Posts Tagged ‘Pilots’

Allied Pilots Association (American Airlines’ Pilots Association) has been vocal about their opposition to the proposed American Airlines and British Airways alliance. Recently, they have put on billboards around the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Airport to display their opposition.

The application is – “BA and AA have applied to regulators in the United States and Europe for
antitrust immunity that would permit them to combine their route networks,
pricing, sales, marketing and purchasing power
. Iberia, the Spanish airline;
Finnair and Royal Jordanian are included in the submission but are secondary

From “Aviation Blog at Dallas News” –

One says:
AA’s Joint Venture? Higher Fares, Lost Jobs.

Good for Executives, Bad for America.

The other says:
AA’s multinational joint venture:

Is it good for America?

The billboards also include a web address to get more information, www.AmericanJobsAtRisk.com.

I do understand the big concern for other airlines at London’s Heathrow Airport like Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic. Richard Branson believes that the alliance will make a monopoly at London’s Heathrow airport and will drive smaller airlines out of the market. The biggest concern for Branson is that together the airlines can get even more market share.

But I don’t understand the American Airlines’ pilots, unless –

  • They beleive that some of flights to London will be removed, but then I don’t think there is enough overlap between BA and AA in those markets.
  • AA might not fly some of the potential future markets like middle east, asia, etc. This might be a legitimate concern.

Since this will be an alliance, none of the pilots can fly other airlines’ planes.

There is a big issue with old companies in US with unionized labor. It seems like the Unions and managment seem to have new philosophy  – “a company within a company safeguarding their own interests” rather than the original concept of “disallowing any labor exploitation”.

Maybe I am missing something?


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Unions hate management and management hates union. Both tend to believe that they are entirely responsible in running the company. Both also seem to have entirely different view on how the airline should be run and how each one of them should be paid. Since 2000, the airlines have gone from bad to worse, with negative cash flow and worse union-management relations.

The union-management relationships for United Airlines are no exceptions. Recently, United Airlines’ union and management were in news for court battle with the airline suing ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association) over illegal work practices.

Charges are as follows –

  • Orchestrating work slowdown since 2006
  • Flurry of sick days taken by junior pilots in late July 2006 causing 329 flight cancellations over 8 days while disrupting 36,000 passengers
  • Sharp increase in maintenance-related delays ordered by pilots over the past year
  • Sharp increase in fuel consumption over the past year.

ALPA denies all charges. “The pilots union countered that United was alleging a broader pattern
of abuse because it couldn’t prove the charge that had caused it to
seek an emergency court order in the first place: that ALPA had
directed the flurry of sick days taken by junior pilots likely to lose
their jobs at the summer’s end.”
(from here).

On a separate note, ALPA is trying to oust United’s Chief Executive Glenn Tilton. They have a website by his name – http://www.glenntilton.com/ with the punch line “Glenn Tilton Must Go – United Pilots Ask Your Help in Removing an Incapable Leader”.


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Reuters reports that around 50 pilots in India each year get grounded because they are found to have consumed alcohol before their flight. India has one of the fastest growing airline industry with about around 5000 commercial pilots. Though, the number is 0.01% of the total (and even lesser for the number of flights affected since these seem to be isolated incidences), it does raise some concerns on safety.

This issue seems to have got attention after a pilot of Jetlite airline was caught inebriated on Saturday June 21st 2008 Morning and as a result caused the cancellation of the Delhi-Patna flight.

More cases had been reported recently like – (from here) –

This is not the first time, though, that airline crew and pilots have been found intoxicated while on duty.

An Air Deccan pilot was found inebriated on 12 April, 2006, by a DGCA team during a random test.

On October 12, 2007, a Kingfisher Airways pilot had been grounded for three months after being caught at IGI Airport.

On October 28, 2007, an airhostess of a
Mumbai-bound Jet Airways flight, tested alcohol positive during
pre-flight testing. She was grounded for three months.

I think there is a need for increased random checks and harsher punishments (even prison time for repeat offenders) before this issue causes some serious accident!

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There are a lot of people who make an airline “fly”, but probably the most important ones are the Pilots. No matter how anyone would debate on the the current technology, we all trust our lives to the pilots when we are in an aircraft. There is no airline in the world that can fly (literally) without its pilot.

Pilots and Unions
We all might have heard, pilots of almost all commercial airlines belong to some union.

Pilots and Seniority
Seniority is the most important thing for a pilot. It “determines the planes pilots fly, the schedule they fly, their base, the side of the cockpit they seat, their pay and other work conditions”.

Delta and Northwest Merger

Most of the mergers I have seen or read about, one of the pilot union seem to get more than the other’s union (depends on which airline has a bigger say or part in the “merger”). The seniority issue gets a little more complicated due its importance to a Pilot’s life after the merger.

Currently, Delta pilots might have a lot more incentives for the merger than Northwest (all from here) –
Delta Pilots get –

  • 3.5% equity in the merged carrier
  • 17% pay hike over the next four years
  • Higher contribution to their 401k pension plan
  • No furlough for the first 2 years after the deal closes

Northwest Pilots get –

  • No agreement, so no guaranteed stake, pay rise, etc.

The above looks one sided, but you have to understand, Delta pilots union agreed to the terms and support the merger whereas Northwest Pilots’ union did not.

Seniority issue has not been addressed yet and most likely will head to arbitration. If the merger goes through, most likely for a long time you will see the Northwest crew flying Northwest planes and Delta crew flying Delta planes.

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