Increases in fatigue calls and maintenance write-ups by pilots at NetJets are part of a union negotiating effort, according to the company.
NJASAP stands for NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots.
Executives at the Berkshire Hathaway unit say actions by the pilots have meant an increase in off-fleet flights, boosting expenses to fulfill guarantees for fractional owners, lease, and jet card customers.
NetJets guarantees availability for fractional owners with as little as six hours’ notice, while jet card customers are guaranteed an aircraft with as little as 48 hours’ notice.
The pilots’ behavior in this regard has been none-too-subtly encouraged in a series of NJASAP communications to its members. NetJets is aware of as many as a dozen messages that suggest – using the typical union code words for self-help – that pilots should take action to reflect their unhappiness with the state of voluntary negotiations.
– NetJets letter to NJASAP
NetJets tells Private Jet Card Comparisons, “Supported by a review of collected data and communications, NetJets believes there have been unlawful, concerted activities aimed at disrupting our flight operations. We have shared this data with NJASAP, which clearly shows a statistically significant shift in activities. In order to maintain our unwavering commitment to the safety and service of our owners, NetJets has taken action to mitigate the impact through growth in our fleet and the incurred expense of supplemental aircraft. NetJets’ Owner retention rates and satisfaction continue to be at an all-time high, and we will continue to take necessary measures to preserve these.”
The latest round of fire between both parties came after the union issued a press release Friday evening in response to a letter sent by the private jet company to NJASAP.
In the press release, NJASAP said NetJets had “failed to provide any evidence to substantiate that any pilot called in fatigued when they were not, in fact, too fatigued to safely perform flight operations, failed to provide any evidence to substantiate that any pilot documented maintenance issues on aircraft that did not actually exist, and failed to provide any evidence to substantiate that any pilot refused to work extra days simply to impact the company’s operations as opposed to their own personal reasons.”
Union President Capt. Pedro Leroux said, “NJASAP adamantly denies that it is engaged in any concerted effort to condone or to encourage such a slowdown, and we have issued a communication to our members to cease and desist any individual efforts to do so.”
He added, “We view NetJets’ letter and threats as its latest attempt to censor NJASAP’s ability to communicate with its members about important matters that affect flight crew and owner and customer safety.”
NJASAP did not provide the letter or accompanying documentation as part of its press release.
However, a review of the letter and supporting documents provided to Private Jet Card Comparisons shows a number of impacts on the availability of airplanes and flight crews.
The pilot-sourced break rate, which measures how often pilots submit write-ups that ground aircraft, increased from an average of 36.8 per day in early 2023 to 50.5 per day in December and early January.
The number of monthly fatigue calls stood at between 200 and 400 from Oct. 2022 through May 2023. Over the past four months, there have been at least 600 fatigue calls each month.
From Sept. 1, 2023, through Jan. 9, 2024, there was an average of 23 daily fatigue calls, up from 14.3 from July 15 through the end of August.
According to the NetJets letter to the union, “Flight delays are up, especially in the last two months.”
The fractional operator told NJASAP, “These delays cause irreparable damage to NetJets’ brand and service reputation.”
Executives say customers are not being impacted, but the decrease in availability means increased expenses for replacing the impacted aircraft and crews, including needing to source replacement aircraft from third-party operators.
The letter to NJASAP stated, “The pilots’ behavior in this regard has been none-too-subtly encouraged in a series of NJASAP communications to its members. NetJets is aware of as many as a dozen messages that suggest – using the typical union code words for self-help – that pilots should take action to reflect their unhappiness with the state of voluntary negotiations.”
Self-help refers to one party in a labor dispute taking action to apply pressure on the other party.
Following the letter from NetJets to NJASAP, the union issued a notice to its members both denying it has advocated or condoned members “engage in slowdowns or other concerted activity to negatively impact NetJets’ operators…”
The NJASAP memo to its pilots added, “Any pilot or group of pilots engaging in such unlawful activities should immediately cease and desist.”
The current contract runs through 2026, with NetJets having a unilateral option to extend it through 2029.
The current negotiations, which apparently broke down in November, represent a mid-contract negotiation.
Since the beginning of 2023, NJASAP has been holding information pickets at major sporting and cultural events and Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting.
More recently, it started an ad campaign in The Wall Street Journal using quotes from Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffett.
NJASAP says NetJets risks losing its most experienced pilots to the airlines as they seek to fill open spots created by retirements during the Covid travel slowdown.
NetJets had been silent until recently when it detailed its side of the negotiations, including an offer that would have boosted pay and benefits by 52.5%.
NJASAP said that the raise wasn’t presented as a formal offer.
However, it still wasn’t enough.
The union, according to a previous statement, wants parity with pilots at the major airlines, noting, “To simply reach immediate pay parity with the major airlines, NetJets would have to agree to a 60% base pay increase on day one.”
The flight provider has also said it has been able to hire and train a sufficient number of pilots to fill open slots. Earlier this month, it implemented a mandatory retirement age for pilots, which removed under 100 aviators from its roster.