April 08, 2020

Federal court ends suit by former Pan Am pilots

CONCORD, N.H. – A federal court has ended a lawsuit against Pan American Airways Inc., ruling the pilots’ union failed to prove that the airline’s parent company moved business to nonunion Boston-Maine Airways Inc. just to get rid of the union.

The ruling came Tuesday in a lawsuit by the Air Line Pilots Association International against Guilford Transportation Industries Inc.

Pan Am President David Fink said in a statement Wednesday he was pleased by the court’s decision. He said the pilots’ union had made several attempts to block Boston-Maine Airways from “providing low-cost, efficient large-jet air service to the traveling public.

“In an increasingly chaotic airline industry, Pan Am believes that this decision vindicates its belief that a lower-cost alternative to the traditional operating model is critical for the survival of the industry, and looks forward to a future free from ALPA’s continuing pursuit of these unsubstantiated claims,” he said.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph DiClerico ruled in the union’s favor in 2004 and ordered Guilford to stop transferring flights from Pan Am to Boston-Maine Airways.

But the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston disagreed and sent the case back to the lower court last year, saying that to win, the pilots needed to prove union-busting was the only motive for moving business from one airline to another.

In Tuesday’s ruling, DiClerico said new evidence introduced by the union failed that test. He said Boston-Maine mostly operated smaller airplanes and, unlike Pan Am, had never gotten regulatory permission to operate international flights.

He also noted that Guilford Transportation shut down Pan Am in late 2004, before getting the favorable ruling from the appeals court, because it was losing millions of dollars.

“The court reads the precedent to require, in business closure cases such as this, nothing short of a smoking gun establishing that management was motivated solely by an unlawful desire to rid itself of the obligation to bargain with a union,” he wrote. “The First Circuit found no smoking gun in its review of the court’s initial decision, and this court finds none now.”

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