Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on"

Just when we thought the economy might be stabilizing somewhat we hear this:  Foat Wuth-based American Airlines, already in bankruptcy, announced yesterday they were laying off 13,000 employees. OUCH!  Those are 13,000 people, presumably with about as many families depending on them.  

We Americans have been criticized for years for "living beyond our means", but how do you know what your "means" are these days? How do you make any long-term plans or purchases without knowing if you're going to have a job several years in the future, regardless of how vital your job is or how skilled you are?  I know a great many airline employees, both current and retired, from my 20 years of volunteering alongside them with the Commemorative Air Force.  (Formerly the Confederate Air Force, it's a group that buys, restores, and flies vintage WWII aircraft.  "Lowandslow"....get it?)  Many of them will be devastated by this layoff. 

Over 8,000 mechanics will soon be on the streets. How many do you think will lose their homes to foreclosure in Ft. Worth and Tulsa, American's two largest maintenance bases?  What about property values in general in those areas?  And unless they speak a foreign language and are willing to relocate to Turkey, China, or Latin American and work for 50% less, they're screwed.  American A&P mechanics are dinosaurs these days.  Three cheers for globalization!

Over a thousand flight attendants will be out of work soon, too.  They took a HUGE pay cut after 9/11 and haven't recovered since.  (My girlfriend before K was a flight attendant.)  Same for baggage handlers, provisioners, and some mid-managers.  But here's what gets me....millions of dollars are still paid out to senior executives as "retention bonuses".  They say if they don't pay these bonuses they'll lose their smartest, most valuable people.  I say that based on results, they're not worth a damn anyway.  (Have you ever noticed the same group of senior executives just bounces around from airline to airline?  Have you ever noticed almost all the major carriers have been bankrupt at least once?  Do you see a pattern?)

Over 400 pilots will soon be on the streets, too, but with their substantial incomes I would hope they would have put some $$$ away and can afford to stay in their homes and maintain their lifestyles. But what about when the survivors retire?  Are there replacements working their way up the ladder?  The commuter airlines (think of them as major airline farm teams) say the quality of their applicants is at an all-time low.  The appeal of an airline job just isn't there any longer.  This certainly won't help.

Yep, the glamor of flying is definitely gone.  Has been for years. "Get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on."  Sad.



  1. When I was born my dad was a mechanic working for TWA in San Francisco. I inherited his love of aviation, and it pains me to see what is happening to that industry.I don't necessarily think Western civilization is in decline but I do believe some fierce changes are on the horizon.

  2. I was told reliably that many of the C checks on airliners are now done south of the border somewhere. The statement that airline pilot job no longer appeals is a wonderful UNDERSTATEMENT! If you read on the professional pilots rumor network (pprune dot org) you will know that the pilots have basically been relegated to button-pushing automatons who are under the control of bean counters, management and of course ground controllers, with pay less than half what it used to be. The wonder to me is that there are not more Colgan type crashes. fin

  3. I always wonder, when companies lay off so many people (it's happening in my world, too)... who does the work? Were they all just doing unnecessary stuff? And yes, we also have too many of those top-(worthless)-managers, too.

  4. You mentioned airline pilots and their "substantial incomes." While maybe older, senior pilots with large airlines may do well, the less senior pilots for smaller airlines make a pittance. Fin mentioned the Colgan crash, which hit close to home for me (I had been in Buffalo just two weeks before that crash there). The co-pilot on that flight worked part-time as a waitress because she couldn't live off the meager salary the airline paid her.

    The Buffalo News exposed a lot of dirty secrets - overworked, overtired, undertrained, underpaid pilots, some of whom worked at McDonalds to make enough to live.

    If you pay bottom wages, you will get tired, worn-out staff or bottom-of-the barrel applicants.

    A sad, sad story about American Airlines - and so many lives affected.

  5.'re absolutely right about commuter airline wages. Legacy carrier pilots still do very well, although no where near as well as before 9/11. The average Southwest pilot, for example still makes areound $150K flying 737's. I would think senior pilots flying 777's for example still bring in $250K +/-