Sully lays into airline management in Congressional hearing

US1549 Captain Chesley B. “Sully“ Sullenberger III has launched a remarkable attack on the airline industry in his prepared remarks before the House Aviation Sub-Commitee. Sully, a member of USAPA, says over the years he has had to take a 40% pay cut as a pilot and see his pension rights slashed. And his “decision to stay in my profession has come at great financial cost to myself and my family”.

Sully points out that when US Airways invited furloughed pilots to come back to their jobs, 60% declined.

“I don’t know a single pilot who wants his son or daughter to follow in his or her footsteps,” he says.

First officer Jeffrey Skiles, who I think is an ALPA member, has followed that up with much the same sort of thing, noting that he’s now earning about half of what he used to earn and likewise has seen his pension rights damaged.

Both men called on the politicians to help the pilot workforce.

Wow! Wonder what they’re thinking at the Air Transport Association.

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4 Responses to Sully lays into airline management in Congressional hearing

  1. malcontent February 25, 2009 at 1:26 am #

    This guy is a hero, no doubt about it.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that he has an objective, or even realistic, grasp on the issues facing the industry.

    Airlines are operating in the midst of an unprecedented drop in demand. The savings from oil dropping so far have been eclipsed by people shutting their wallets and cutting off discretionary items like travel.

    The pay cuts are deeply unfortunate but airlines need to stay competitive like any other business.

  2. ubermalcontent February 26, 2009 at 3:02 am #

    Right. The airlines are hurting? Lets take United Airlines as an example: UAL is only hurting because it paid an unnecessary $1/2Billion to Citibank (a debt holder) in order to pay it’s shareholders a completely ridiculous $250M dividend early in 2008 (but wait, isn’t Glenn Tilton, CEO, also the largest private shareholder of UAL stock? Makes more sense now).

    UAL also recently purged it’s coffers of another $750M in the fourth quarter for it’s incredibly savvy work on fuel hedging. And more losses from hedging to follow in 2009. Still, the CFO says “our cash position is strong.”

    With oil at $40/barrel, the airlines who know how to operate an airline should be literally minting their own money. Even with the downturn in ridership, the industry has already reduced capacity (and furloughed employees) to adjust. The loads I’ve seen of late are nearly full to oversold.

    The time for payback to the working class at the airlines is LONG overdue. Tell the CEO’s they can work for a buck. Tell the flying public that they will have to pay more than 200 bucks to fly across an ocean at 500 mph. The unionized labor that runs one of the safest worldwide transportation operations in existence deserves a few more pounds in their pay buckets.

    Sully got it right.

  3. James A. Schmitt February 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    As a retired TWA Captain (1983 – back in the really good times) I have watched in horror as the airlines have carried MOST OF THE BURDEN of our international foibles. Back in the early 70s we parked our cars in long lines for gasoline and I moved back to copilot because we were talked out of our sale of refueling aircraft to Saudi Arabia by our ally Israel. The Saudis got some of their revenge on us right then, and they hit us again on 9-11 with the great majority of ‘suicide pilots’ being Saudis. Its criminal that the first officer on many feeder airlines today has been – and will be – supported by food stamps with his $10,000 yearly pay. I started out at $400/month in 1956 but I understood that a decent salary would come in two years. I retired at $8,000 per month as a 707 captain, which was a good incentive for many of my peers to push their kids into the profession. Today one does not need to get his hands cold or stick his neck out on an icy, snowy night, with 100 people counting on him for their immediate futures, to earn that kind of money. Our future travelers must decide either to fly in drones or pay the price for a decent at-least-2-man cockpit crew. We already sold our flight engineer for about $5 a ticket….

  4. Kieran Daly March 1, 2009 at 2:18 pm #

    I take the point about Sully not necessarily not being an expert on airlines’ business difficulties – but they’ve had at least two decades to do something about it and have failed repeatedly.

    And I do find it pretty horrifying what US regional pilots earn. Fact is that it’s a tribute to these folks’ love of aviation that they do it at all. Sully may have achieved something if he puts the spotlight on that at the very least.

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