Amazon pilots are stretched thin even before the CVG hub breaks ground

Amazon pilots: Workloads stretched thin even before new CVG hub

A contracted pilot who flies for Amazon is happy that the online giant is breaking ground Tuesday on a new $1.5 billion air hub at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).

But he said Amazon’s growth comes at a personal and professional price for pilots working strained schedules.

“As pilots and employees of the company who are profiting immensely from this expansion, we’re happy to have new customers, we’re happy to see the growth,” Michael Russo, an Atlas Air pilot, told the Dayton Daily News Tuesday.

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“Our concern is that the rate of the expansion is kind of feeling unchecked,” he added. “We’re afraid that our companies are not communicating to Amazon the limitations that we have as an organization.”

Amazon’s investment into the Hebron, Ky. hub will support a fleet of more than 100 Prime Air cargo planes, according to CVG.

CVG, state and local officials say Amazon will lease more than 900 acres of airport property for more than 50 years, with plans to build three million square feet of buildings and to add more than 2,700 jobs to CVG’s current base of 10,000

But Russo asks whether air contractors working for Amazon can keep up with the training, recruiting and maintenance demands such a huge operation entails.

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“What is the company doing to help recruit pilots into these positions,” he said.

Russo is represented by the Teamsters union, which has tried in recent weeks to call attention to what members say are working conditions for pilots who fly for Amazon and DHL at contracted carriers, Atlas Air, Southern Air and Wilmington-based ABX Air.

Recently, the union protested outside CVG, urging carriers to improve conditions.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, a spokesperson for Atlas Air said: “Atlas values our pilots and is eager to increase their pay. Any delay in completing the next pilot contract has been a direct result of the union leadership's refusal to adhere to its contractual commitments, which provide for an orderly and timely resolution of remaining contractual issues. Had union leaders followed the collective bargaining agreement, the pilots would have had a new contract -- and a raise -- by now.”

Messages seeking a response were also sent to Amazon and an ABX Air representative.

Captain Rick Ziebarth, pilot for Wilmington’s ABX Air and executive council chairman for ABX Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224, also welcomes the growth, but with his own reservations.

“New business combined with a severe retirement problem has caused the work loads of current pilots to strongly intensify without any improvements to working conditions,” Ziebarth said in a statement. “ABX Air is well aware of its growing retirement problem and can address the issue by ending frustration and fairly negotiating with its pilots.”

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