Tag Archives: American Airlines

AMERICAN AIRLINES- ANOTHER AVIATION APOCALYPSE

Every veteran pilots favorite airplane- the magnificent Boeing 727

Aviation’s most recent apocalypse, the sad demise of American Airlines, seems to intensify daily. I remember well the collapse of Eastern Airlines and the horrific operational chaos that accompanied it. It now appears that the AA bankruptcy saga will display a comparable level of animosity between management and labor. Having been through far too many airline bankruptcies, I can attest that the safety quotient of an airline in the Chapter 11 phase of bankruptcy is severely reduced. The laundry list of operational problems that contribute to the reduced safety factor are too lengthy to mention.

The disintegration of the relationship between labor and management has many of the elements of an angry divorce. Most of the AA employees had, at one time, been infatuated and exhilarated with their status as an American Airline employee. The antipathy and the emotional trauma that comes with this ugly, and bitterly contested divorce will seriously jeopardize the possibility of AA to provide their customers with quality service. The following snippet is from a recent article in Business magazine and sheds additional light on the situation.

In Bankruptcy, American Airlines Looks At All Options

Pat Henneberry is an airline’s dream customer. She flies all week, every week, and buying an $800 ticket so that she can have full flexibility is standard operating procedure. She’s an American Airlines platinum customer. But she is fed up with the endless delays and cancellations.

“On Monday I didn’t get on

Henneberry says that not making her meetings is not an option.

“Next week I have five flights that I’m on with American. If I don’t get where I’m going — I own my own business — I don’t get paid,” she says.

American has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights, and its on-time performance has collapsed to a little more than 50 percent. The airline says its pilots are to blame.

“We’re talking about write-ups for things like broken coffee pots, inoperative passenger reading lights and torn seat pockets that are causing delays. They’re calling maintenance out to have those things checked and are causing delays. And those were up more than 34 percent,” American spokesman Bruce Hicks says.

In 2003, with American on the verge of collapse, the pilots, mechanics, ground crew and flight attendants gave back nearly $2 billion in concessions. Later, it emerged that the airline’s top managers quietly awarded themselves millions in bonuses, and tens of millions more when they retired. The workers have never really gotten over that betrayal.

“The history is the history,” Hicks says. “The fact is that all of our labor groups and management and non-union groups in 2003 made significant concessions to keep American Airlines out of bankruptcy. And we worked very hard to stay out of bankruptcy, but in fact we lost $10 billion over the next 10 years — $10 billion.”

On Wednesday night, it looked like there was progress. The pilots met and voted to go back to the bargaining table. After all, they’ve been without a contract since 2003 and are still working at their 1993 pay rates. But after the vote, a letter arrived from American management threatening to take the union to court if the pilots didn’t stop delaying flights.

“Within 24 hours of being invited back to the bargaining table by this management team, they fired off a letter that essentially threatens legal action against the pilots,” says Tom Hoban, who flies a 777 for American and is an officer in the union. “In that regard, it’s like a baseball bat with an olive branch wrapped around it, and they just hit us up the side of the head here. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Now the pilots are furious; they see executive duplicity once again. And as of Thursday afternoon, they’re not going back to the bargaining table. Instead, they’re meeting with their lawyers about management’s letter.

“This corporation has taken this airline from first to worst. There simply is no faith in the current leadership of this management team, which is why we’re pressing hard for a merger with US Airways and a change in leadership,” Hoban says.

And what’s American Airlines customer Pat Henneberry going to do?

“I won’t happily go back at this point. I have lived through a few of these with American Airlines. And to be honest, I’m having an incredible experience on Delta. You know, I have to do business,” she says.

Delta Airlines has cleverly matched the platinum status Henneberry has with American. So while American management fights to the death with its pilots union, its best customers are wandering off.

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott author of The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue-Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com).

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MORE CABIN CRAZINESS ON THE COMMERCIAL JET

A RARE SCENE–FLIGHT ATTENDANTS HAVING FUN!

Is the increasing number of airline cabin incidents the final verification that the Apocalypse is upon us? It seems that there are nearly one-a-day reports of passenger or passenger vs. flight attendants incidents. The number of people being arrested at airports and on airplanes appears to be skyrocketing exponentially. Today’s commercial airline travel is getting more onerous as we go and there appears to be an undercurrent of “It’s us against them,” attitude and those we call “them” are the enemy as opposed to paying customers. It is certainly a double-edged sword and these all-too-frequent confrontations are spontaneous and perhaps even blameless—unless we want to consider the possibility of the premise that the good old US of A is being undated with in-your-face confrontational people.

Rather than pontificating about airline travel let me now entertain you with the following recent news reports relating to life in the airliner cabin:

Family Tossed Off JetBlue Flight for 2-year-old’s Tantrum

When their child misbehaved, the family was removed from the plane, costing them
$2,000 out of pocket

BOSTON (KTLA) – A vacationing Rhode Island family was thrown off a recent Jet Blue
flight to Boston after their two year-old misbehaved.

Dr. Colette Vieau, her husband, and their daughters Cecelia and Natalie were trying
to fly back to Boston from a vacation in Turks and Caicos when Natalie, age 2, refused
to sit down.

Her parents got her seat belt fastened and held her in place, but the family was
kicked off the flight anyway.

Dr. Vieau described her interaction with the flight attendant over her daughters’
behavior. “We were holding them down with all of our might, seat belt on. And I
said, ‘We have them seated. Can we go now?’ She said the pilot made a decision to
turn the plane around,” Vieau said.

The airline said in a statement, “Flight 850 had customers that did not comply with
crew member instructions for a prolonged time period. The Captain elected to remove
the customers involved for the safety of all customers and crew members on board.”

But Dr. Vieau insists, “We did what we were asked to do. We weren’t belligerent,
drunk, angry or screaming. We were just having a hard time struggling with our
children.”

With no other flights that night the family was stranded. After finding a hotel
and re-booking their flights, the changes cost them an additional $2,000.

A Flight Attendant Refused To Let Passengers Off A Plane After A Video Player Went
Missing

Surging Energy Prices Are Already Taking A Toll On One Area Of The Market
Writer and tech consultant Jeff Reifman was on an Alaska Airlines flight from Miami
to Seattle when something strange happened.
Apparently, a rented video player went missing, and one of the flight attendants
was hell-bent on getting it back.
In fact, she threatened to detain them, saying that “the cabin doors would not be
opened and that passengers would not be allowed off to catch connecting flights,”
claims Reifman.
Yikes.
The “horrified” Reifman posted about the encounter on his blog, where he made the
observation that “threatening to detain all your passengers over transgressions
by other flyers is about the dumbest thing you can do for customer loyalty.”
It may not be the worst thing, but it’s up there. Any time a worker resorts to threatening
an entire group of customers, that’s not going to do anything positive for a brand.
To make matters worse for Alaska Airlines, it turns out that the flight attendant
was in the wrong anyway. The airline’s policy is to keep track of who rents the
video players so that they can check later. Plus, the player was actually located
before the flight landed in Miami in the first place.
We know this because Alaska Airlines quickly went on damage control and explained
exactly what happened on its end, which was great crisis management.
Spokesman Bobbie Egan went to Reifman’s blog and posted this apology in the comment
section of the post:
Mr. Reifman,
The flight attendant’s announcement to our passengers onboard this flight was inappropriate
and did not follow our procedures. The video player was located before the flight
landed in Miami and we should have shared this with our customers. In regards to
the suggestion that we note the seat number of passengers renting these devices,
our flight attendants are trained to do just that when renting the video players.
This step was not followed on this flight. We are following up with the crew of
this flight to make sure they understand our procedures.
I apologize for any alarm this caused you and the other passengers onboard this
flight.
Sincerely,
Bobbie Egan, Alaska Airlines spokesperson
(This incident was extracted from a recent Curt Lewis Flight Information newsletter)

US Airways Flight Diverts To PDX Over Cabin Confrontation

Couple Said To Be Trying To Join The Mile High Club

It would appear an amorous couple onboard a US Airways flight Thursday forgot the number one rule when attempting to join the Mile High Club: discretion.

US Airways Flight 1473 left Seattle, WA just before 1500 PST Thursday, en route to Las Vegas when the aircraft diverted to Portland International Airport due to a… well, disturbance on the plane.

The aircraft turned around over southern Oregon, and landed at PDX at 1700 PST.

“The people across the aisle from us were fooling around in their seats and they decided to go to the bathroom and fool around and they threatened the flight attendant,” passenger Jessica Smith.

US Airways didn’t comment on whether the couple had been caught in the act, but did acknowledge a confrontation between the two passengers and the cabin crew.

The A320 took off for Vegas once again — sans the couple, who weren’t charged or arrested — about 45 minutes later.      (A rhetorical question: If I put a blanket over my lap and have my hands underneath the blanket, can the flight attendant deem that I am masturbating and have me dropped off in West Texas or some other God-forsaken area?)

FMI: www.usairways.com

American Airlines flight attendant goes bonkers

And then we have the American Airlines flight attendant who lost her emotional bearings and started blurting out volatile and caustic statements over the cabin PA. This unusual turn of events, resulted in passengers intervening to help the other flight attendants defuse the incident. The cabin of a passenger airline is a stress-inducing environment and the “acting out” by less than stable occupants who are stuffed into these “high-speed flying culverts” will continue.

This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator; in the Back Alleys of Aviation. (www.therogueaviator.com)

ASPIRING CAREER PILOTS-HOPE ON THE HORIZON

HARVEY HOP; 37,000 HOURS OF HAVING FUN IN THE JET

It has been tough times in recent years for those young pilots that want to earn a living while flying airplanes. Despite the increased cost of jet fuel and the still slumbering U.S. economy there is an optimistic future—at least for the next decade or so. Despite the projected furloughs of several hundred pilots at American Airlines there is still optimism in the future for those people that want to commit to a career as a pilot. It won’t be a walk in the park and it will be a long time before you will reach that six figure income plateau. If you start at the bottom of the commercial pilot heap as a regional carrier pilot, you better have a little extra earning potential (such as a working spouse) because you are going to be mired into a despicable low income for a few years. On the other side of the coin, you will be building flight time and gaining experience while not setting in a cubicle or waiting for the unemployment compensation to  run out.

Corporate aviation is actually doing quite well as the recession had very little effect on those wealthy one percent who can afford this wonderful amenity—once you have had the private jet experience, the thought of sitting back in the cabin on a commercial jet is emotionally trying. Companies such as FlexJet, Marquis Jets, Delta Private Jets, and Piaggio Avanti Charter, just to name a few, employ thousands of pilots. Although the starting salary might only be in the $35,000 to $40,000 per year category, it is a nice lifestyle and you do not end up in low end hotels, or engage in high-speed “bag-drags” around ORD or PHL, without enough time to get a bite to eat. Most captains in the private jet charter world are making at least $70,000 per year. If you can wriggle into the corporate flight department the salaries and benefits then become quite livable with captains frequently being rewarded with $150,000 per annum salaries for keeping “Mr. Big” comfortable and safe. Quite often, the CEOs and executives form a very strong bond with their pilots and the ensuing rewards can be very profound—five star hotels and restaurants and golf at Pebble Beach, for instance.

The major factor in this projected upcoming shortage of pilots is related to mass retirements in the next few years amongst the major airlines, UPS, and FEDEX. The long overdue and absurdly slowly implemented revised FAR 121 flight and duty times will result in a need amongst all airlines to hire more pilots since the new rules result in many instances, of less flight or duty time available from each pilot. Also, many senior pilots are capitalizing on overseas pilot positions. Airlines such as JAL, KAL, Cathay Pacific, and many airlines in the Middle East are constantly in search of U.S. trained pilots. Commercial aviation in India and China is burgeoning and there will be pilot openings for those that will venture away to another culture and lifestyle to make a decent living as a pilot. In China, there are numerous “expatriate” communities evolving for those people who want to be close to their fellow westerners. Quite often these overseas jobs appear onerous but can provide wonderful travel experiences while greatly broadening one’s horizons while being exposed to different cultures. Near the end of my career I very reluctantly took a job flying freight out of Liege’ Belgium and it turned out to be the high point of my aviation career. My book, The Rogue Aviator; in the Back Alleys of Aviation elaborates on this wonderful excursion (www.therogueaviator.com).

An aviation career is similar to every flight that you experience in that it is an adventure. If you pursue your pilot career as an adventure, the “back alleys of aviation” can become tolerable. There is a near certainty that you will miss birthdays and anniversaries and work many weekends but in my 36 year career that took me to 44 countries, the positives trumped the negatives by a wide margin. If you pursue an aviation career to achieve wealth and leisure you will possibly spend a lot of time in the doldrums crying in your beer. The aviation career may not be a bed of roses, but very few retired pilots ever look back and say, “Darn, I wish I had sold insurance.” If you want inspiration to keep the nose to the grindstone in order to pursue that career, my book, The Rogue Aviator will provide such. I will issue a small caveat and that is the rapidly decreasing supply of fossil fuels will require a lot of innovation regarding a source of energy to provide the thrust that creates the lift. Meanwhile, “keep your airspeed up in the turns.”

This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueavitor.com)

AMR AGAIN ABUSES AMERICAN AVIATORS

AN ANTIQUATED GAS-GUZZLER

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)