Federal judge orders striking pilots of Amazon's air-delivery firm to return to work

A federal judge today ordered pilots for a cargo airline that delivers Amazon packages to return to work. 

According to the judge in Cincinnati, it was in the public's interest to end the strike because holiday shoppers expected to receive their packages on time. 

''Imagine Christmas without Amazon!'' US District Court judge Timothy S Black wrote in his ruling. 

About 250 pilots of ABX Air struck work early yesterday in a dispute over working conditions and time off. Dozens of flights and over 1 million pounds of cargo were held up. 

The airline approached the court to end the strike, claiming it threatened to leave millions of dollars' worth of freight undelivered to homes and stores during the Christmas shopping season. 

According to ABX parent Air Transport Services Group Inc, pilots would start returning to work Wednesday night. According to the Teamsters union, which is representing the pilots,  the strike was causing ABX to cancel about 75 flights a day. Besides Amazon, ABX's other major customer is Deutsche Post AG's DHL delivery service. 

According to analysts, an extended strike would have forced Amazon to put more of its deliveries in the hands of UP, FedEx and the US Postal Service.

The strike was started by the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, the union representing the pilots, due to  what it called significant understaffing problems at ABX Air, which had demanded that pilots fly ''emergency'' flights to meet the demands of its cargo customers, disrupting the pilots' schedules.

According to Satish Jindel, president of logistics adviser SJ Consulting Group, the impact of the strike would be short-lived. ''I don't think it's going to disrupt e-commerce or Amazon,'' he told LA Times reported.