Allegiant Air Pilot Strike Blocked by Judge

     LAS VEGAS (CN) – Allegiant Air has done nothing that warrants a pilots’ strike under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, a federal judge ruled.
     U.S. District Judge Andrew P. Gordon issued a preliminary injunction against the strike that was approved by Allegiant pilots in January. The pilots are members of Teamsters Local 1224.
     “One of the express purposes of the Railway Labor Act – which despite its name also applies to airlines – is to ‘avoid any interruption to commerce or to operation of any carrier engaged therein,'” Gordon wrote in a 11-page ruling issued on Friday.
     The act lays out guidelines for negotiating labor contracts and places “severe restrictions” on strikes, Gordon said.
     “In other words, the pilots are prohibited from striking as a way to gain leverage over Allegiant during negotiations under the direction of the National Mediation Board,” he wrote.
     The union has called Allegiant’s progress “contemptibly inadequate.” For its part, Allegiant said the pilots’ suggestions won’t work for the niche airline serving airports most carriers don’t touch.
     “The main point of contention between Allegiant and Teamsters is how the airline prioritizes scheduling ‘must-fly days,’ which are days when all pilots at a particular airport must fly regardless of seniority,” Gordon wrote.
     He said the airline each month fills all work slots based on seniority for must-fly days and then fills the rest of the month’s work slots based on pilot preferences in order of seniority.
     Witnesses for Allegiant said the airline conducted “road shows” and made other efforts to show pilots how to use the system to their advantage and sought feedback from the pilots.
     “Allegiant has tried to teach pilots how to better take advantage of the system’s built-in protections of seniority,” Gordon wrote, adding that Allegiant “has developed, with input from the pilots, a new interface to make the bidding process more transparent and predictable.”
     Gordon said the pilots “expressed understandable frustration with the new scheduling system” but “struggled to identify specific violations.”
     A strike could also cause “irreparable harm” to Allegiant, cost the airline more than $7.7 million per day and damage its reputation, Gordon said.
     “Cancelled flights lead to unhappy customers, particularly where alternative options are not readily available,” he wrote. “This can easily happen with Allegiant because, given the small markets it services, there are not always substitute flights.”
     The judge also said an injunction would “further the public interest” by ensuring air travel would continue on a “major carrier.”
     He enjoined the pilots from striking and ordered the union and pilots to “take all reasonable steps” to prevent any work stoppage, slowdowns or any other efforts designed to interfere with Allegiant’s “normal operations.”
     Officials for Teamsters Local 1224 and Allegiant attorney Ross Goodman were not available for comment.

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