The union representing NetJets pilots is invoking the Alaska Airlines 737-Max incident in warning of ‘catastrophic consequences’.
NJASAP, the union representing pilots at NetJets, is ramping up its pressure campaign against the company while it seeks to renegotiate its current contract with the Berkshire Hathaway unit.
The contract runs through Dec. 2026 with a management option to extend it through Dec. 2029.
The company says it had offered a new package that would increase compensation by 52.5% before negotiations broke down in November.
This time, NJASAP, short for NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots, is citing the recent Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 Max incident, where a door plug fell off mid-flight.
The union is asserting the current back and forth with management is compromising safety, according to a press release and a new ad placed in The Wall Street Journal.
NetJets is the world’s largest operator of private jets.
Previous ads used quotes from Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett, inferring the company isn’t meeting his standards.
This execution plays on current concerns about aviation safety following the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max incident.
The ad is headlined, “NetJets Owners,” and follows, “What if you looked out your window and saw the door to your plane?”
Fact: A Boeing 737-9 MAX door flew off mid-air during a flight during a flight
Fact: There is a national shortage of aircraft mechanics.
Fact: Pilots play a crucial role in identifying maintenance issues on the planes they fly.
Fact: NetJets, a private jet company owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is threatening to sue its own pilots’ union over how often they document aircraft maintenance issues.
Fact: If pilots are afraid to document aircraft issues, then air travel is less safe.
(Update Monday, Jan. 29, 2024: NJASAP reached out to us this morning to say they sent the wrong ad creative to us Friday. The ad that ran in The Wall Street Journal is published below. The changes were “Door to your plane” to “Panel of the plane” and “air travel is less safe” to “air travel may be less safe.” )
The ad and press release follow a letter from NetJets to NJASAP alleging “self-help,” a tactic where employees engage in a concerted pattern of disruptive behavior as a negotiating tactic.
In the letter, lawyers for NetJets wrote, “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.”
At the time, the flight provider told 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.”
As part of an 11-page accompaniment titled, “Analysis of NetJets Pilot Activity and Operation Activity,” the company offered the union statistics covering changes in write-ups for maintenance issues from Jan. 2021 through the beginning of 2024, increases in write-ups over the past year since NJASAP launched its campaign of picketing, press releases, and ads, increases in fatigue calls from 2022, and several other metrics purportedly demonstrating a change in behavior by pilots.
However, in this morning’s press release, NJASAP wrote, “NetJets, after alleging that pilots are engaging in a work slowdown in an attempt to negatively impact the fractional’s operations, did not provide any evidence to substantiate its extraordinary allegations.”
NJSAP President Capt. Pedro Leroux said, “At a time when aircraft safety is receiving heightened scrutiny – and deservedly so – it is outrageous that NetJets would question its pilots’ dedication to prioritizing safety and their informed decisions when it comes to documenting identified aircraft maintenance issues or determining they are too tired to safely fly an aircraft.”
He added, “NJASAP pilots have a long and established history of ensuring that safety is the number one priority as they provide private air travel to owners flying with the luxury carrier.”
NJASAP Vice President Capt. Paulette Gilbert added, “The company’s threats about the frequency of pilots reporting maintenance issues on the aircraft they fly represents a grave threat to the safety culture at NetJets – the very safety culture that aircraft owners, passengers, and flight crewmembers depend upon for their lives every day.”
The ad NJASAP sent us:
The actual ad that NJASAP ran in The Wall Street Journal Friday:
The press release claimed, “The Union believes NetJets’ letter will all but certainly have a chilling effect on the safety-focused decisions each pilot makes throughout the duty day, ushering in new patterns of behavior that could have catastrophic consequences.”
LeRoux said, “The very nature of aviation leaves zero room for professional pilots to be browbeaten into changing their safety-related behavior. Such a tactic should be beneath NetJets, and NJASAP will not allow this intimidation to go unchecked.”
NJASAP asserted that the increase in write-ups results from the “company’s own inability to overcome sustained challenges that have negatively impacted its maintenance infrastructure.”
“For almost two years – and well before the start of midterm bargaining – the NetJets COO has lamented to pilots attending recurrent training the hardships posed by increasing maintenance issues and the time-consuming process of addressing them since the Covid-19 pandemic,” Leroux wrote.
In 2020 and 2022, NetJets announced large infrastructure investments in Denver, San Jose, and Scottsdale designed to enhance its maintenance capabilities, including an inventory of some 753,000 parts it keeps on hand across the network.
With the most recent announcement for the Arizona facility, NetJets said it had made an incremental $63 million investment in parts inventory.
According to executives speaking last November at Corporate Jet Investor in Miami, ongoing supply chain and labor issues continue to impact operators.
Leroux said, “My members and I will not be used as scapegoats because NetJets is unable to solve long-standing maintenance issues.”
Leroux said the union had sent a letter to NetJets CEO Adam Johnson earlier this week that “the most sensible course of action is to work in partnership to address maintenance, fatigue, and other concerns, emphasizing NJASAP is wholly committed to the same and ready to begin immediately.”
NJASAP said it has yet to receive a response.
In the release, the union said its membership “is very proud of the direct role it has played in shaping the sterling operational safety record that has long distinguished NetJets and been viewed as one of the fractional’s most compelling marketing tools.”
Major airlines have agreed to record raises as they seek to fill a shortage of pilots following the post-Covid travel boom.
NJASAP says if its members don’t receive similar compensation, they will exit to the airlines.
However, NetJets has said it has been able to fill open slots. It recently implemented an age 70 mandatory retirement age.
NetJets declined to comment on today’s press release and ad.