Transport & Logistics

Acting for pilots of a major international commercial airline

During May and June 2020, Thomson Snell & Passmore acted for a number of pilots from a major international commercial airline, in relation to the terms on which they were leaving their employment.

When lockdown and travel restrictions were imposed in March, there was a rapid and substantial reduction in air travel.  There is not expected to be a full recovery for up to two years.

This led to airlines urgently reviewing their fleets, financial viability and workforce and then making vital changes in order to survive the pandemic.

Unfortunately for pilots, this meant that a number of them were at risk of being made redundant.

We were approached by the airline, which wanted to nominate Thomson Snell & Passmore as one of its preferred providers of independent legal advice to departing pilots.

The terms of those pilots’ departures came out of extensive negotiations between the airline and the pilots’ union, BALPA.  What emerged from these negotiations was a bespoke, enhanced retirement scheme for the more experienced pilots.

Our role was to advise the pilots on the terms of the enhanced retirement scheme, their settlement agreement and their position should they not proceed with the retirement scheme. This involved advising on redundancy rights, age discrimination rules and the position of the pilots should the airline go insolvent.

The scheme documents were detailed and set out the pilots’ entitlements to retention pay, benefits in kind, travel perks and outside interests during their time on the enhanced retirement scheme.

Whilst we were engaged to provide this advice, the airline also published an enhanced severance scheme, which some of our pilot clients decided was preferable to them and so we advised on the terms of that scheme also.

It was a very difficult time for our pilot clients, most of whom had worked for the Airline over 25 years and were now facing the prospect of leaving or retiring sooner than they had anticipated.

We provided them with peace of mind regarding the terms of their departure and turned this advice around in the short timeframes required before the severance schemes closed to new entrants.

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