Atlas Air Worldwide buys Southern Air Holdings

A pilot union has balloted its members as Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings completed its purchase of Southern Air, amidst fears that foreign influences on the company could compromise their contracts.

Atlas Air has signalled that with its purchase of Southern Air it would increase its revenues from DHL to 27%. Southern Air Holdings is the parent company of two airlines – Southern Air and Florida West International Airways. Southern Air operates five, Boeing 777Fs and five 737Fs that work exclusively for DHL under CMI contracts. Florida West has recently divested its aircraft and now uses three 767-300Fs on an interchange basis with LAN Cargo.

Atlas Air already has a close relationship with DHL, with the German company owning a 49% interest in one of its other airlines, Polar Air.

A US pilots’ union, APA Teamsters Local 1224, has published research that suggests that air crew who work for DHL get paid less for longer hours than working for other businesses such as UPS or FedEx. Amidst these worries that Atlas Air could compromise their terms and conditions of work, they have balloted their members for strike action. In a statement from the Teamsters they said that the deal would, “have a devastating impact by suppressing wages and lowering quality-of-life issues for pilots at the two companies.” Pilots at Polar Air and Atlas Air have been working to alter their contracts with Atlas, saying that the current agreement is “grossly below industry standard.” 

Any strike that takes place may be a good month off just yet, even though the ballots went out on April 1, since the process is convoluted. The outcome will be dependent on whether DHL and Atlas come to the table willing to negotiate or are willing to attempt to drive down pay and conditions for the company’s pilots. If resolution isn’t found then strike action will harm everyone involved.