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Atlas Air may need to urgently lease a passenger aircraft as a spare, following an arbitrator’s decision that it is legally unable to sub-contract passenger flying.

This week, Atlas Air pilots represented by Airline Professionals Association (APA) Teamsters Local 1224 won an arbitration which ruled that Atlas must immediately cease sub-contracting any passenger flying.

The union explained: “If Atlas Air wishes to do this kind of flying, the company’s management must negotiate. In the meantime, protecting customers will require the company to have a spare aircraft available.”

An airline source said Atlas only sub-contracted its passenger flying when it had a problem.

The source added: “It will now have to keep a spare airplane, or take its chances. So in that regard, it is effectively losing an airplane from revenue service.

“The effects are much bigger than meets the eye, especially financially.”

Atlas currently operates four 747-400 passenger aircraft and six 767s. It acquired two 747-400 VIP aircraft this year, hoping to expand its passenger business to include sports teams and other high-end business. In the nine months to September, its passenger charter business, including military, accounted for about 26% of its total charter revenues.

The union had argued that sub-contracting flying had breached the company’s collective work agreement.

Captain Robert Kirchner, executive council chairman for Atlas Air pilots of Teamsters Local 1224, said in letter to pilots: “We are heartened that the arbitrator upheld the grievance in its entirety and that he fully agreed with the union’s remedy to correct this career-threatening violation of our collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

“This award marks another landmark day and the union’s second consecutive CBA arbitration win in the fight against Atlas management.”

Atlas Air was contacted for comment by The Loadstar, but was unable to respond before publication.

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