WASHINGTON —FAA reauthorization sparks controversy as unions ally against raising pilot retirement age.

In the midst of the Federal Aviation Authority's reauthorization progression through the Congress, prominent aviation labor unions are rallying against a provision of the proposed legislation which could see commercial pilots flying past the current retirement age of 65.

Dennis Tajer, the spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association (APA) which comprises 15,000 pilots from American Airlines, voiced his opposition on Thursday. He highlighted the potential safety risks associated with this unproven change, as he stated, “Unstudied and untested ideas like this are unnecessary and reckless." He underlined the shock within the industry that this has become the keystone issue for the FAA reauthorization. Tajer also warned that implementing this provision could lead to hiring reductions and inflated retraining costs. Given that senior pilots often operate widebody aircraft on international routes, he pointed out that many countries still enforce the 65-age limit, which would require these pilots to undergo additional training, subsequently straining the already stretched resources of airlines.

Also read: Unions Resist as US Moves to Raise Airline Pilot Retirement Age to 67

Expressing unanimous concern with the APA, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), with 74,000 pilots from 42 airlines under its umbrella, along with the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), representing 50,000 attendants from 19 airlines, have united to resist the suggested extension to 67.

On Wednesday, AFA President Sara Nelson questioned the practicality of renegotiating ALPA contracts to accommodate this proposal, considering that the global retirement age for pilots remains at 65. She further highlighted the logistic challenges by asking, "What are we going to do with them? Put them on the 737 or 190 at their current pay rates?”

In a separate correspondence to Congress, ALPA President Jason Ambrosi refuted the argument that this proposed shift would bolster the supply of pilots. Instead, he suggested it would inflate costs for airlines given the relatively low utilization rates of older pilots. Ambrosi also expressed doubt that the International Civil Aviation Organization would adapt its retirement age following a U.S. law modification, especially in light of opposition from EASA, the European safety regulator.