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Magenta Line July 30, 2009

CAL EWR B737

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The Magenta Line for Thursday, July 30, 2009
ALPA: The Pilots Union



“I’ve been around this industry for a long time and there aren’t any examples of confrontational labor tactics providing long-term benefits to any pilot group...” - Captain Fred Abbott in the July 2009 issue of the Flight Operations Update.

Maybe your long-suffering pilots are just tired of being abused, Fred, and we like the idea of confronting you.


Today is Thursday, July 30, 2009 and there are 12 items for discussion.


Item 1: Fuel Hedging: The Gift That Keeps on Taking

$4.00 fuel may be a distant memory—like last year’s “best staffed summer ever”—but while the spot price of fuel may have dropped, we carry the pain and cost forward—just like this year’s “best staffed summer ever”.

Due to the magnificent planning and market savvy of our fuel hedging department under the steady hand of, well, let’s just call him Mr. Fuel-Hedge-Manager-Guy, we paid an additional 49 cents a gallon premium for the 358 million gallons of fuel Continental Airlines bought during the second quarter of 2009. This additional 175 million dollar expense was the difference between a second-quarter operating profit of 21 million dollars and the 154 million dollar loss we reported instead.

To be fair, Mr. Fuel-Hedge-Manager-Guy isn’t the only incompetent occupying a nice office down on Smith Street. There is no “I” in TEAM and it takes quite a team to turn the best, and most consistently profitable domestic airline “From First to Worst”—and their work is now complete.

Under our current TEAM, led by “Lame Duck” Larry Kellner, we finished the second quarter of 2009 with the WORST operating margin of the five remaining legacy airlines, toting up an amazing -4.9% operating loss. USAirways, the airline we love to point at and giggle, came in on top with a +4.6% operating profit. Mr. Kellner, who will soon be gone with more millions of our money and a special Award for Lifetime Achievement, couldn’t even beat USAirways despite having the second cheapest pilot costs among the major airlines. We sure would not like that on our tombstones.

But getting back to Mr. Fuel-Hedge-Manager-Guy, we cannot think of any other single person at Continental Airlines directly involved in the loss of hundreds of millions of our dollars. In addition to Mr. Fuel-Hedge-Manager-Guy’s fuel-hedging fling—which has cost us 442 million dollars since the beginning of 2008—our understanding is that he also bears responsibility for our spectacular “A” Fund losses; he supposedly sits on the retirement investment committee who oversaw the loss of about half of our “A” Fund. We can only imagine the conference calls that went on among the committee members as the stock market slid into the abyss:

“So, you back from lunch yet?”

“Nah, I’m on my third martini—probably take the rest of the afternoon off. You?”

“I was thinking about getting a manicure but maybe I’ll get the Beemer waxed instead."

“I got the Porsche done yesterday—maybe I’ll go buy a new suit. I saw this gorgeous Armani at Neiman’s.”

“I think the Armani cut makes me look fat.”

“Nah, you don’t look fat—maybe what you need is wider collars.”

“Maybe. Speaking of collars, did you see that heating oil collar I bought last week go straight into the tank? Jeez—I never saw that coming. Fuel’s gonna cost us about 10 bucks a gallon if I keep it up.”

“Yeah, well, you know what they say: ‘Bonuses all around!’—so, market’s down about 1500 today.”

“Think we should do anything?”

“Yeah—I think I’ll have another martini.”

Honestly, we look at each other, puzzlement on our faces, and wonder: how can people who collectively lose HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS over a period of a few years still be employed here and still be entrusted with even more money? It’s truly a mystery for the ages.

The pilots of Continental Airlines have given everything we possibly could—and beyond. We have sacrificed our pay rates, our retirement, our work rules, our family life, our vacations, our days off—and our health—and sometimes our lives. We train on days off, we fly two duty periods in one day, we work long overseas flights with no IRO safety-net—and we awake to the news that mismanagement has cost us another 442 million dollars—and we know that another demand for concessions will shortly follow.

Our message to management: you aren’t getting another DIME from us. If you can pay for 442 million dollars in fuel-hedging losses, then you can pay us. And you will.
 

CAL EWR B737

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Item 2: Safety Takes Its Place at Continental: Non-Reclining Middle Seat, Last Row of Coach, Next to the Lavatory

What do Frank Lorenzo, the U.S. Congress, and Gulfstream International Airlines have in common with Continental? It’s a tangled story but we’ll unravel the knotty ball of yarn.

The Colgan Airways crash in Buffalo set a wheel in motion and, as is usually the case, the wheel goes ‘round and returns to where it started.

Let’s begin with the latest quote from “a Continental spokeswoman”. From an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, published Tuesday, July 28, 2009: “Continental and its regional carriers say their planes are safe and their training thorough. A Continental spokeswoman declined to comment specifically about its affiliates but said safety is Continental's top priority ‘and we expect the same from our regional partners’."

FAA Seeks Rapid Overhaul of Rules That Govern Pilot Training and Scheduling For Regional Airlines

Really? That must be why we get double-pumped on reserve, rest in coach seats, have no IRO on most trans-Atlantic flights—and allow a carrier like Gulfstream to carry our passengers.

Gulfstream is a flight school. At least, that’s what they say here:

Gulfstream Training Academy

According to their website: “Gulfstream Training Academy’s First Officer Program offers airline bound aviation professionals training and experience at an actual airline flying real flights for Gulfstream International Airlines in only 3 months for commercial pilot certificate holders or as few as 6 months for zero time pilots.”

Guess which “real flights” Gulfstream International Airlines is talking about when they brag to their prospective students that they can be flying real passengers in only 3 months? Yes, Continental Airlines, for whom safety is the “top priority”, allows our passengers to be flown by crews where one half of the cockpit is occupied by student pilots with as little as 3 months experience.

The wheel turns a bit more. Enter the U.S. Congress and their hearings after the Buffalo crash:

“Regional airlines' training programs are clearly inadequate. It’s unacceptable for flight academies, such as Florida-based Gulfstream academy, to advertise they can train amateur pilots who have aspirations to fly for a major carrier in only three months and for as much as $30,000 in tuition. Passengers deserve only the very best trained pilots and I commend Secretary LaHood and Administrator Babbitt for recently ordering FAA inspectors to ensure regional carrier training programs are complying with federal regulations. We must demand that all pilots receive extensive and thorough training as well as enforce the highest standards for the regional carrier industry. “

“Most recently, a FAA investigation accused Florida-based Gulf Stream Airlines of overworking their pilots and breaking aircraft maintenance rules. Former pilots reported seeing parts fall off of the planes and that records were changed or erased. I was appalled to learn further that the airline installed unapproved air-conditioner compressors. These types of practices must come to an end and regional airlines must be held accountable for their negligence. I think we’ve only scratched the surface of anything goes and safety is second to profit.” – Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, June 11, 2009.

As you might imagine, Gulfstream started to get a little crispy around the edges under the hot light of bad press after these Congressional hearings. The wheel turns a little more and they find a real PR expert; someone who has years of experience trying to counter horrible PR—Bruce Hicks of the Alliant Group. Bruce Hicks, Bruce Hicks—where have we heard that name before? Oh, yes. Bruce Hicks—former PR flack for Frank Lorenzo during Frank’s glory years tearing up Texas International, New York Air, People Express and Frontier. How he missed out on the Eastern Airlines fun, we’re not sure, but Mr. Hicks is right out there in front of Gulfstream explaining away the “3 months to fly live passengers”-thing. There’s a joke in there somewhere but it’s pretty tasteless so we’ll leave it to Gulfstream to deliver it.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the story here:

Continental Airlines' Regional Carrier Gulfstream Accused of Overworking Pilots, Breaking Maintenance Rules

The wheel continues to circle and it’s almost back where it started. The end of the circle is this: what do Gulfstream Training Academy, the Captain of Colgan 3407, and Continental Airlines have in common? Gulfstream “trained” the Captain, and Continental Airlines allowed him to fly our passengers.

FAA Probes Trainer of Commuter Pilots

There are no more glory years ahead for the airline industry. The days of the beautiful sounds of radial engines and real turbojets at full roar, first-class service in coach, and the elegant ambiance that was airline travel are long gone. Today, the Lorenzos, the Kellners, the rest of the names, both well-known and obscure, have robbed everything they could from us—and then came around for seconds and thirds. They have picked the carcass clean, they have cut the fat, the muscle, the bone—and have come out the other side with an amputation. At the end of the day, all that is left over, they take for themselves. They cheat the stockholders by their mismanagement, they take from the employees via subterfuge, threats, phony furloughs, and various other strong-arm tactics, and they give away our product for far less than it costs to produce—and then add fee upon fee—and still cannot make a profit.

Al Feldman, hand-picked by Bob Six to run Continental at the end of Six’s 42-year reign, committed suicide rather than lose his airline to Frank Lorenzo. He could not bear the thought of Continental falling into such dirty hands. The day after his death, a spokesman for Texas International Airlines said, “I assume that, since we have been pursuing the acquisition all along, I don't know as that would be changed”. The spokesman? Bruce Hicks.

Continental Without Its Chief

Bob Six, Al Feldman—they were from another era, an era of running an airline for profit, for paying fair wages, an era where the CEO did not, even in the best of times, take compensation hundreds of times more than what a top Captain made. What would the pioneers say about today’s fallow crop of executives? Few words, likely—and none of them complimentary.
 

CAL EWR B737

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Item 3: This Just In

Sure, we get letters. Some are even worth posting. We got this a few days ago. The author has requested anonymity but if his name became known, management would shi—uh, they’d be upset. We will leave it at that. Enjoy:

“’Because they are so intent on creating an atmosphere of distrust and unhappiness, they appear not to see any need to rely on facts...’” - Captain Fred Abbott in the July 2009 issue of the Flight Operations Update, apparently referring to your EWR Council 170 representatives.

“I have to start out this email by offering ‘Thanks’ to The Magenta Line for, without them, I would never have seen the above statement. You see, like many of my peers, I throw any communication from Fred Abbott in the trash without reading it and have done so since Contract ‘02. I have also refused to sign up for their ‘bonus enhancing’ electronic documents. I want hard copies of everything because I distrust them so much, I know that electronic records can ‘conveniently disappear’ in the blink of an eye when it comes time for management to back-pedal in an effort to wring more blood cells from the pilots. Fred's statement has caused me to both ‘laugh out loud’ and ‘stew in anger’. I can call you Fred can't I? Well of course I can, because we are all friends and happy aren't we? It's those EWR Reps that are the enemy. Yeah, right! How can any single manager be so disconnected from the reality of the mood of this pilot group and who and what has brought us to this point? ‘Note to Fred’ and all his friends---The Magenta Line could not exist unless the content was based upon Flight Operations supplied fodder. Period, end of story. Need proof? Go back in history and see how many times Council Reps have been recalled when their communications and direction was not in step with what the pilot group wanted. Anybody here anyone clamoring for the heads of Jason, Tara, and Kaye? I didn't think so. They are doing exactly what we want them to do and the only clamoring heard is when ‘The Magenta Line’ is late coming to press! Write your EWR Reps and tell them how much you approve and how much we have needed them for so long.

“Does Fred think the EWR Reps made up the following:

“1. The merciless management onslaught on CA Kent Klinghagen for insisting on his contractual right in Rome when the entire crew's rest seat was ‘stolen’ from them by some management dupe downtown. I don't remember the dupe's name and don't care enough to spend the time to look it up. He's probably at Delta now anyway. I do remember CA Klinghagen's name and have immense respect for the stand of honor he took on behalf of his crew. We need MANY more like you Kent.

“2. The ridiculous action taken by ‘Wedding Crasher Fred Stankovich’ against the ‘Voyaging’ Narita crew whose only crime was to want to fill out the health declaration of the Sovereign Nation of Japan with honesty and integrity. They also tried to inject common sense into a potentially costly situation for the airline they work for. Their reward? Their pay was seized and they were made to look like malcontents, according to management's playbook. Resistance is futile. Sorry Fred, not anymore---different demographics and they look promising!

“3. What about the young 756 FO who wore a ‘scarlet bracelet’ with pride? I doubt she would have worn it, had there not been distrust of management that had been brewing long before our current EWR Reps came on the scene. Management must be really thankful to have Captains who are in their bully pulpit pick a fight with their FO's .They didn't have to do a thing to have this CA hand them her head on a platter. I didn't even mention management's subsequent treatment of her. Does the pay seizing-thing ring a bell?

“These are but three factual incidents that cannot be disputed by all those that reside in the woefully outdated land of ‘FredRock.’ There are many more that I just don't have time or room to list. All of us have a scheduling story or some other event. Fishing Boondoggles, ‘no contractual obligation to pay the lump sum’, etc, etc. So you see—Jason, Tara and Kaye are not creating seeds of distrust, they are simply reporting facts. They are doing exactly what we want them to do and they are doing it so well that the people who have had the monopoly on ‘dishing it out’ simply ‘can't take it’ because they don't enjoy that monopoly anymore. Maybe a flashback to their daily 4th grade trouncing on the playground has them upset.

“Perhaps Fred should have worded his statement more like: ‘The EWR Reps are intent on factually reporting the DISGUSTING ACTS and Lapses of Honor of a few out of touch managers.’ That few would be YOU and your friends Fred!

“Final note and my pent up diatribe will end. We've seen it before and we're not falling for it this time.

“Fraternally submitted,

“Anonymous pilot that could be any pilot at any given time on any given day AND in any given base.”


Item 4: Management Hunts the Elusive Cut—Looks in All the Wrong Places

While management looks high (not really; they never look to cut anything from themselves) and low (us) for more and more cuts, we had a genius stroke! How about checking out flight operations itself? We know Captain Abbott’s staff-tree is ripe with sycophants—the “Friends of Fred” covers everything from former interns to former negotiating committee members. How about cutting some of this low-hanging fruit off at the stem? Surely we don’t need all those assistant chief pilots hanging around the coffeemaker discussing last night’s box scores. How about the APU police? They could be replaced with tags hanging from the APU start switches saying: “DO NOT USE UNLESS A GRIEVOUS EMERGENCY EXISTS—AND MAYBE NOT EVEN THEN!”


Item 5: It’s Really This Simple: Bid All of Your Vacation!

Vacation bidding will be upon us soon and we have a simple message: BID ALL OF IT!

We have pilots on furlough. If every pilot bid every week they were entitled to, most of our hostages could come home to us. Yes, you may have to put off your new bass boat another month but these are our brothers and sisters with families to care for and not bidding all of your vacation hurts them.

This is going to be a major issue this fall for your EWR LEC reps. An educational campaign is being created and it’s going to highlight both the problems caused by not bidding all of your vacation and the benefits to be gained by bidding it all.

Don’t be insensitive to our furloughees; BID IT ALL!


Item 6: Captain Abbott Makes His Once-in-a-Millennium Visit to EWR

Our stars must be aligning. Captain Abbott will actually leave his office on Smith Street and come to EWR. Yes, it’s true! And to make it better, he’s going to be there right after our already-scheduled EWR LC meeting on August 12th! Those of you who wish to join us after the meeting can walk with us over to the terminal and join in our salute to Captain Abbott—to be followed by a few questions.
 

CAL EWR B737

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Item 7: HELP! I Need Somebody! HELP! Not Just Anybody! HELP!

We have a great little committee—it’s headed up by Captain Marty Miller and his Vice Chair, Captain Tom Allnatt. It is designed to allow everyone out there the chance to tell us, as your representatives, what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to see changed, or who you want hanged this week. It’s called the HELP Committee (Hearing Every Line Pilot). The committee members are spread throughout all three fleets and both seats. You may have flown with one of the committee members. They are readily identified by their colorful ID badge hangers and their thousand questions.

If confronted by one of these committee members on one of your flights, it’s really best to just give them the answers they demand and keep your hands in plain sight. It’s for your protection.

Then, once the interrogation is complete, they will summarize their findings and pass them on to us for action. All joking aside, this is a great program, staffed by great people. We have gotten some really high-quality ideas and have learned some things that would otherwise not have seen the light of day.

If you fly with one of the committee members, you are under no obligation to participate but if you do, no record will be kept of your name or flight number. We just want to know what’s going on out there so that we can better represent you.


Item 8: Eye to Tie

A large segment of our pilot group bemoans our lowly standing among unionized carriers and often wonders aloud what we can do to fix this problem.

Sometimes the simplest things are best and one of the simplest is to wear the ALPA pin on your tie. Management does look at us and they keep a rough count. When you wear your pin, you are not swearing allegiance to John Prater or the ALPA bureaucracy—you are showing solidarity with your fellow pilots—some of whom are now on the street. The pin says, “I belong” and tells management that their days of dominance over us are finished.

This may be hard to believe but at many other ALPA carriers, you are a “slick-tie” at your own peril. These guys are shunned when they show up to fly without the pin.

It is our duty as union pilots to speak to our “slick-tied” friends and get them to see the error of their ways. This does not have to be difficult or uncomfortable—it can be a chat among friends—but, ultimately, it has to be done if we are to advance beyond the miserable garbage that passes for a contract here at Continental.

Put your differences with ALPA aside and wear the pin; it may be a baby-step—but it’s a baby-step on the way to the best contract ever.


Item 9: Continental Airlines Families For Change

Many of you remember Michelle Bixby, wife of IAH Captain John Bixby, and her knock-it-out-of-the-park speech at the June shareholder’s meeting. The seed she planted in Houston is now flowering in every other base and Michelle has set aside her duties to her family in answer to a call from the families of ALL Continental pilots.

Michelle, with Trish Riggs, wife of Council 170 Secretary-Treasurer Kaye Riggs, have founded the Continental Airlines Families For Change along with Lori Landburg, wife of IAH FO Brian Landburg, Janelle O’Connell, wife of IAH FO Bill O’Connell, and Casey Radican, wife of EWR FO Steve Radican. The purpose of their new organization is to reach out to all family members of all Continental pilots and to make them aware what a force they are in the coming battle for Contract ’08. The challenge of our new contract will be met and decided where thousands of similar challenges have been met and decided before: at the family kitchen table. This time, however, the families are not alone: they have an organization to back them up and help with their decisions.

Please help Michelle and Trish and every one of our families by supporting the CAFC.

Michelle may be reached at: michmb@sbcglobal.net or 281 304-6687.

Trish may be reached at flyguys@gvtc.com or 830 446-0000.

Also, Michelle and Trish are planning on attending the EWR Local Council meeting on August 12th. Together, they will discuss the CAFC and answer questions about participation in their organization and why the assistance of the family is vital to our contract goals.

They are also trying to attend the IAH crewroom meeting on August 5th with Fred Abbott but, so far, Fred has not responded to their requests for crewroom access.


Item 10: Request for Committee Volunteers

All of our committees need volunteers. If you are one of the many somewhat selfish and untested among us, if you are interested in committee work, if you have special artistic talents of any kind, or if you just like to chew the legs off your dining room table, we want you to help your fellow EWR pilots. If you are interested or have previously expressed interest via e-mail or a phone call, please confirm your continuing interest in an e-mail to Captain Kaye Riggs, Secretary-Treasurer, LEC 170 at kaye.riggs@alpa.org. Please put your name and the word “Volunteer” in the subject line.


Item 11: Next Meetings

Please join us at our next local council meeting scheduled for August 12, 2009, from 1100 to 1500 at the EWR Airport Marriott.

Our next MEC meeting has not yet been scheduled but should occur in October.
 

CAL EWR B737

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Item 12: Secretary-Treasurer’s Editorial

Where Did My Vacation Go?

My wife and I were sitting at the bar of the Islamorada Fish Company the other night eating dinner. We like to sit at the bar because, from there, we can stare up into a gigantic aquarium filled with beautiful tropical fish and dream about the days when we used to be able to afford vacations in such places where you’d actually see fish like this for real swimming all around you.

Trish started talking about her trips to Tahiti and how, back in the early 80’s, a hamburger was 9 bucks and a beer 11. This naturally led to a discussion about why it had been so long since we’d been anywhere on vacation. As most of you know, being a “modern” Continental pilot usually precludes such frivolities as vacations, new clothes, gas for the car, or food.

So we started hashing it out, vowing to save to go on another Alaskan cruise (my favorite) or maybe see if the hamburgers in Tahiti had kept pace with inflation and were now 327 dollars. We don’t use credit cards so, for us, it’s strictly pay-as-you-go.

We began ticking off the various reasons our vacation plans have for the past few years fallen by the wayside. Money is an obvious one but what about PBS and how it can sandwich your 7 day vacation between two non-commutable trips? What about vacation passes that do nothing to get you on a flight to your vacation even in a middle coach seat?

We finally realized that management does not want us to go on vacation. You know the old saying: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? Management likes keeping us as close as possible.

Back in the old days (a couple of years ago) any pilot could easily turn a week of vacation into 14 to 20 days off. And many of us did. It gave us that break from Continental management we needed to keep our sanity. It gave us time with our families, and even if we didn’t go anywhere, we at least had the option to. Now, not only can any of us rarely extend our week off, we sometimes don’t even get a week off for our week off. Think about this: how many days does a guy punching out Chryslers in the factory get off for a week of vacation? Answer: nine days—because he gets two weekends. We can get as little as five days after PBS drops a couple of stinkbombs on our line.

And what about getting there? OK, you’re lucky, you got more than your week, and you’re ready to go. Can you get on the plane? Can you ensure that the deposits you paid for your fab vacation in the sun won’t go to waste because you couldn’t get there? A couple of weeks ago Trish and I got an email from Continental reminding us that 2 of our vacation passes from several years ago were expiring and to make sure we used them by the end of the year. Really? Where should we go where the airplanes aren’t packed with passengers in their $99 seats? And why should vacation passes expire anyway? Someday, this may be a great place to work (although I’m not holding my breath) and I might like to use a couple of the passes I earned. Do Mr. Kellner’s passes expire? Oh, wait. He gets life-time positive-space first class passes. Forget I mentioned it.

And then the last key ingredient of any really good vacation: lots of money. We work for Continental, the airline with the lowest cost per block hour of any other airline except for USAirways (who reported an actual profit this last quarter even though their cockpit costs are just a couple of bucks under ours). To get the proper visual for this, think back to the days when you played the old board game “Monopoly”. Remember that guy on the “Chance” cards? Or maybe it was “Community Chest”—anyway, he’s the guy with the big mustache standing there with his pockets turned out—and they’re empty.

Continental has managed to turn our vacation into the perfect tri-fecta: No time to go, no way to get there, and no money to go with.

Better we should just stay home and water the lawn—as long as there aren’t any water-restrictions.

Oh, and don’t forget to bid all of your vacation. Maybe you’ll get lucky this year and get to use it.


As we close this week, please remember our 147 hostages and their families.


“What I and the other members of the flight ops team will do is try to learn from our mistakes...” -Captain Fred Abbott in the July 2009 issue of the Flight Operations Update.

As we have learned from you, Fred, some people just can’t learn.


Captain Jayson Baron, EWR Council 170 Chairman
jayson.baron@alpa.org

First Officer Tara Cook, EWR Council 170 Vice Chairman
tara.cook@alpa.org


Captain Kaye Riggs, EWR Council 170 Secretary-Treasurer
kaye.riggs@alpa.org
 

Ben Franklin

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Great read. Can you call IAH and tell them to send something out so that we know they're alive?

Here's some more info that might be worth talking about over a Lite beer or three.

$1 invested in CAL when LK joined is now worth about $0.57.

I'm going to start trying about 43% less at work now, maybe they'll give me $20,000,000 to leave after 14 years of that.


Sincerely,

B. Franklin
 
Last edited:

NuGuy

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Heyas,

These cats need to take their gig on the road. Entertaining with a purpose....

We could use some of that at nuDAL, instead of the bunker mentality we have now.

Nu
 

Ty Webb

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Very entertaining read, even for non-CAL pilots . . . Much of it is appropriate at AirTran, only the names are different.
 

Skippy

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total template for United as well just change some names and figures-- wish we had the cajones to put the magenta line in print for us. enjoy reading it, keep it up.

SKIPPY
 

waveflyer

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Appropriate for the whole industry. A quick side for all of us that are frustrated w/ the bailout and stimulus- it's a democratic administration and congress that are addressing the concerns that we've had for years.
 

Sonny Crockett

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Enjoy reading this from the CAL Boys and Girls!


We are a little dry over here at UAL these days..........
 
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