Airline Labor: Tougher Tactics to Come?

By Robert Mark on January 16th, 2009

I have the good fortune to be one of the aviation resources some media folks call upon to translate complex aviation babble into language even my 14-year old daughter can understand. We don’t have too many good-news stories in the airline industry these days and certainly never any that connect large airplanes and water in the same sentence. Yesterday the planets aligned for just a few minutes though as the crew of US Airways Flight 1549 succeeded at the near impossible task of a dead-stick landing in an Airbus A 320 into the Hudson River. All aboard survived with only a few injuries.

CNN Much of my time yesterday and today has been spent with the folks at CNN Headline News, Fox TV News, NBC and the Fox Radio network explaining the intricacies of flying to their listeners and there have been dozens of great questions generated. Much of the time when I wasn’t on camera or on hold, I was able to listen in as the producers and the on-air talent worked their magic coordinating resources to turn in a smooth as silk media product.

During one of the calls yesterday, a flight attendant called the CNN folks and I listened closely. A few moments earlier another cabin crewmember had explained the annual training flight attendants are required to complete so I expected something along those lines. Fox

Rather than mention anything about flying, this lady read what was obviously a prepared statement in which she took airline CEO’s to task for accepting huge salaries in the face of staggering industry loses and tens of thousands of layoffs. Referencing the US Airways’ crash, she made it clear that rank-and-file workers were the people out there putting their lives on the line, not the CEOs. They deserve to be fairly treated the lady said and workers had had enough. Then she hung up. What a contrast to the brilliant piloting and cabin organization skills we’d just been talking about, I thought.

The CNN anchorman handled the call in stride, but it was obviously the fist of labor had been raised. I just read a news release that said the Transport Workers Union negotiators had simply walked out of talks with American Airlines Eagle unit in frustration and filed for federal mediation. Of course there is the on-going chaos of the air traffic controller dispute with the FAA.

I thought back to a news release sent out by the Air Line Pilots Association President John Prater to take back the profession from CEO’s who believe workers should carry the burden for management failures.

Now that we are about to install a new president in the White House, a man who most believe will be more pro-labor than George Bush, word on the street is that the tough economy will force even Barack Obama to back down on traditional Democratic support for labor. I can’t wait to see how the first few months evolves. I wonder who is going to be in for more surprises, labor or management.


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6 Responses to “Airline Labor: Tougher Tactics to Come?”

  1. Ken Lumetta Says:

    What a great story as opposed to the tragedy this might well have been. I salute all those professional’s that played their heroic parts big and small. It took every single act to achieve this outcome. Act’s I might add played out by union workers! When United we Stand, Greatness is Achieved! As an Air Traffic Controller of 20 some years I’m not looking to our new president for a raise or for back pay all I want is to once again be treated as a Professional and not a slave.

  2. jeff Martin Says:

    “I cant wait to see how the first few months evolves. I wonder who is going to be in for more surprises, labor or management.”

    Mr Marks, I couldn’t agree more. Definitely some exciting/scary times ahead.

  3. Robert Mark Says:

    Interesting points Ken.

    I never did understand how the people who came up through the system were never bright enough to realize that when they became supervisors, they truly had a chance to treat people differently than they had been treated when they were working airplanes.

    And now, since these work rules were jammed down people’s throats, the sups do look like they must have been training with whips for some time before this all went down.

  4. KIBBLES Says:


  5. Robert Mark Says:

    I’m sorry if anyone thinks less of me, but this is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. “Were the birds delivering drugs?”

    Still laughing. I used to think the agency was goofy when I worked for them, but this is tops.

    Maybe your friends have a few more.

  6. Randy R Cox Says:

    I never miss an opportunity to remind labor of its greatest potential tool, yet it is seldom used.

    The complaint is valid, but no one cares. It is a poor tool to use.

    Better is the rules strike. The airlines, and every industry guilty of rewarding heavy to the top at the expense of labor make more rules than can be followed.

    Labor should take the time to follow to the letter every rule in the book, law, memo or verbal order to the tee. To do this is to get paid to slow things down to a crawl.

    The company never likes to talk about the employees suddenly following the rules that are usually ignored.

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