Tag Archives: bankruptcy

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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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)

AIRLINE PILOT RETIREMENT

Although many of us have nostalgic flashbacks to the days of manipulating the controls of the high performance jet plane and all of the other subtle amenities of being a professional pilot, very few of us Ret. aviators would like to return to bag-drags and 0430 get-ups. In case you fall into that trap and think about rejuvenating your career with some Middle East airline, please read the following brief passage:

 We have a cockpit mock-up in our house: When I mention to my wife that I miss flying, by being retired, she puts me in the mock-up around bed time for 8 hours. She has a chair in a closet, puts on the vacuum cleaner to simulate cockpit air noise, has a dim nite-lite to simulate cockpit lighting, serves luke-warm chicken with cold vegetables on a tray.When I get sleepy and attempt to doze off, she knocks twice loudly on the door to simulate the F/As entering the cockpit. Then after 6 hours she turns on a flood light directly in front of me to simulate the sun coming up when approaching 20 west. I then get a cup of coffee that has been in the coffeemaker all night. Finally she lets me out and I have to get in the back seat of her car while she runs morning errands to simulate the bus ride to the hotel. When we get home I tell her I am ready for bed and the bedroom door is locked for an hour to simulate the hotel rooms not being ready.When I promise to never “complain” about being retired, I am allowed to enjoy my “layover” and go to bed. Oh, and one more thing, she talks to her friends loudly outside the bedroom door to simulate the hotel maids chattering in the hall in their native language. After two hours of sleep she calls the phone next to the bed from her cell and says “this is crew scheduling, you are re-sked!!!, vee vill calla-you back vhen you have legal minimum rest.” and “by the way the company has filed for bankruptcy today”… sleep tight honey.
This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: in the back Alleys of Aviation