FORT WORTH, TEXAS — Canadian and  American pilots are taking new measures to push for workforce improvements, with American Airlines Group pilots endorsing a strike mandate and Air Canada pilots supporting a merger with a larger union. 

Ahead of the busy summer travel season, American Airlines pilots approved the mandate to put additional pressure on the Texas-based carrier for a contract, although the likelihood of an actual strike remains low.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents approximately 15,000 American Airlines pilots, held a strike authorization vote in April, even as both parties approached an agreement in principle. Over 99% of the 96% of APA members who voted supported authorizing a strike, according to a union statement. American Airlines expressed confidence that an agreement for pilots could be reached and finalized quickly.

Meanwhile, 84% of the approximately 4,500 pilots who fly for Canada's largest carrier voted in favor of a March agreement to merge with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), as reported by both unions. Merging with ALPA, the world's largest pilots union with over 60,000 members, is seen as beneficial for providing additional bargaining resources. Air Canada pilots are not currently in negotiations.

ALPA's executive board must ratify the merger on May 17. American Airlines pilots are also considering a merger with ALPA, with discussions set to begin in early June. North American pilots are pushing for better salaries and working conditions as airlines struggle to meet increasing travel demand post-COVID-19. However, some airline executives caution that significant pay raises will inflate fixed costs and hinder efforts to repair debt-laden balance sheets.

WestJet Airlines, Canada's second-largest carrier, announced the completion of its acquisition of leisure carrier Sunwing Airlines on Monday, and is also facing bargaining pressure from its pilots who have authorized strike action as early as May 16. In contrast, it would be challenging for American Airlines pilots to strike due to the complex labor process in the U.S. that makes it difficult for airline workers to do so.

In March, Delta Air Lines pilots ratified a new contract that includes $7 billion in cumulative pay and benefits increases over four years. American's CEO stated that the carrier is prepared to match the pay rates and profit-sharing formula provided in Delta's new contract.