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The long, dark walk on the airline conveyer belt

FlyingMan2005

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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.

FM2005
 

japhy

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Good post. Pretty much sums up our industry.

As far as the senority thing. We can thank ALPA for that. I think it was part of the foundation of the union when it was formed back in the 30's.
 

Mr. Jet 2005

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I agree...nice post, I somewhat think everyone shares simular views like these.

I knew I should have been a pro baseball player.
 

GravityHater

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Does not the health of the industry itself affect pilots' success?
Seems like with deregulation, 9-11, skyrocketting fuel costs, the burden of 'security concerns', the airlines have been hit with significant blows.... and this has translated into tougher times for pilots.. in addition to your very good points.
 

Maiko

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What about the guys fix them, not just the pilots!!! :(
Bottom line is that we have become the Greyhound in the air. Cheap tickets for all. Notice the type of pax onboard nowadays? Pretty scary if you ask me...put them back on the bus and raise ticket prices. I still like having service on a flight.
 
H

Halo_RJdriver

Maiko said:
What about the guys fix them, not just the pilots!!! :(
Bottom line is that we have become the Greyhound in the air. Cheap tickets for all. Notice the type of pax onboard nowadays? Pretty scary if you ask me...put them back on the bus and raise ticket prices. I still like having service on a flight.

NO DOUBT....about it!!!
 

Mr. Jet 2005

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So Flying Man, have you ended your long walk on the conveyer belt, or still waiting for an overhaul in the industry. The way I see it, the system is not fixable until the industry tries to trim everything down so much, then realizes it's too late, and chapter 11's fly everywhere.

Unfortunately, Ch. 11 works well to prevent disasters, helping struggling companies, but sometimes we must trim the excess fat and remove inefficient operations. United / U.S. Airlines is able to operate for years under the shield of bankruptcy, and therefore able to operate on smaller margins than the other big guys. If one of them were to fold, possibly liquidate, and no longer operate inefficiency, the industry would start improving. This is how other big industries remove excess fat from the market. Look at what ended up happening to the telecom industry. AT&T for years held the core communications industry, but times changed, other technology grew (cell phones), lower cost companies with low overhead stepped up with small operating costs and eventually pushed ATT out of the picture. They were eventually sold off into their individual units and bought by their competition. As cruel as it sounds, it actually helps the entire industry since now they remaining companies are on the same playing field.

Unfortunately in our industry, I believe with Flying Man’s view, all the pilots / FA’s, Mechs Will be on the street or merged (we know that gets ugly) and then their only option would be starting junior somewhere else, making peanuts again.
 

pilotyip

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Disagreed with #1 there is a growing pilot shortage at the entry level jobs, just look at the regionals hiring Capts off the street and redefining competitive hiring minimums. Flying is still a great career if you like to fly airplanes and hang around other people who like to fly airplanes. $100K/yr is doable for a high school grad before they reach their mid-30's. I know some that have done it in their late 20's
 

dueguard1

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pilotyip said:
Disagreed with #1 there is a growing pilot shortage at the entry level jobs, just look at the regionals hiring Capts off the street and redefining competitive hiring minimums. Flying is still a great career if you like to fly airplanes and hang around other people who like to fly airplanes. $100K/yr is doable for a high school grad before they reach their mid-30's. I know some that have done it in their late 20's

............Growing Pilot Shortage are You Serious......When You have factory Mills like Riddle, All ATP, and universities spitting these folks out like the plague, Not to mention thousands of furloughs.....I really don't feel to accomplished anymore when these overnight programs spit out pilots with ease to anyone who has 35k or more to spend!
 

T-prop

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dueguard1 said:
............Growing Pilot Shortage are You Serious......When You have factory Mills like Riddle, All ATP, and universities spitting these folks out like the plague, Not to mention thousands of furloughs.....I really don't feel to accomplished anymore when these overnight programs spit out pilots with ease to anyone who has 35k or more to spend!
Many of the pilot/puppy farms are $140,000 or more.

I don't agree with the idea that more quality candidates will raise wages, it's simply bass akwards. It's like saying that if there was more gas available price would go up. It's simple economics 101. He's definitely smokin crack with that idea.
 

FurloughedAgain

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Ask any of the major airline furloughees who went to work for a regional what the value of their experience is.

A 10,000 hour RJ "newhire" is no more valuable than a 350 hr academy wonderstick.

You want a real smack in the face? Start over at a regional, look at the kid next to you in class, and then realize that you've wasted the last 10 years of your life and gained nothing.
 

pilotyip

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True, there will never be a true shortage of pilots it is too fun to fly airplanes. However there is a growing shortage of grade A pilots, and the entry-level jobs are hiring grade B pilots that would not even have interviewed two years ago. I saw three regionals basically beg pilots to fill their classes at a recent Air Inc job Fair. No one was doing that two years ago.
 

RideTheWind

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pilotyip said:
I saw three regionals basically beg pilots to fill their classes at a recent Air Inc job Fair. No one was doing that two years ago.
Ya got me curious now pilotyip, which regionals?
 

logjammer

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True, there will never be a true shortage of pilots it is too fun to fly airplanes. However there is a growing shortage of grade A pilots, and the entry-level jobs are hiring grade B pilots that would not even have interviewed two years ago. I saw three regionals basically beg pilots to fill their classes at a recent Air Inc job Fair. No one was doing that two years ago.


I worry that this fact will drag even more folks into it, high school kiddies to career changers. No sittin' in a hot 152 teaching for 1,000 hours, or busting hump on frieght. Just school and right into the air-conditioned jet. They might even pay you to sit and learn.
 

Singlecoil

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japhy said:
Good post. Pretty much sums up our industry.

As far as the senority thing. We can thank ALPA for that. I think it was part of the foundation of the union when it was formed back in the 30's.
I used to think that seniority was in some ways a raw deal. Just think, if there wasn't a seniority system, upgrades would be based on merit, weaker pilots would end up working somewhere else, and hard work would be rewarded. Then I worked for Markair Express that had no seniority system. Cronyism at its finest was the result. The buddies of the Chief Pilot got the upgrades, pilots were hired off the street into the 1900, Dash-8, and Dash-7, while the 207 drivers were stuck out in the bush. I think this was the case back in the 30's as well, which is why ALPA took a stand on it.
To paraphrase Churchill, seniority is they worst system we have, except for all the rest.
 

100LL... Again!

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As pilots we ave no group like doctors or lawyers do to ensure that low-time newbies can't just slide right in.

Six months and 100K can just about turn anyone into a pilot.
 

Midnight Flyer

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Just look back to the old days when the airlines were new. The majority of the airline pilots getting hired were the ex military pilots with tons of experience. Thanks to pilot mills like Embry Riddle pumping out their riddlin kids, now there is a surplus of no experience airline applicants. This lowers the bar for everybody. It's all about supply and demand. The more future airline pilots being pumped out by these schools, the lower the airlines are willing to pay, because they know that there is always another applicant willing to work for $1000 per month. Now if supply ever dwindles down, management will be forced to raise pay and improve working conditions in order to attract pilot applicants.
 

pilotyip

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ain't that the truth singlecoil
 

climbhappy

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In a communist society all pilots would be paid the same.

Southwest started the the LCC model. Economic trends and a mature industry created the rest of the problem.

Where it ends is that until the FAA creates a minimum standard to be in the 121 airlines, we'll PFTers gobbling up wal mart wages until they get board and go back to flying a desk.

Throw in the commuting, and as a low paying job, it sucks.
 

airludy

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Its not rocket science, just simple supply and demand. I have a friend who is a nurse. Hospitals are so desperate for nurses they are offering $5000 signing bonuses up front and making 40k-50k a year to start. There are thousands of Top Guns out there that will fly for 18k a year.

Yes flying is fun, but come on. Fun isnt a reason to take a low paying job. If someone offered you 20k a year to play video games all day would you take it? No, you cant live on 20k a year. Sure it would be fun, but shouldnt I be more productive with my time? I dont think many pilots think about retirement. Just sit down one time and start doing the math. Figure we are going to live much longer due to improved health care. We have to retire at 60. Then figure in the crap pay and crap retirement most flying jobs give us.
 
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