AMR, the parent company of American Airlines has finally done the inevitable. As a major “legacy” airline it had not filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as the other “legacy” carriers had done years or decades ago. The airline management modus operandi of the last 40 years is to combine severe mismanagement with exorbitant bonuses and salaries for the executives and CEO’s, and then come running to the employees for salary and benefit cuts. Invariably the people who sacrifice the most in these “company restructuring”’ are the pilots. Since they are the highest paid workers, the company feels that they can snatch the most additional pay and benefits from the pilot group.
Let it be known that in 2003 the American Airlines management came begging to the employees and they relinquished 1.6 billion dollars in wages and benefits. Meanwhile the company mismanagement continued, primarily by operating a fleet of gas-guzzling jets, when even the janitor in the broom closet knew that fuel prices would skyrocket. The current request is for a 2.0 billion dollar “employee give-back.” Of equal concern is that the current employees will take a major hit on their projected retirement benefits and the current retirees will also take a big hit on their monthly check. The pension fund is underfunded by 4 billion dollars.
The union worker is once again being dashed against the rocks and the timing is particular synchronistic since the Super Bowl will be played in Indiana. The governor of Indiana is working hard, along with some of his neighboring Midwest governor colleagues to break and/or eliminate all of the unions in his state. Meanwhile, here come the NFL players who are represented by a very strong and effective union and the first year minimum salary for an NFL player is $560,000 per year. Many of the pilots that operate sophisticated aircraft into Indianapolis for the regional carriers, such as the AMR contract company American Eagle, will be working for a salary of low to mid-20 thousands per year. We have experienced professional pilots who are eligible for food stamps and making less that the government’s declared poverty level. Wouldn’t it be great if the NFL players would step forward in a very out-spoken fashion and endorse the union workers in Indiana and the tens-of-thousands of pilots who are severely underpaid?
We have failed to improve the school teacher’s salary to a respectable level and we are now paying pilots a despicable wage for a very demanding job. Recent worldwide math exams revealed that the U.S. is 30th amongst a recent evaluation of first-world industralizedcountries. They are crashing airplanes in India and Russia at an alarming rate as result of airlines operating their aircraft with underpaid and inexperienced pilots in the cockpit. When “Sully” Sullenberger of Hudson river fame testified before Congress nearly three years ago, he stated that it was imperative to increase pilot salaries or our commercial aviation would suffer severely. Many of the pilots at American Airlines are seeking employment elsewhere and many more pilots will be seeking new careers in a different field. Poor school teacher salaries is a contributor to an uneducated public but poor pilot salaries will result in a greatly reduced safety quotient when you jump on that commercial aircraft.
To get a good perspective on the underpaid pilot problem, please refer to the PBS Frontline TV special of two and one-half years ago titled, Flying Cheap. It is available by going to PBS.ORG and finding the internet version of this very important but sparsely watched documentary by Miles O’Brien. It will give the viewer a very valid perspective of what happens when the profit factor overrides the safety factor. It represents a glaringly ugly example of the old Harvard Business School mantra of “maximum utilization of human resources.”
Wouldn’t it be great if the NFL players would step forward and endorse the union workers in Indiana and the tens-of-thousands of pilots who are severely underpaid?
Thie blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator: in the Back Alleys of Aviation, (www.therogueaviator.com)