Pilots Group Contests 'Age 60' Retirement Rule Analysis

September 29, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - An airline pilot union has blasted an economic analysis that argues there could be a substantial economic benefit by allowing commercial airline pilots to work to age 65 instead of the current 60.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), collective bargaining agent for the 13,000 pilots of American Airlines, claimed in a news release that the estimated $10-billion benefit over 15 years in the analysis is based on flawed economic assumptions. Longer pilot careers would mean no appreciable monetary influx for the government, the APA argued.

The APA statement said that the economic analysis was preparedat the request of JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA), and Airline Pilots Against Age Discrimination. It was later used in Capitol Hill lobbying efforts by those groups, the APA said.

The APA and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have opposed efforts to raise the commercial pilot retirement age, saying the limit is based on legitimate safety concerns over the long-term effects on a pilot’s skills after age 60.

“We sympathize with those pilots who wish to extend their working careers, but public safety must take precedence over financial considerations,” Captain Ralph Hunter, APA president, said in the news release. “As firsthand observers of the very real impact of aging on pilot skills, the majority of our nation’s commercial airline pilots support the existing policy.”

Hunter argued that the total Social Security outlay doesn’t change whether a pilot retires at 62 or 65 since the earlier retirement leads to a reduced monthly benefit.

“(The analysis) erroneously assumes that the federal government loses Social Security and income tax revenue when a pilot retires at age 60. When one pilot retires, another pilot replaces him – just as in any other industry when workers retire,” Hunter said. “The job itself doesn’t go away. After all, when was the last time anyone saw an airliner flying around with an empty cockpit seat?”

The APA’s response to the analysis is here .