Amazon Prime Air pilots to protest against low wages at shareholders' meet

By ramping up its Prime Air programme in the face of a pilot shortage, Amazon is risking delivery problems, the pilots union said yesterday.

Dozens of Amazon cargo pilots plan to descend at Amazon's annual meeting in Seattle today to let chief executive Jeff Bezos and other top executives know of the impending problem and put pressure on their employers to increase their pay.

The pilots, who delivered Amazon goods via a contract the Seattle company had with cargo airlines, had been without a contract for several years.

According to the union, the low pay led to dozens of pilots exiting the cargo airlines for better paying jobs at passenger airlines.

The pilots who were employees of two cargo companies, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (AAWW) and Air Transport Services Group, warn that the retailer could face a delivery crisis like the debacle several years ago when Christmas presents arrived late.

Amazon was at the time forced to refund shipping charges and gave out $20 gift cards to its unhappy customers.

The pilots were represented by the Teamsters Union and had been in contract negotiations with the airlines for several years.

According to commentators, the pilots had staged other Amazon-related protests in the past, but they were not protesting against Amazon itself - they wanted to call on Amazon shareholders to encourage the airlines to hire more pilots and provide better conditions.

''Amazon is at the heart of our carriers' vision for the future and that's why it's our responsibility as pilots to alert shareholders about the underlying issues at our airlines that could spell trouble for our relationship,'' said first officer Marvin Tate, an Atlas Air pilot who had flown for the company for two years, GeekWire reported.

''AAWW has made huge commitments to Amazon even though we're losing dozens of pilots a month and are not able to replace them. We urge Amazon investors and executives to heed the voices of those on the frontlines, and encourage its contracted carriers to help build a successful partnership that works for customers, pilots and our businesses alike.''