Monday, December 23, 2013

Hostile Work Environment

There is a very scary thing going on out in the regional industry. It's going to get uglier before it (might) gets better. The bar is being lowered further than I could ever have imagined.

Back in 2006 when I started at ALLATPs things were bustling. My location was very busy. Instructors were flying at midnight as that was the only time planes were available.

After 2009 things started slowing down. Today my old school is much slower.

Banks are no longer willing to hand over $60,000 to a person wanting to learn to fly and work for an airline. The banks have been burned badly by the folks who got the $50,000 loans in 2006 who can't pay them back. Reason? Stagnation.

Back in 2007 several regional airlines were touting their 2 year upgrades. Heck I have friends that went to those 2 year upgrade airlines. Pilots figured the'd eat ramen noodles for 2 years then double their pay.

Just THIS year they began upgrading.......over 6 years later. Upgrade time is very fluid.

In the meantime there has been a lot of consolidation among the regional airlines. I thought this would lead to higher pay as there are fewer dogs in the fight. I was wrong.

The first airline to succumb to the dangling carrot of "fly it for less and get new airplanes" was PSA. PSA is a fairly small airline owned by US Airways. They agreed (among other things), to cap Captain pay at 12 years, First Officer pay at 4 years, much higher medical insurance cost, less per diem and more....all for 30 jets.

Their upgrade time is over 6 years.

Management stated they needed the cuts to help operate the jets competitively. take the pay cuts. The pilots didn't buy the current jets that are now obsolete. When Progressive Insurance needs to buy new computers and vehicles for their agents, do they ask agents for money? No. They find the money through higher cost to the customer. The pilots don't get to take the jets home...or fly them on weekends to visit family. They are a tool. Same as a tool on an assembly line to build a widget. The use of the tool benefits the company...not the employee.

It gets better....errr worse.

Management FIRST went to the airline currently known as American Eagle (they are getting a new name as American Eagle is now a brand). The union saw the same proposal and said no. They stood their ground as they had already taken concessions the previous year in which they were promised jets...but got nothing as their parent company went into bankruptcy.

Right now two of the largest regionals are being told by management to do it for less or else, Expressjet and American Eagle.

Since American Airlines and US Airways merged, American Eagle (formerly owned by AMR) PSA, and Piedmont (both formerly owned by US Airways) are now all family under the American Airlines Group.

American Eagle pilots have allegedly been threatened by management that if they don't take the current offer (which is almost a mirror of PSA) they will be "Comair II".

Comair was once a great regional. They had a great pay, work rules and were highly respected.

Back in 2001 they went on strike after Delta threatened cuts. That strike REALLY hurt Delta as Comair did the majority of the regional flying.

Comair won the battle...but Delta won the war. Delta began farming out more and more regional feed. Comair began shrinking. Finally Delta had enough regional feeders that they closed Comair down.

Up until 2012 American Eagle performed over 95% of the regional flying for American Airlines. In 2012 American Airlines closed the American Eagle Los Angeles base (after the pilots voted in concessions) and brought in Skywest to do the flying and expanded the flying. American Airlines then brought in Expressjet to do flying in DFW along side American Eagle. In Chicago they brought in their first 76 seat regional jets to be flown by Republic. American wanted diversified feed even though American Eagle has a no strike clause and took the required concessions.
Could American Eagle be next? They have roughly 2900 pilots and still perform over 85% of the flying for American Airlines. They can't be replaced overnight. At best 3 years if other regionals can find enough pilots to replace them.

It's going to get ugly at American Eagle. Over the weekend their Union sent out a letter stating crew members are no longer allowed to commute home if they get sick while on a trip. Instead the crew member must pay for a hotel where ever they are until they are better. This is another attack as it's okay for a passenger to fly sick, but not a crew member sitting in the back of the plane?

This new policy could force pilots (especially First Officers) to fly sick to avoid having to spend money on a hotel room, which in New York could easily cost $150 a night.

Anyone remember Colgan 3407? That First Officer mentioned flying sick because they didn't want to pay for a hotel room.

If an American Eagle pilot commutes home anyway they could have their travel privileges revoked meaning they can't commute to work on American Airlines or American Eagle. Management can easily track a crew member even if they fly on another airline.

This industry is in a tailspin. I've already told my wife I am prepared to exit if I'm forced to work for less money than I expected when I joined my airline. She supports me. I love my job. I love flying....but I will not do it for sub poverty wages.

Good luck Expressjet and Eagle. The results will be known January 14th for BOTH airlines.



  1. Hold the line Geek! Full pay to the last day!

  2. Supply and Demand

    Problem is that supply of pilots is governed by by the number of kids fascinated by shiny air planes but have no idea of how they will be squished by their future employer.

    And demand for seats is governed by - well by how many customers can see and

    advantage in by a ticket.

    As long as supply is not guided by the real prospects of Return on Investment, the airlines can get away with it. And it is unlikely to change.

  3. I came across this blog right when Geek started it. I was in flight school and was
    absolutely obsessed with flying and working towards joining the airlines. I started commenting on the blog and emailing Geek, and he was kind enough to offer advice and put up with my dumb questions. Eventually, he was even
    nice enough to help me get hired. A few things happened and, long story short, I ended up working somewhere else. But, what I learned on this blog and talking to Geek really helped me understand the ins and outs of working for an airline, and really put me ahead of the game. I still come by the blog and see what’s going on.

    The situation is really unfortunate. I love my job. I like the flying, the airplane, the
    overnights, the people I work with. That’s what’s such a shame. It’s a great job. But the fact that pilots are being pressured to take pay and quality of life cuts to compensate for incompetent management is down right ridiculous. We’re pilots.
    We fly the planes where they tell us. That’s it. We have no control over our operation. It’s not our place to worry about getting and securing more flying. It’s management’s job, not ours. I absolutely will not take hits to pick up their slack.

    The regional industry is such a mess it’s unbelievable. The large companies that have historically been good to work for, like American Eagle and ExpressJet, are the ones that are being hit, because they’re more expensive. And the mainline airlines contracting the regionals only care about how cheap they can get feed, not the quality that Eagle and Express used to be known for. They just can’t compete.

    Special thanks to PSA for lowering the bar for everybody else. Hope they enjoy their shiny new "American Eagle" jets.

    Good luck everybody.

    - C

  4. Blogs like this, forums, countless hours of research, and agonizing led me to never take on another dime of debt for flight training. Once I get some money saved, I'm going to continue my ratings at a nice large towered flight school (not a big name school), with good rental rates, a few multi's, and a credit card I get points on (paid off in full every month). Since I work a day job, this is very doable.. If more people took this route, management wouldn't have anyone left to abuse. With 0 debt, I can walk away from any bad situation. Thank you for your insight and honesty.. It really helps out a lot of people. This advice can apply to any career field.. If you are out of debt and keep your obligations to a minimum, they have almost no power over you. Ultimately your risk tolerance goes way up (to take chances with other jobs, companies, whatever), and hopefully the rewards can go up along with it! I hope everything works out for you.. you deserve it.. Hang in there, hopefully once this tornado passes, things get better for everyone.


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