As in another post created earlier, I want to add and address the problems we as pilots face in my opinion. I don’t want to steal the spotlight from “partypilot1” post of Plane Reality so here is the original link. I’m just clarifying the debate with my own opinions.
The long, dark walk on the airline conveyer belt.
I believe that many pilots, new or old, will either agree or disagree with my views, and hopefully will share their views about the problems facing our industry. I’m trying to figure out why there has been a constant decrease in the quality of life among our pilots, along with a never ending assumption that we should work for lower wages. (Especially to new hires, experienced or inexperienced) Basically, I’m looking for opinions on why it seems our industry has become a long, dark walk down on a conveyer belt. (my view of just waiting in line on the conveyer belt, unable to change the direction or speed which our career moves)
Problem # 1: We have too many candidates for the same job.
When there are too many “quality” prospective candidates, companies normally will pay higher amounts to attract the most profitable candidates, thus creating a better return on the investment. This is somewhat similar if you think of the abundant amount of attorneys in the market. Positions are created so that a law firm will bring in a well qualified candidate and expect a better return out of that candidate. A newer, inexperienced candidate would be willing to work for less, but a low qualifying (lower paid) candidate would not create the same returns for that position, so a company is better off paying more for the better, more qualified employee.
The airline problem: Our jobs are basically equal. There is no incentive created by the company for me to work harder and produce better results than the next candidate. Truth of the matter is that as long as I show up and don’t do anything to get myself fired, I create the same revenue for the company as will the next candidate. Basically, the company has no incentive to attract candidates who will work harder and demand higher pay. (The interview process will weed out the candidates who wouldn’t be able to work out to
Problem #2: Incentives to remain at the same company year after year.
At any company, we should expect to receive a higher compensations and a better quality of life the longer we have been faithful to our company. Why? Because we can create a demand to be compensated more. If we become more productive and bring higher gains to the company as we gain more experience, shouldn’t they want us to stay and continue to bring in the increased gains? If we don’t stay productive, shouldn’t they want to remove or demote us? The longer we stay faithful and productive for the company, the bigger the bargaining chip we create to be treated in a fair way like we demand. Our bargaining chip we have is the possibility we can quit and work for company x. We create the demands for us to be treated and compensated fairly by knowing what is available to us if we give our productivity and experience to the other side of the fence. This is basically true in any skilled profession. Attorneys, accountants, consultants, teachers, skilled construction workers, truck drivers, the list goes on, all have the ability to get treated differently or better at another company when their experience and past productivity is valuable.
The airline problem … Basically, we live by one rule only. Seniority. Everything that will determine our compensations, our quality of life, even our egos is based on seniority. We have to make a decision that as soon as I get on the conveyer belt of a particular airline, everything I’m now worth in experience is my seniority number. It doesn’t matter what previous experience I can bring to the table, I’m not getting the better routes, the better pay, or even more responsibility until my number is called. This means there is motivation to work to only to the lowest denominator, since I will get fired if I don’t work to that level, and I wont get compensated any more if I work harder than that level. I don’t have that bargaining mentioned before. My experience has no value to another company expect that I may get an interview to be able to get on the end of their conveyer belt. The longer I work for a company will creates no incentives to pay me higher in management’s eyes, since I they know the longer I am there, the more likely I will not leave and start on the end somewhere else. This actually gives management a bargaining chip. They know I probably won’t leave, and during hard times for the company, I would be willing to give up my pay or quality of life just to protect the years I’ve invested in the company. Take the recent united bankruptcy. These pilots knew they were up against the wall when bad times came, and generally knew they all would have to sacrifice to help protect the company.
The airline industry as a whole knows that they can easily cut wages since most pilots with many years invested did not like the idea of losing everything, and now having to start in the end of another’ company conveyer belt. This isn’t the case with all industries. Take skilled working positions in the other industry’s bankruptcies. Excluding the chiefs that usually create a safe exit, most employees will either lose their jobs, or take large pay cuts to help sacrifice for the good of the company. The now unemployed or unhappy workers have experience to bring and make lateral shifts to other positions, meaning they don’t necessary have to go to the back of the line in their next job.
Problem # 3: Non - Universal Pay Scales
In most industries, pay is related to your productivity and responsibilities. The reason managers make more than their subordinates is they are ultimately responsible for the outcome of the total picture. If you are a waiter, you generally will make less than the mangers, which are responsible to keep the system productive. You as the waiter have the privilege to place that responsibility on the manager when abnormal situations arise, for instance customers who are unhappy with food service, taste of the food, or just the general atmosphere. Generally we wouldn’t go crying for help to the managers, but the industry relies on the managers to use their experience to resolve these problems.
In the airlines, a similar scenario is created when abnormal weather is encountered, or mechanical problems exist. We are trained equally to handle these situations, but ultimately, the best experience will provide the most favorable results. The captain, who is PIC and is paid higher amounts to be the one responsible to resolve this, should take charge, right? Everyone can remember when they were FO’s that this isn’t always the case. A few CRM problems of course exist, but isn’t this basically the higher paid, higher qualified manager stepping in to resolve the problem at the restaurant? Don’t we place faith in the PIC to keep the system productive? I view that most of the time, FO’s share similar responsibilities, similar work loads, and are not easily capable of relying on the “manager”, the captain, to resolve the problem.
This brings up my final point. How much should we as pilots be compensated for our work? $25,000 $50,000, $100,000? Should a pilot flying an older, more complex aircraft be paid more or less than a pilot of an aircraft with newer, more automated systems? Could the pilot industry as a whole been inflated in the past? Are there any solutions to these problems?
I’m up for as much feedback on these views, and again apologize for posting generally the same topic again. Based on how long this message is, you can see how strong of opinions I have on this discussion.