American Airlines pilots voted overwhelmingly in favor of the strike, despite statements from the airline that negotiations were still underway.
The vote was announced on Monday. However, no vote is imminent. Federal law makes airline worker strikes difficult to pursue, according to The Wall Street Journal.
According to the Allied Pilots Association, which represents more than 15,000 US Airline pilots, 99% of the votes voted in favor of allowing the strike, with 96% of its members participating in the vote.
American Airlines told the paper on Monday that it believes it could soon reach an agreement with the pilots’ union. It said the strike vote was a sign that pilots felt urgency ahead of the negotiations.
“The finish line is in sight,” a spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. “We understand that voting to allow a strike is one of the key ways pilots expressed their desire to reach an agreement and we respect the announcement of the vote’s results.”
Ed Sicher, the union’s president, made a similar point, saying his members were ready to strike if necessary, but noted that reaching a new contractual agreement was still within the realm of possibility.
Pilots are demanding modifications to schedules and work practices that they believe will improve their lives and make air travel more reliable.
“The best outcome was for APA and management to agree on an industry leading contract – achieved through good faith negotiation,” he said.
American Airlines has agreed to pay in line with the increases that Delta Air pilots won earlier this year.
Many ongoing contract negotiations are now continuing discussions that began years ago and were halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Airlines encouraged pilots to retire during the pandemic due to a sharp drop in air travel, but the post-pandemic recovery in travel has left airlines in a pilot shortage .
Southwest Airlines pilots will likely begin voting to authorize a similar strike later this month.
U.S. labor laws governing airline workers require both workers and management to exhaust all means of bargaining before they can legally strike. The National Conciliation Commission will have to agree that no way forward exists and submit arbitration to both parties before they are forced to go through a month-long “rest” before strike may proceed.