pilots flying for Allegiant voted to join the Airline Professionals Association (APA)
Teamsters local 1224 in Wilmington, Ohio.  As a result, the Teamster's contract to be negotiated with Allegiant Air by the pilot's
new union officials may contain safety provisions that result in company policies prohibiting scheduled flights using the McDonnell
Douglas MD80’s or Boeing 757’s aircraft flown by Allegiant Air into the Loveland-Ft. Collins Municipal Airport due to safety
concerns.  

LovelandPolitics has no information that the Teamsters have requested this change.  Instead, those familiar with the situation say
the decision to leave Loveland was likely an anticipatory action by Allegiant to get out of an airport that could raise concerns to the
union and delay successful contract negotiations.  The same source told LovelandPolitics, "its one issue Allegiant wants to take off
the table before negotiations begin."

The Ft. Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport
doesn't have a control tower staffed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so is
referred to as an "uncontrolled" airport.  In addition, Loveland's smaller runway at 8,500 feet long and 100 feet wide combine
with the lack of a tower to make it a target of safety reformers who believe FAA minimum safety standards for airports allowing
commercial airlines into smaller community airports are too lax.  The Teamster's pilot unions have historically been active in
commenting on proposed FAA airport safety regulations, FAA funding while lobbying the federal government to increase
minimum requirements for certifiying smaller airports.

Loveland's airport is challenged to grow into a commercial airline destination as density altitude effects (runway is 5,015 ft.)
negatively impact aircraft performance; especially in hot weather.  To increase speed at take-off some commercial aircraft require
longer runways to provide a greater margin of safety for the pilot and passengers.  Larger jets trying to gain altitude must turn
towards the West when departing south from Loveland to avoid the controlled airspace over the Front Range reserved for aircraft
approaching Denver International Airport.   By turning west the pilots must gain altitude quickly thus creating a stressful
departure for some pilots especially while operating out of an airport without any control tower.

Understanding Pilot Union Contracts

Provisions impacting pilot safety and airport conditions are not unique to APA contracts but instead are common in pilot union
contracts seeking to limit employer requirements while increasing the pilot's discretion on determining when it is safe to fly.  
Some Teamsters officials believe companies pushing for greater profits create unnecessary risks for pilots and passengers.  While
one pilot described a Teamster's pilot contract he saw as "written more for people plucking chickens for a living" he did
acknowledge a number of provisions negotiated over the years that related to company policies impacting operational issues of the
airline.

Copies of pilot contracts are not made available to the public and each one is the result of a unique negotiation between the union
and management.  However, common to all pilot union contracts are provisions for "work rules" that specify everything from what
clothing a pilot can wear to how many consecutive duty hours can be required to work.   Airline company policies are directly
influenced by numerous provisions negotiated with unions as part of collective bargaining agreements.

According to the Teamsters' APA, Allegiant pilots want
"fair work rules, improved scheduling, improved pension and health care
benefits and the security of a Teamsters contract."  
That "improved contract" or template the Teamsters APA may include a
provision barring the airline from scheduling flights into any unmanned airport where FAA air traffic controllers are not resident
and the runway length is limited.   Referring to the FAA as the "tombstone agency," one union official scoffed at suggestions the
FAA regulations are sufficient to protect pilots from unsafe work assignments.

Comparisons between the Loveland-Ft. Collins Airport and the Plattsburgh, N.Y., International Airport, are being made to
illustrate Allegiant's decision is unrelated to the lack of an airport tower since both airports lack a staffed control tower yet
Allegiant is only departing Loveland so far after the pilots voted to unionize.  One pilot told LovelandPolitics the saftey issues
between the two are not comparable.  Plattsburgh is a former military base located along the shores of Lake Champlain near the
Canadian border with New York.  The lower altitude and larger runway (11,750 ft. and 1,000 ft. overrun and 200 ft. wide) make it
a much easier airport to land a heavy passenger aircraft, according to the source.

For their part, Allegiant pilots are not saying they support the idea and some are even reported to be advocating for continued
flights between Loveland, Las Vegas and Mesa, Arizona.  Regardless of how the Allegiant pilots feel, their new union franchise may
prevent them from flying into the Loveland-Ft. Collins airport depending on the new contract negotiations will impact the
company's work orders for pilots, company safety guidelines and other company policies.

Last year
Frontier Pilots voted 498 to 58 to ratify certain concessions with Frontier Airlines after lengthy contract negotiations.  
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters sued both the company and pilots to stop the concession agreement approved by
Frontier pilots by filing a lawsuit in Federal Court.   Airlines know that even when pilots agree, the union representing the pilots
must also agree before any changes can be made or they risk litigation by the national union organization seeking compensation.


City of Loveland May Lose $1 Million in FAA Funds

Especially disconcerting for the City of Loveland is the loss of FAA funding resulting from the Allegiant pull out from the Ft. Collins-
Loveland Municipal Airport.  The FAA funds airport improvements through passenger ticket taxes thus Loveland's airport has
accumulated a "credit" with the FAA of nearly $1 million to extend the current runway that was recently refurbished using FAA
funds.

The immanent departure of Allegiant means the municipal airport will no longer qualify for the FAA funded improvement as no
passenger airline will be providing regular service to the city.
Allegiant Out of Loveland Because of Union?
Despite a recent taxpayer funded trip
to Las Vegas to meet Allegiant Air
executives, Loveland Public Works
Director, Keith Reester, was surprised
by the announcement and unable to
identify the reason for the airlines
departure from Lovreland

Class I
Scheduled large and
unsheduled large
and scheduled small
aircraft

Class II
Unscheduled
large and
scheduled small
aircraft

Class III
Can only handle
scheduled small

Class IV
Unscheduled large

Loveland's Airpott
FNL is a Class I
airport