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U.S. pilots refuse to fly routes of Air Canada if its pilots go on strike

SHARE U.S. pilots refuse to fly routes of Air Canada if its pilots go on strike

MONTREAL — The union representing pilots at UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc. and other U.S. carriers said they won't fly Air Canada's routes if that carrier's pilots strike.

The 58,000 North American members of the Air Line Pilots Association include pilots at Canadian Airlines, which is being absorbed by Montreal-based Air Canada. By law, Canadian Airlines pilots can't organize a strike in sympathy. However, they say they will walk picket lines with Air Canada pilots in the event of a stoppage.

If members of the Air Canada Pilots Association, whose last contract ended three months ago, walk off the job, it will obstruct much Canadian air travel. The government has reportedly considered allowing U.S. airlines to fly between Canadian cities — a practice known as cabotage — to pick up the slack caused by a strike grounding the country's largest airline. The U.S. union's stance may prevent that.

"ALPA will view any requests for pilots at U.S. carriers to fly Air Canada's routes during a strike not only as violations of the ACPA members' rights as labor unionists, but also as an attempt to implement cabotage, which is illegal in both the U.S. and Canada," Duane Woerth, ALPA president, said in a statement.

The 2,200 Air Canada pilots voted 95 percent in favor of giving union leaders a strike mandate, results released earlier this week showed. The pilots must by law give 72 hours notice of a strike and have not yet done so. That means the earliest a strike could occur is late Sunday.

The union and management are in talks, and the pilots union said it will issue an update later today on the progress of negotiations.

The move by Canadian Airlines pilots to stand beside their Air Canada peers could ease the strained relationships between the two groups. The friction arose from concern that the planned integration of the two airlines — a judge yesterday paved the way for Air Canada to take over Canadian — will lead to reduced seniority for some of their members.

Besides pilots at Canadian Airlines, United and Delta, ALPA represents pilots at major carriers such as Northwest Airlines Corp. and US Airways Group Inc.