July 9 2019 Press Releases

As Amazon Breaks Ground on Cargo Hub, Pilots Warn Company of Operational Risks


CONTACT: Dean Pearce, (646) 992-8312, dean.pearce@berlinrosen.com

As Amazon Breaks Ground on Cargo Hub, Pilots Warn Company of Operational Risks

As Amazon breaks ground on its $1.5 billion air cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) pilots launch informational website and mobile billboard.

(HEBRON, KY) – Last month the pilots who fly for Amazon and DHL at contracted carriers, Atlas Air, Southern Air and ABX Air, protested outside CVG urging their carriers to improve working conditions. Today, as Amazon holds an invitation-only groundbreaking event in the Cincinnati area [icm-tracking.meltwater.com], pilots are launching an informational website (PilotsDeserveBetter.org) and a mobile billboard calling on their carriers to improve working conditions as contract negotiations continue to stall. The new air cargo hub will reportedly cost the e-commerce giant around $1.5 billion and CVG is already the largest hub for these three airline carriers.

Atlas Air and Southern Air are owned by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (NASDAQ: AAWW) while ABX Air Inc. is a subsidiary of Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ: ATSG). The pilots are represented by their union, Airline Professionals Association (APA), Teamsters Local 1224. AAWW and ATSG’s major customers include Amazon, DHL, the Armed Forces and other organizations that all have growing demands with the global expansion of e-commerce.

“We are pleased to see the expansion of partnerships between our carriers and Amazon Air, yet we can’t help but worry that executives at Atlas Air and ATSG are severely overpromising services to stay in good graces with one of their most prized customers,” said Captain Robert Kirchner, Atlas Air pilot and Executive Council Chairman for Atlas Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224. “Amazon’s groundbreaking event at CVG should be cause for celebration but instead all it’s causing is panic. The ground is falling out from underneath our carriers and to prevent disaster at Amazon and its new internal logistics network, Atlas Air and ATSG need to correct high attrition, low pay, and mistreatment of pilots by working with us to settle a fair contract.”

The new website, PilotsDeserveBetter.org, is a resource for current pilots, investors and prospective pilots looking for a career with Atlas Air, Southern Air or ABX Air. The website offers a resources section with videos, fact sheets, copies of current union/carrier contracts and much more. PilotsDeserveBetter.org [icm-tracking.meltwater.com] also has updated news on the current state of negotiations between pilots and their carriers.

The mobile billboard will circle CVG in May and raise awareness of the hollow promises from executives at Atlas Air and ATSG. The billboard asks the question, “Are ATSG & AAWW misleading Amazon on the pilot shortage?” and sends a signal that Atlas and ABX pilots are ready to strike.

“At ABX Air, we’ve been in contract negotiations for years causing incredible frustration that’s led to so many of our pilots opting into retirement,” said Captain Rick Ziebarth, ABX Air pilot and Executive Council Chairman for ABX Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224. “It’s been exciting to see ABX take on new business in recent years, but new business combined with a severe retirement problem has caused the workloads of current pilots to strongly intensify without any improvements to working conditions. ABX Air is well aware of its growing retirement problem and can address the issue by ending frustration and fairly negotiating with its pilots.”

Pilots at the three carriers say they face serious operational problems that are exacerbated by labor contracts far below industry standards. In order to fill customers’ needs, the companies ask pilots to fly last-minute flights around the globe; a recent survey conducted by the pilots’ union found that more than 65 percent of respondents have been asked to fly on their days off in the last year. Meanwhile, AAWW and ATSG are growing their businesses. In March, AAWW’s Southern Air struck a deal to operate a minimum five new planes for Amazon Air with the possibility of adding up to 20 aircrafts to the fleet. Amazon also has the option of purchasing up to a 40 percent stake in both companies.

Pilots say they urgently need the companies to agree to fair contracts—otherwise they’re concerned they won’t be able to do their job. The union’s survey found that more than 60 percent of pilots who participated at these carriers are preparing to leave their carrier and are seeking work at competitors like UPS and FedEx. 65 percent of respondents from Atlas Air and ABX Air said they have little faith that their carrier has enough pilots to meet the long-term needs of Amazon and its Amazon Air program.


The Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224 represents pilots and flight crewmembers from 10 airlines operating across the country.