By December 27, 2004 Read More →

Notes On A Nutty Year

2004 was a year of peril for the airlines, that’s for sure. Bankruptcies. Liquidations. Kate Spade uniforms on Song. There were fare wars, air rage, security tensions, body-cavity searches (oops, I’m getting a little ahead of myself—that’s 2005), and of course the omnipresent “job actions.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I think everyone is entitled to a fair wage, and that unions have a very prominent, important and useful place in our workforce. But, for those who support these “job actions,” I have one question: Are you nuts?

Should airline workers be concentrating on getting the airlines back in shape and flying? Considering what happened at US Airways last weekend, I think everyone knows the answer.

I realize most unionized employees are long-timers earning a very decent wage along with some pretty decent benefits. No one likes to see something taken away from them. I don’t either, but you don’t see me griping about the 84 percent drop in my travel agency business I saw after 9/11.

In just a few years, most of the legacy carriers have gone from mismanaged but profitable to mismanaged and bankrupt, thanks to a flat economy and competition from low-cost rivals. Tough decisions need to be made by their chiefs.

All the G bosses (and why is it that the bulk of the airline CEOs names’ begin with the letter G?) are trying to salvage a company (and jobs) from a mess left to them by Don, Leo, Steve, and James. Believe me, they do not want to do it. But it needs to be done, and it will hurt.

But let’s look at some facts and some alternatives.

I hate to pick on US Airways, but as we all know it is in its second bankruptcy in as many years and emergence, to some, is unlikely. The airline is walking on a circus high wire and the slightest loss of balance will send it plummeting to the ground.

US Airways flight attendants decide that enough is enough and they’re not going to take any more cuts. They threaten a job action.

Everyone agrees that any job action on US Airways, or United for that matter, will probably push them into liquidation right away. What does liquidation mean? No planes, no meals, no baggage, no tickets, no passengers, and no employees.

But the flight attendants want to make their point and take a stand.

Point taken. So now they need to look to their future unemployment. Yes, unemployment. Striking workers will ultimately be fired and replaced (remember PATCO) or they will be unemployed. Strike Funds are limited and in high demand.

Once depleted, what are the options? Airlines are not hiring. Related industries are not hiring. Career changes are difficult, at best, for older workers. Besides, most employers see a job action as an act of disloyalty and would prefer that the “headache” be someone else’s.

So, after all is said and done, the strike pay and the unemployment payments have been exhausted. Candidates are fighting for every last penny in a highly competitive job market. Former airline employees are simply unemployable.

It is a tough world out there and the flight attendants may just be living in the ivory towers with rose-colored windows alongside their CEOs.

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