Pilot union sues NetJets over alleged labour law violation


NetJets pilots picket across from the company's headquarters in Columbus on April 19, 2023.

The NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP) is suing NetJets, claiming the operator is attempting to suppress union-related speech by pilots in violation of federal labour law.

The union, which represents 3,000 pilots employed by NetJets, said it filed the lawsuit in response to “NetJets’ threat to discipline or to discharge pilots” for referring owners and customers to a union website.

The website raises questions about salaries and pilot fatigue due to high demand and pilot shortage. It claims NetJets has “lost its competitive edge” in career earnings for pilots, stating that low-cost and regional airlines are paying pilots more.

In a statement on the website, the union said: “Competing in today’s marketplace requires bold action and proactive thinking. Sadly, NetJets has yet to rise to the occasion. What was once a career destination for professional aviators is slowly transitioning into a stepping stone, a place where new aviators come to build time before transitioning to more lucrative opportunities elsewhere.”

NJASAP said it surveyed its member pilots in January this year and found that more than a fifth (22%) of them planned to move on from NetJets within a year if no pay increase was achieved. Only 44% said they would recommend the company to other pilots seeking employment.

According to the union, Alan Bobo, chief operating officer, NetJets sent an email to NetJets pilots on March 8th accusing some of violating the company’s work rules. NJASAP said its representatives asked NetJets how pilots should respond if asked questions about contract negotiations, but NetJets refused to answer this and did not lift the ban on speaking about the website.

Speaking about the lawsuit, Pedro Leroux, president, NJASAP said: “The aircraft owners and customers we fly engage our pilots in conversations every day, including about their jobs and a wide variety of other topics. It is only natural that they would ask us for basic information about our current labour despite when they see picketers.”

Leroux added: “Referring to a union website is a professional and legal way to respond to their questions. We believe NetJets’ discriminatory ban on union-related speech is unprofessional and illegal.”

Brian Foley, founder, Brian Foley Associates told Corporate Jet Investor: “In business aviation there will always be labour disagreements or efforts to unionise particularly at the largest operators. Others can lessen their exposure to these types of adversarial spectacles by taking a page from fractional ownership provider Flexjet, whose pilots in 201 succeeded in decertifying their union in part by management allowing them to determine their own course.”

Foley added: “During contract negotiations, it’s always the silly and predictable season of politics. Publicly tangling with NetJets management has historically been the way the game is played. Despite past skirmishes, there has always been an eventual agreement.” 

NetJets has been contacted for comment.