Pilots on demos look impressive, but can still be plain wrong

APA protest 1.jpgPilots always look a stirring sight when they stage one of their occasional uniformed protests. And persuasive too – I mean those grey-templed, steely-eyed guys look as if they know what they’re talking about right? And they can actually fly airplanes – what’s not to be impressed by?

But that doesn’t mean they’re right. And the Allied Pilots Association (APA) at American Airlines is wrong when it opposes closer ties between BA and American. At BALPA in the UK they favour the moves, while naturally enough working to get job security written into any agreements.

You can see the APA’s arguments here (along with some nice edgy photos). But note that the bit they’re actually worried about is point one – regarding their jobs – they’re only human like the rest of us after all. Points two and three are, perfectly reasonably, all about attracting support from a wider political constituency.

The reduction in pilot numbers – current or future – as a result of anyIberia/BA/AA alliance will simply not be significant in the near-term,and I’m not even sure if it will be in the long term – if so it will bethe very long term.

What will significantly affect pilot numbers at American – tothe tune of hundreds of jobs – is loss of market share at Oneworldversus the other alliances. American pilots are currently on furloughbecause of that carrier’s current level of business success or lack ofsuccess. I’m not criticising American – and have previously made clear that I admire the company – but that’s a simple fact.

I have little doubt that the big three alliances, and possibly others,will eventually become the entity that the public does business withwhen it flies. Rather like the majors already are for their regionalaffiliates. And when that happens the APA’s interest lies firmly inbeing part of the strongest alliance.

I haven’t talked in detail to BALPA about their view but I have littledoubt it’s shaped by seeing the great Heathrow game played out in frontof their office window. From that perspective, the competitivepressures on BA, and the gigantic importance of the alliances, are alot clearer than in Fortress DFW.

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