Common Questions about Scope


What is arbitration?

Under the Railway Labor Act, disputes between ALPA and Delta are settled through the grievance process. When ALPA and the Company are unable to settle a dispute, the issue moves to a four-person System Board of Adjustment composed of two ALPA and two Company representatives. In the case of the Korean Air dispute, ALPA requested expedited arbitration, which means a neutral arbitrator joins the System Board from the start as the decision-maker to resolve the dispute. The arbitrator’s ruling is binding and both parties must abide by it. In the private sector, arbitration is like filing a lawsuit, going to court and having a judge decide the outcome and issue a ruling.

What is the remedy phase? Why so long?

The remedy phase is when an arbitrator determines the consequences for committing contract violations. It is a legal process that includes several more hearings and arguments from both Delta and ALPA. These hearings take time to schedule and execute. The arbitrator must then have time to make a final legal ruling.

When will I get my check in the mail?

While remedies have included monetary payments in the past, they are not the only form of remedy. It is important to understand that idle speculation on what the consequences might be is not productive and may hurt Delta pilots during the remedy hearing. Please be patient and understand that the greater good of Delta pilots is the focus of ALPA sought remedy action.

What else is ALPA doing about this?

First ALPA has to enforce current contract language. Going forward the Delta MEC is seeking equitable growth language in Delta’s JV agreements and engaging Delta to secure stronger PWA Scope protections. Ultimately there needs to be equitable growth for Delta pilots in order to ensure more international flying on Delta jets for Delta pilots.

Why does it take so long for this to finally be decided?

The grievance process is spelled out by Federal Law and governed by the Railway Labor Act and the grievance provisions in the PWA. It is a lengthy process with many steps along the way.

What is the idea behind equitable growth? How does that solve these issues?

Without contractual protections for equitable growth or a production balance, Delta isn’t required to keep Delta growth on pace with JV partner growth. At a minimum, equitable growth assures Delta pilots participate in the growth generated by Delta’s JV partnerships and that they aren’t left behind.

There are 20+ violations, what about the other ones? Are they being heard by arbitrators?

Not all of the 20+ violations were heard by arbitrators, some simply weren’t filed as grievances with the understanding that they were transient and the company would stop violating the contract. That turned out not to be the case. To date, 12 violations have been heard by three arbitrators and all 12 violations Delta committed were sustained.


In the case of the Korean Air Joint Venture (JV) case, why were we in arbitration?

ALPA filed four grievances containing eight alleged Scope violations. At issue were Delta’s violations of our PWA’s Scope protections that were triggered by Delta’s JV with Korean Air.

What caused these violations?

Before a new JV is finalized, Delta is required to meet with ALPA to negotiate a production balance (Section 1 E. 10.). A negotiated production balance defines how much flying is shared between Delta and its JV partner(s). Section 1 E. 10. does not require ALPA and Delta to agree on a production balance, but it does require the two parties to meet to negotiate.

If the Company and ALPA cannot agree on a production balance, PWA Section 1 has default provisions that protect a minimum amount of Delta flying. One of those provisions is a minimum block hour floor for Delta flying in certain markets (Section 1 E. 8.).

Delta’s first violation was its conscious decision to not meet with ALPA to negotiate a Korean Air JV production balance (Section 1 E. 10.) before the JV was finalized. Since a production balance was not agreed upon, the PWA minimum block hour floor came into effect (Section 1 E. 8.). Subsequent violations occurred when Delta’s flying was below the Section 1 E. 8. block hour floor for Delta flying between the US and Korea/Japan. These failures to meet PWA minimum block hour requirements are what generated the seven other violations in the arbitration for a total of eight.

What was the outcome of this arbitration?

The arbitrator upheld all four of ALPA’s grievances and found the Company liable for all eight Korean Air JV Scope violations.

Is this the end of the Korean Air JV Arbitration process?

No. ALPA and Delta can choose to have their arbitrations contain both a liability finding (violation or no violation) and a remedy (consequence) in a single hearing or they can split the process and have separate liability and remedy hearings.

With the Korean Air JV, both parties agreed the arbitration would be split, or bifurcated, into two separate hearings. The next step is the remedy phase. It will be several months before this phase produces an outcome.

Delta's response to the award made it seem like the Company had already admitted to the violations, so why did we go through the grievances?

Delta management did admit they had violated the Scope provisions of the PWA and apologized for its “unintentional violations.” Without filing these grievances, however, the only remedy the pilots would have received was that apology. Grievances both memorialize the violation and create legal consequences.

The Korean Air Arbitration Flight Ops All Pilot Memo mentioned a measurement interpretation in the Company's favor. What's the story behind that?

While this interpretation didn’t affect any of the violations in the arbitration, it did affect whether Delta is still in violation or now in compliance with the PWA. ALPA and the Company advocated for different PWA minimum block hour compliance measurement methods, the yardstick by which to measure compliance. With the arbitrator’s measurement interpretation, the Company got back into compliance with the Korean Air JV PWA minimum block hours as of April 2019. This is akin to being pulled over for speeding, admitting you were speeding, and then telling the cop it’s all good now because you are no longer speeding. Delta pilots should expect zero ongoing Scope violations from Delta. This is not a cause for celebration for the Company.

If the arbitrator adopted the measurement method proposed by ALPA, would Delta be in compliance?

No, Delta would still be out of compliance.

So, what's all the noise about 26 violations?

ALPA found a total of 26 Scope violations. With the arbitrator’s measurement interpretation decision, five of those violations go away. That means there still are 21 Scope violations committed by Delta management this contract cycle. That is hardly a win for Delta.

Is Delta growing in the Pacific?

Compared to 2013, today’s Delta Pacific block hours are down 16%. In 2019, however, Delta added Pacific flights to reverse the downward trend but still lags 2013-levels of Pacific flying by 100 block hours per day. Check out Scope Quick Take – Pacific Block Hours for a graphic.

Was Delta's violation of our Korean Air JV Scope provisions a one-time infraction?

No. Delta failed to meet with ALPA to negotiate a production balance agreement for the Korean Air JV. Delta was also below the minimum flying over an 11-month period which led to nine violations of the block-hour floor provision of the PWA. Seven of those nine block hour floor violations were a part of this arbitration. The remaining two violations are contained in separate grievances, which will go to arbitration later.

What is the status of the unheard Korean Air JV grievances?

They are waiting to be heard in arbitration. You may have heard the term “tolled” in this context, which means the grievance has been filed and will go to arbitration at a later date. Even using the Company’s preferred measurement method, those are still clear-cut violations of the PWA block-hour floor.


I heard the Aeroméxico JV doesn't have a negotiated production balance, how could there be violations?

Before a JV is finalized, the company is supposed to meet with the ALPA to negotiate a production balance. If no production balance is reached – as was the case with Aeroméxico – the default protections of PWA Section 1 E. apply.

How did Delta violate our contract that necessitated the filing of these grievances?

Because no production balance was agreed upon, the default protections of 1 E. 2. apply. Section 1 E. 2. limits the number of passengers that Delta can book on a foreign air carrier performing international partner flying. Delta breached those limits on three separate occasions.

What was the outcome of the Aeroméxico arbitration?

The company admitted to all three of ALPA’s grievances in front of the arbitrator. ALPA will now move on the remedy phase of those proceedings.

Is this the end of the Aeroméxico JV Arbitration process?

No. ALPA and Delta can choose to have their arbitrations contain both a liability finding (violation or no violation) and a remedy (consequence) in a single hearing or they can split the process and have separate liability and remedy hearings.

With the Aeroméxico JV, both parties agreed the arbitration would be split, or bifurcated, into two separate hearings. The next step is the remedy phase. It will be several months before this phase produces an outcome.

When did this happen?

In December 2017, the average number of Delta passengers on certain Aeroméxico flights exceeded 75 passengers, which violated Section 1 E. 2. c. In March 2018 and June 2018, Delta passengers occupied more than 40% of the total passenger seats on certain Aeroméxico flights, which violated Section 1 E. 2. a.

Aren't these just minor technical violations?

First of all, there is no such thing as a minor Scope violation. The default provisions of Section 1 E. 2. in particular are critical to protecting Delta flying when there is no negotiated JV production balance. Those protections simply limit the number of passengers Delta can place on its foreign carrier partner. Delta should never even get close to these limits, let alone cross the line.

Are there any other Scope violations we should know about?

Yes. Liability decisions have already been rendered on the first three Aeroméxico-related grievances and the first four Korean-related grievances, and ALPA will now move on the remedy phase of those proceedings. Three more Aeroméxico-related grievances and two more Korean-related grievances have been tolled pending the outcome of those remedy proceedings. Stay tuned for further communication concerning these grievances.