3 Links I Love: American Adds Profit Sharing, Baltia’s Domestic Plans, Alaska’s Electronic Bag Tag

This week’s featured link:
AA Announces New Profit Sharing PlanAmerican Airlines
American announced this week that it was finally giving in and starting to offer profit-sharing to employees. Everyone outside of top managers will get a share of 5 percent of pre-tax profits (the plan that was in place before). In addition, American is giving its flight attendants a 6 percent raise. Both of these should make employees very happy, though I’m sure there will be some people who find a way to bitch about more money in their pockets. (“It’s not as much as Delta gives, so this sucks.”)

The link above goes to the letter written jointly by American’s President and CEO. (It was already published on that union site, so I just linked there instead of uploading myself.) In it, Doug Parker admits that he got this wrong before.

By eliminating profit sharing in exchange for higher base pay rates, we inadvertently have eliminated some of our shared sense of teamwork – and that was never our intent.

This is certainly a turn of events since for more than a year the airline has been pushing very hard on the idea that profit sharing is only for companies that can’t afford to pay fair wages. The timing of that message was all wrong, however, because Delta and others were raking in big bucks and sharing it with employees. It’ll be a different story when the airlines are all losing money and people get nothing. But American says this is just a sweetener on top of existing pay in order to help build that teamwork again.

Back at the end of 2014, I said American should have offered profit sharing originally, but once it dug in its heels, it no longer could. In that, I was specifically referring to that round of contract negotiations. Now that most of the contracts have been negotiated (and certainly the highest profile ones have), American can go back and offer this to everyone without causing any issues between workgroups. Unions still need to accept this, but they’d be nuts if they didn’t. There is no downside, and it’s what they’ve been clamoring for all along.

As for the flight attendant raise, American is offering 6 percent now, because it says the flight attendants shouldn’t have to wait for United flight attendants to get their act together and come to a joint agreement. See, the American flight attendant deal had built in a one-time adjustment that would bring American’s wages up to the average of Delta and United wages, once United agreed on a joint contract. But United’s flight attendants are deep in the mud and aren’t likely to get a deal soon, so American has decided to just give 6 percent now. If the United attendants get some amazing deal, then American will bring it up as per the original agreement. If the United attendants get a bad deal, American won’t adjust down. This is good news all around for the American flight attendants.

I continue to be amazed at the increases that airlines keep pushing out to employees. I can’t help but wonder if it’s too much. Times are good now, but we have no idea what they’ll look like during the next downturn. Maybe I just spent too much time watching cost-cutting moves during the first, lost decade of this millennium. They say the industry is different now, and I agree with that. I’m just not sure if it’s different enough so that when the next downturn comes, people won’t have to see wages cut again. Hopefully my caution is all wrong, and these new rates are totally sustainable through thick and thin. I do think this sends a very strong message from management that they are taking employee happiness seriously. And if they make a mistake, they’ll own up to it. So there is a tremendous positive here without question.

For now, if I were an American employee, I’d be celebrating.

Links I Love

Two for the road:
Baltia Considering Domestic OperationsWandering Aramean
This should have been an April Fools Day joke. Baltia wants to fly from Baltimore to Islip, Albany, and Trenton. Apparently it’s not. The cherry on top of this is how the letter was addressed “Dear Mr Arameans.” Oh it’s so good.

Always innovating: Alaska testing electronic bag tagsAlaska Airlines Blog
Pretty cool innovation coming out of Alaska. I think this is the first US airline to try this. Basically, you get a bag tag that looks like it has a little Kindle screen on it. You flip it on and check in. Then the tag image will auto-populate. Go to the airport, someone scans it to activate it, and your bag is on its way. Each tag will last for two years. Pretty cool.

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