US Airways Pilots Union Earns a Long Overdue Cranky Jackass Award For Using Safety as a Negotiation Tactic

Labor Relations, US Airways

I’ve written many times about the US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA), and it’s never been in a good light. This week, the group which represents the pilots at US Airways has once again topped itself by taking out a full page ad in USA Today talking about how US Airways is unsafe. Though there are other groups in the running, I think USAPA has demonstrated that it is the most ineffective, poorly run union group out there. For Cranky Jackass Awardthe misguided representation it provides its pilots, USAPA gets the Cranky Jackass award. This has been a long time coming.

You may already know the story. USAPA was created when the US Airways “East” (pre-merger US Airways) pilots didn’t like the seniority agreement that was decided upon in binding arbitration (yes, “binding” is apparently a loose term) with the US Airways “West” (pre-merger America West) pilots. So they marched off and voted in a new union, casting off the arbitration result. The West pilots didn’t like that (it’s been working its way through the courts), but they didn’t have the numbers to prevent the move. You can read more of the history here. In short, USAPA has done absolutely nothing good for its members, but it wrongly likes to blame US Airways management for its failings.

And that brings us to USAPA’s current strategy . . . try to burn down the company and apparently put all of its members out of a job.

The latest shameful tactic is the taking out of a full page ad in USA Today claiming that US Airways is unsafe. Let’s see. You work for an airline that pays your salary with revenue that comes in the door, and now you’re going to turn around and try to shut off that revenue by falsely claiming your airline is unsafe? Simply pathetic. It’s such a blatant negotiating tactic, but how will the general public react? That’s unclear, though this hasn’t received much press at all considering all the more important “real” news in the aviation world in the last week.

The ad itself used a single pilot incident that happened on June 16 to show the supposed danger of flying the airline. Apparently there was a flight scheduled to cross the Atlantic from Philly that evening and there were a couple of mechanical issues. There are some mechanical issues that aren’t considered crucial to be fixed, and that appears to be the case here, but the captain refused to fly the airplane and then, according to the union, she was escorted out of the airport by corporate security. The next crew refused to fly the airplane as well. Over the next couple hours, some maintenance work was done and the airplane went on its way with a third crew.

This is why the union says US Airways is an unsafe airline. It says the airline is intimidating its pilots and pushing them to fly even if it’s not safe. Then if they refuse, it has security remove them. Sounds bad, right? Too bad it’s a crock.

Now, regarding the mechanical incident itself, I don’t know whether the captain did the right thing by refusing to fly the airplane. I do know that the FAA found US Airways did nothing wrong. Here’s the statement:

The FAA manager assigned to the US Airways certificate reviewed the June 16, 2011 incident. The APU shutdown the aircraft experienced is a failure that pilots are well aware can happen and that they are trained to recognize. The battery apparently was depleted by attempts to restart the APU. Flying an aircraft with an inoperative APU is not an unusual event and normally poses no safety issues when proper limitations are applied. The Captain simply chose to exercise her pilot-in-command authority of not accepting an aircraft. Our information indicates that US Airways followed their approved MEL procedures, and all maintenance procedures were followed in accordance with the operator’s approved maintenance program. We found no violations of Federal Aviation Regulations.

That being said, if a captain doesn’t feel comfortable flying an airplane, then it’s his or her right to deny it. The problem arises when that privilege is abused just to delay or cancel flights without good reason. I’m not saying that happened here. I don’t know, and frankly, it’s not central to my point. I have no problem in theory with her walking away from the flight.

But why would security come escort the captain from the airport? USAPA wants you to believe it’s because she refused to fly the airplane. Not quite. According to US Airways, “the Captain was escorted out of the airport by corporate security (after being released from duty) not for her refusal to fly but for her comments made to customers regarding the safety of the aircraft.” Unfortunately, I don’t know details about what she said to the passengers, but it was apparently highly inappropriate. See more in this discussion. I would have had her carted off the airplane as well.

In reality, there is nothing pointing to US Airways being unsafe but rather more evidence of the airline having good safety practices. It recently passed the IATA Operational Safety Audit, for example. But that won’t stop the union from trying to sully the airline’s reputation. (Get it? Sully? I crack myself up.)

In the end, USAPA simply wants to damage US Airways as if this will somehow convince the airline to throw a ton of money at the union and solve all its problems. Unfortunately, the union needs to solve its own problems regarding seniority before it can even be ready to talk to management, and it doesn’t seem any closer to doing so. I feel really bad for those pilots who never even wanted this union to represent them in the first place. This whole thing is simply pathetic and more than worthy of the Cranky Jackass Award.

[Thanks to Johosofat for the excellent Cranky Jackass Award]

Get Cranky in Your Inbox!

The airline industry moves fast. Sign up and get every Cranky post in your inbox for free.

127 comments on “US Airways Pilots Union Earns a Long Overdue Cranky Jackass Award For Using Safety as a Negotiation Tactic

  1. Amen! USAPA is a phony union, created only so that the East could get out of the binding arbitration they agreed to. The entitlement culture in the east is what killed USAirways. America West should have just let US die.

    The planes are safe, but I don’t know about the (east) pilots. Shame on them for using safety as a cheap stunt.

  2. Brett,

    You’re right for blasting the union for making this a public battle. But I think you’re drawing more attention to the incident than you should. Although you *say* you’re not sure the captain did anything wrong, the way you frame the incident suggests otherwise.

    Who (or what) is this corporate security that would escort the pilot off? Are these some sort of special law enforcement officers that have the power to detain the captain?

    Oh, BTW, the first thing they teach us in lowly pilot is “just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s safe.” It really doesn’t matter that the FAA says they broke no FARs. (The cynic in me says, “of course they didn’t break any FARs. They fixed the plane before it flew.”)

    As far as the PICs are concerned, I will always assume they’re right unless proven wrong, and that’s a pretty high bar. Given what I read on the thread you linked to, there’s not enough evidence to suggest the PIC engineered a situation for political reasons. I’m rather convinced she really had serious concerns about taking that bird over the pond.

    Making those announcements (I don’t know what was said, didn’t see it in or taking this public was stupid.

    1. Hey Dan,

      A request. For those of us who aren’t airline industry employees, what’s a PIC? What’s a FAR? (I do know what the FAA is) Insider comments would be far more insightful to the uninitiated among us if commentators would try to avoid technical or specialized industry-specific terms to the extent it’s possible. I know it’s force of habit, but some of us often don’t know what you’re refering to. Thanks.

    2. Most airlines, including US Airways, have their own security team that operates at the airports. They are not like TSA, but rather people in plain clothes. You wouldn’t know they were security unless they told you

    3. As Rich said, corporate security works for the company and does not detain people. They just can escort someone off company property and that appears to be what they did here.

      Now, I’m not trying to call out the captain for refusing the airplane. Yes, the FAA has cleared US Airways of doing anything wrong, but there’s always that natural tension between management policy and pilot’s comfort level. They don’t always match up, and if she truly didn’t feel comfortable taking the airplane, then that should be her right. Would I expect management to put a little pressure in this situation? Probably – there were a planeload of people who need to go. And I’m sure there’s a fine line between nudging and intimidation, so I really don’t want to speculate on exactly what happened. But the pilot never should have said anything to the passengers and USAPA certainly shouldn’t use this as a negotiating tool.

      DesertGhost – PIC is Pilot in Command and FAR is a Federal Aviation Regulation – basically the rules that govern flying in the US.

  3. There are a lot of people in unions who think they work for the union and forget they work for the company that pays them. Airline pilots have always been in that group, they usually are the highest paid in the rank and file and forget their (over inflated egos) effects all the little guys in the company not part of a union working two jobs or more just trying to make ends meet.

  4. If the USAPA were a person that person would be diagnosed as a sociopath. They are totally divorced from reality, the consequences of their irrational decisions, and empathy for those they hurt, which most often are themselves. It’s really spectacular to watch.

  5. Cranky,

    A couple of questions. I read that Gary Kelly worked with the WN and FL pilots to reach their accord. Is there a difference in the law that doesn’t allow the US management team to do the same or am I misinformed? I know the airline has gone to court for guidance in this area and I’ve also read that there was a law (the name escapes me but I think the name Bond is part of it? Bond / McCaskill has come into my brain as I’m writing this, but I’m not sure off the top of my head.) passed after the TWA merger that addressed stapling and other merger related integration issues. Could you shed some light on this for me? Thanks.

    By the way, based on what I’ve read here and elsewhere, I completely agree with the “award.” It appears to be well deserved. The USAPA’s behavior in this matter is unprofessional. But my criticism is only with the way they went public with the whole affair and their apparent (note I wrote apparent) misrepresentation of the facts. I can’t really comment any further without more knowledge of the matter.

    1. DesertGhost – Great question. US Airways has found itself in a very sticky situation here. This may be a long comment . . .

      In short, ALPA was the union that came into the merger on both sides, and they had merger policy set up that would determine how to go about implementing a seniority integration. That part has nothing to do with the company. So they went through the process and in the end, went to binding arbitration. The East pilots didn’t like the results of binding arbitration, and they had the votes, so they went and kicked ALPA off the property and started USAPA. With the majority of votes, they were easily able to bring them in.

      The problem here is that the West pilots have said that USAPA is acting against their interests (which is true) and they’ve taken it to court. The court has said that the claim wasn’t “ripe” yet because no damage had actually been done. That’s what puts US Airways in a pickle.

      If US Airways accepts the new seniority integration and negotiates with USAPA, then the claim will become ripe and the West pilots will most likely get relief from the court. If US Airways doesn’t, then it could result in problems on the other side.

      So US Airways went to court asking what it should do. It doesn’t want to get itself in trouble and it appears that either way it’s going to be in trouble because of the union’s internal struggles.

      1. Thank you. That clears up a lot. And thanks for the answer to “PIC and “FAR” above. Am I right in thinking that US management could have more easily intervened had ALPA stayed on as the “east” pilot’s union? If that’s the case, it makes USAPA’s whining about the lack of management “leadership” rather hypocritical. One thing is for sure. If this thing drags out a whole lot longer the seniority issue will resolve itself. The combatants will have retired.

        By the way, I don’t mind if you write long comments. A few of mine have been a bit protracted, too.

        1. So there isn’t a separate East and West union here. Pre-merger, both airlines had their own ALPA groups. As part of ALPA merger policy they were coming together to form one, but enough of the combined pilot group didn’t like the seniority agreement that they ousted ALPA and brought in USAPA. So USAPA “represents” the entire pilot group even though are there are separate factions.

          Had the pilots stuck with ALPA and followed merger policy guidelines, then it would be all between the pilots and management now.

          1. Thanks for the clarification, even if I only needed to clear up my own misunderstanding. I’ve never been in a union. I’m not sure why I thought there were two. I hope the court can help get this resolved before everyone involved retires. The US pilots only seem to be hurting themselves.

  6. I’m an outsider, but I’d have to lay the blame for this on the “east” pilot group. They went to binding arbitration, didn’t abide by the result and created all this mess. It’s been *6* years since the US/HP merger and they still can’t get their act together. I’d almost sympathize with Dougie here if he were not such an asshole.

  7. While on the surface this may seem like union antics in order to get a better contract. This incident is clearly blown out of proportion. What is not blown out of proportion is the number of flight crews taken to hospital due to noxious fumes in the cabin over the last two years. There was yet another incident Yesterday on a flight from ATL to PHL, If I recall it was flight number 1476.

    The former America West received the largest fine in aviation history for poor maintenance. Most of the folks running the show are from America West so as a customer it gives me pause when I hear such things.

    1. AWA’s fine is irrelevant in this case. The fine you refer to happened years ago under Bill Franke (and may have contributed to his ouster). The airline’s morale was very low under Franke and that definitely contributed to his ouster. His decisive but rather autocratic style was necessary when AWA was bankrupt; but once the airline was back on its feet, it wore on people. If I remember correctly (when you get old, time compresses a bit), Doug Parker was a V.P. at that time and was elevated to president shortly thereafter. One of the first things he did was to reduce flying, creating more spares, and bring more maintenance back in house. In doing so, AWA turned maintenance into a strength of the company. it’s not unlike the baggage situation in PHL.

      I ilken dredging up of twenty year old issues to betting on sports. I laugh when I hear a sports betting prognosticater say that a team hasn’t won at such and such place since 1986. The teams that didn’t win are long gone! There are different players on the field. Most probably have no clue about what happened in 1986 (or even 2006). Heck, US Airways has changed a lot since 1995. It’s not what it was then. Learn from the past? You bet! Live there? Why?

      1. To amplify: I’m not 100% sure of the time lines above. But I do remember the situation under Franke well. I have a lot of acquaintances who work at US (and worked at AWA). Living in PHX, that’s not too difficult. Are airlines perfect? No. Can they be? No. It’s not what happens at one given time that’s important in the long run, it’s what you do about correcting the situation that matters. I believe the smoke situation will be found. It’s easy to criticize from a distance. It’s harder to actually solve the problem.

        Armchair CEO’s know more about running an airline than airline executives. When I was in real estate, everyone knew real estate better than I did even though I worked at it full time. Are there knowlegeable observers? Yes. But I’ve found that the most knowledgeable observers know their imitations.

    2. Your right, Robert. The number of flight crews being taken to the hospital due to noxious fumes isn’t being blown out of proportion, because nobody hears about it! Flight 1476 goes from Washington to Orlando so that wasn’t it. Do you have a source for this? How often does this happen (numbers, not speculation)?

      So if you think that US Airways is unsafe because of a fine against America West 13 years ago, then you must think American is unsafe as well, right? American had a much larger fine related to safety and that was in the last few years.

      Back in the last 1990s, America West’s operation was a mess. (I should know, I worked there at the time and it sucked.) But that fine in 1998 was before the current management team was there and certainly before the current operations group was running the show. Jeff McClelland (RIP) was brought in to fix the operation and made a great number of changes. Robert Isom, current ops boss, has David Seymour running tech ops. Both have America West backgrounds, but David didn’t start until 1999 and then as director of materials. None of these guys created the problems back then, but they certainly are good at fixing them.

      1. Lets not forget everyone’s darling Southwest. They have had their share of mishaps lately and FAA complaints. Cranky is right, the AWA ops were a mess, but they were fixed and policies were put into place to keep them fixed. AWA never had a crash or a loss of life, and, I believe only hull loss (in TUS?). USAPA is a desperate group, they can change their union, but they have to stick to their agreements, binding arbitration means just that, binding. The audacity of them trying to destroy an airline that employs so many good people, just because they can’t live up to their agreements is a terrible and selfish maneuver. Safety is the latest red herring that USAPA is waving, and no one is buying it. (Certainly not the FAA)

      2. Yes I have ample verification. How’s an internal document complete with tail numbers work for ya?

        AFA – CWA US Airways MEC E-Line – “Staying Informed”

        March 24, 2011
        Dear Members,

        Oil Fume Events at US Airways

        Bulletin prepared by AFA-CWA, 24 March 2011

        Engine oil fumes, hydraulic fluid fumes, and other toxins can sometimes contaminate the cabin and flight deck air supply systems on all aircraft types in the current fleet. Below is a list of aircraft numbers with documented fume events at US Airways that AFA-CWA is aware of since January 2009. Some of these aircraft have been implicated in multiple events, others in a single event. We are distributing this list in response to members’ requests, but we urge you to be vigilant on all aircraft. If an aircraft is on this list, it doesn’t mean that the air supply is contaminated, and if an aircraft isn’t on this list, it is still at risk of contamination, like all aircraft at all airlines. Even if your assigned flight is on one of the aircraft listed below, you are not relieved of your duty to work that flight. However, if you detect any unusual odors or smoke/mist, report them immediately to the Captain (see and document the conditions with the company by filing a SER. Also, please report to your local AFA office. We are here to help.


        That’s a pretty long list that was sent to me along with what AFA is asking their members to do. This further points out that US Airways doesn’t give one wit about it’s employees or customers. US Airways knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. As a former 10 year Chairman’s Preferred I can state with certainty that the new culture within US is one of fear & intimidation. Why do you think AFA sends me stuff? They know I will post it and they can’t due to fear of reprisal. The culture there is one of continual cutting of corners to save a dime and apparently it’s no different when it comes to Maintenance. Also of note is PHL has a new Chief Pilot, IMO this is a direct result of the Advertisement as the individual was a leader in ALPA, the former pilots union. This has the stamp of the Union Buster Lawyer, Jerry Glass who has been hired by US.

        1. Thanks for including this, Robert. I have inquiries in for comment from the AFA and from US Airways. I’m very curious about this myself.

        2. What’s curious is that these aircraft encompass all (or close to all) of US aircraft fleets. That alone makes it less likely that this is a maintenance issue. I find it hardly likely that something affecting an E190 is the same problem on an old 767 or brand new A321 or A330.

          It sounds more like hypochondria with a single real event spawning many insignificant (or even imagined) events. Not at all indicative of a safety epidemic at this or any airline.

    1. How about some facts (Robert Johnson above did a good job) rather than just accusing Cranky?

      Either way, between the union (which you seem to support/be part of) and the management, its not making a good impression to the public. And that’s what matters if you want to stand out in a commodity business, which is what the airlines have become these days.

  8. I believe that the above comments by Dan say it all. Simply as a consumer it appears that after two crews CORRECTLY refused to fly the aircraft due to safety concerns, it appears that the aircraft was fixed for the 3rd crew to finally accept. (Three strikes and you’re out?) Shame on US AIR! Does an airline have to be held with a gun to it’s head to make sure passemgers are safe? I personally do not want to hear of any more news about another mid-Atlantic disaster. I wonder if AF had advance notice of possible pitot problems?

    I do not agree with the [East Coast] union biting the hand that feeds it. Passengers remember these things for years to come. Bad negotiation move, in my opinion.

    1. Because US Airways Management are documented liars. Not to mention a CEO who spent a night in Prison for his lack of common sense and self control. Who can forget Baghdad Bob aka Scott Kirby tell customers that the Reservations Migration was successful as line snaked around CLT and other cites for Hours. After those types of things you expect me to trust Robert Isom?

      1. This sort of vitrol can be thrown at a lot of people in many industries.

        What someone does in their personal life shouldn’t have bearing on their professional life, unless the personal directly impinges upon the professional.

        1. When you’re the CEO of a 10+ Billion Dollar Company I’d argure your conduct in the public eye does matter. He has 33,000 employees who look to him for leadership & guidance. What message did his actions send to the workforce?

          In this day of the 60 second news cycle a CEO in effect has no personal life. Suppose you found out your CEO was a wife beater? In business and in life, trust, credibility & integrity matter.

          1. Why don’t we hear this about Herb Keller’s drinking and smoking? Oh, it’s because we all worship Southwest.

            Did he fail to pay the fines? Did he run from the police? People mess up in their personal and professional lives, how they address those foul ups defined their integrity.

        2. What someone does in their personal life shouldn’t have bearing on their professional life

          @ Nick. Ohhh, but it does!!! Just look at any airline that has “issued” booklets that say, you represent the company ON and OFF DUTY.

        3. “What someone does in their personal life”. CEO Parker got his DUI after attending a event where he represented USAirways. He was on duty and DRUNK. No one escorted him “OFF THE PROPERTY”.

          As far as the East vs West union thing, Do you think it is right to merge the two pilot groups and put a West pilot who has only been at the company for one month in front of a pilot who has been continously employed as a East pilot for 17 years. That is immoral

          The West operation has shut down the Vegas hub so if it weren’t for the East operation the West work force would be downsized again. West is riding the coat tails of the East International operation.

      2. Oh boy, I see where this is going. When it gets down to name calling, it’s hardly a conversation worth continuing. But I have to ask, Robert Johnson, what is your stake in this? It would seem to me that you work for the company, but I’m curious to know for sure.

        If you do work for the company, you should be incredibly happy to have Doug and Scott in charge. You’d probably be without a job without them and their management team, which I absolutely consider to be one of the best in the business.

          1. No need to be sorry. When I posted this, I knew there would be sharp disagreement. It’s been mostly civil and that’s great.

  9. “Now, regarding the mechanical incident itself, I don’t know whether the captain did the right thing by refusing to fly the airplane. I do know that the FAA found US Airways did nothing wrong.”

    It might be legal, but flying an aircraft over the Atlantic without an APU is unsafe, borderline crazy. There is a good reason three crews denied the plane. The Captain definitely handled this situation in an immature manner, but refusing the aircraft was the right decision. Have you ever heard the expression, “Regulations are written in blood”? That means the only way (especially in aviation) that things change are when someone loses their life. Oceanic flight without an APU is like driving through the Sahara without water, spare tire, or extra gas.

    One other point- the separated pilot group definitely benefits Airways management. Their pilots have the lowest wages of all Legacy carriers, and that won’t change until they are one as a bargaining unit. Its not in US Airways management’s best interest to bring the two groups together.

    1. It may or may not have been the correct decision, and we weren’t there so we can’t know for sure. There is a lot of (hearsay) evidence that this particular union actively encourages its members to undermine the company, such as adding extra fuel to burn or using “safety” excuses to disrupt operations. Given that, unfortunately it puts the pilot’s judgement into question when there are other indicators that the plane is ready to go, i.e. the mechanic’s signoff. I see this as a disservice the union is doing to its members. If they were more into compromise and less into obstruction, people would be more inclined to take their members at their word when they say the aircraft is unsafe. If it’s true that the pilot told the passengers that if they want to live they should find another flight, then I can understand why she was removed. In the end, airing this in public doesn’t help anybody. It hurts the pilots, the union, management, and all the rest of the employees.

    2. Operating an aircraft without an APU across the Atlantic isn’t common, but it’s far from “Unsafe, borderline crazy.” I have dispatched probably a dozen flights or more with APU inop on transatlantic flights over the past five years. There are, depending upon the aircraft, more stringent operating rules required (most commonly requiring an extra enroute alternate) but it’s far from “dangerous, borderline crazy” and I don’t recall any of the flight crews involved ever refusing the aircraft.

  10. “Why don’t we hear this about Herb Keller’s drinking and smoking? Oh, it’s because we all worship Southwest.”

    Well, maybe it’s because Herb managed to keep his ass out of jail. He also managed to inspire his employees.

    When did drinking and smoking become against the law, anyway?

    1. Amen Bill,
      A brief comparison of Herb Kelleher and Doug Parker will quickly show the difference between a visionary leader and a wannabe. Herb Kelleher built an airline from 3 planes into an airline that has changed the face of commercial aviation. With over 400 planes in the fleet and 30+ years of consecutive profits he also has the highest paid workforce in US aviation. Now let’s move over to US and Mr Parker. Lowest Customer Satisfaction numbers for years, Lowest paid workforce, 3 Bankruptcy’s and a DUI conviction. ’nuff said

      1. I’m surprised this has remained uncorrected for so long today. I would’ve corrected it earlier myself, but I’ve been off doing things..

        America West was in Bankruptcy from 1991 to 1994. Parker joined America West in 1995. US Airways (pre-merger) was in Bankruptcy from 2002 to 2004 and 2004 to 2005. At the end of the second bankruptcy US Airways and America West merged. Doug Parker never led an airline through bankruptcy, and was at not one, but two airlines as they came out of bankruptcy. (Or one and half, if you want to be picky.)

        As for customer satisfaction, yeah, you’re right if you’re looking at JD Power and Associate’s rankings. They’re tied for last it seems with pre-merger United. Although its a fair question if this is a priority. If you can make money with the airline you’re running, the actual customers (not raters) must like something that you’re doing.

        As for the lowest paid workforce, you’re half right. A starting pilot would make the least, but US Airways hasn’t hired a new pilot in years. Also, if the pilots unions could get their act together, they could negotiate a higher starting wage.

        The DUI? Parker was barely over the limit, and states he made a mistake. Yes, he had two other DUIs but those were in his 20s. He’s made a mistake, he spent his time in jail.

        US Airways has been running a better airline. They’ve been profitable, when not every one of their competitors has been able to say that.

        1. Running a better airline? when you have no place to go but up then it’s much easier to show large percentages of improvement and still be mediocre. I pay little or no attention to JD Power, I look at the DOT Stats and until right around the time I gave up on them they were 20 of 20 for years and years. Lowest apid? I’m 100% right. Starting CSR makes less than a new hire at Wendy’s in Muskegon, MI. Ramp starts at $9.59/Hr and most of the new hires can’t pass the background check so that’s the level of talent US attracts?

          Barely over the limit eh? Well I suppose then that if by chance he hit a family and then they would only be barely dead? Is that what you’re saying? Let’s see, DUI’s, Doug = Three and 80 year old Herb Kelleher has had how many??? Oh wait he hasn’t and he built an airline from scratch into a game changer. Profitable for more than half as many year as Doug has been alive. Wages highest in the industry.

          Compare that to cobbling 2 broken down wrecks of an airline into one dysfunctional mess with poor morale, a bad product, more fees than you can shake a stick at, Eeeking out a profit with the industry’s lowest paid work force. Do you realize without those fees US would barely break even? Throw in 200 million a year for raises and the joint is headed for the toilet and BK 4. Did you know that something like 22% of the workforce is elegible for food stamps?

          I can’t justify giving them any significant amout of business unless the fares are so low as I’d be stupid not to. At one point my “Spend” was pretty close to $25,000/yr, so far this year it’s under $1,000.

          1. Your premise still makes no sense. If you think US Airways is unsafe, you would just not fly the airline at all. You’re insane if you truly think the airline is unsafe but you’ll continue to fly it. And if you think you’re punishing US Airways by buying cheap fares, you’re not. They put those cheap fares out there when they expect that flight can’t be filled at higher fares. Most of the operating costs will be incurred if you buy the ticket or not, so you’re helping the airline defray those costs even with a low fare.

            It’s not even worth going line by line with your complaints, because you really just seem to have a vendetta against the airline. I’m not interested in getting into a back and forth when clearly nothing will change.

  11. I have to agree with Cranky’s basic premise, that USAPA is in the wrong and is deserving of this award. There are a lot of questions and not many answers in this case and yet for the USAPA to try to use the 30-second (someone said 60-second, but as a media industry person.. not so much) news cycle as ammunition to damage the company that pays their members is endangering their members livelihood and that of all other US employees because of a tiff over seniority. That is smacks of dereliction of their duty to their members.

    *Could the A330 fly TATL without the APU? It could, but without a modified flight plan it shouldn’t. Additionally, if you are at a base that can make the repair quickly that should be attempted first. Given no other option the modified flight plan would save the passengers the inconvenience of a cancellation or large delay.

    *Did the PIC make the right call to refuse the aircraft? I’m sure in her mind she did. That’s enough for me, full-stop.

    *Did the PIC make some announcements that painted US in a bad light or in some other way questioned the safety of US? I don’t know and only those involved do, but media spin will prevent the truth from being heard or if heard from being believed. If she did she was in the wrong, full-stop.

    *Does US have a safety problem? That’s a bit tougher nut to crack. They haven’t taken a big fine like WN or AA recently and that’s a good thing, but if they have numerous airframes leaking fumes into the cockpit that isn’t good. However, that could also be a design flaw on the part of the airframe or something that was missed at a maintenance shop. The question is are they addressing it or at least trying to understand it. In my job I spend days/weeks/months trying to track down the reason for an issue a user sees. Sometimes there is no obvious solution because all those solutions have already been tried/ruled out. I personally don’t have a problem stepping on a US aircraft.

    *Is the USAPA trying to leverage minor events into a firestorm to meet their political goals? Without a doubt and they seem to have no desire to respect the company for which their members work or compromise.

    In the end the USAPA needs to get their house in order first and then they can throw stones at US. People in glass houses and all….

  12. I thought one of a union’s job was to protect and improve working conditions for their employees. In this case, the airline placed undue pressure on the pilot, which is unacceptable. The union is well within its rights to raise objections to this, in public if necessary. I don’t see any problem. If the union hadn’t publicized this, the airlines would continue doing it. I don’t see what the merger with America West has to do with any of this.

  13. Dear Mr Cranky Flier,
    I DO NOT, have not and will not work for US Airways ever. I am one of the founders of FFOCUS. We are advocates for customers of any airline. Over the last 11 year (9 as a Chairman’s Preferred) period I’ve gained the trust of the rank and file and from time to time I’m privy to information that US doesn’t always want anyone to know. Some of it quite juicy and sadly mostly unverifiable for publication. I publish what I can in order to allow the flying public to be aware of the antics of airlines when they choose who to do business with.

    We believe that in order to have true customer satisfaction you first have to have employee satisfaction. Do those 3 and the shareholders will be rewarded. No one group is in conflict. You build shareholder value one happy employee and customer at a time.

    What you see with the USAPA ad is the direct result of US Airways doing everything in their power to intimidate their work force. People have been disciplined for posting on forums such as yours. The individual who forwarded me the e-line I published here would have been fired if they had done it. It’s right in the employee handbook which I have a copy of. Now they’ve brought in noted Union Buster Lawyer Jerry Glass to further bludgeon the workforce.

    Knowledge is power and US can’t stop me from exercising my freedom of speech. Until US stops bludgeoning its customer and employees I’ll be here, posting the dirty laundry. Hope that clears up any confusion
    Best regards

    1. Yep, that clears it up. You post under a pseudonym (or at least a username) on other sites, right?

      What I don’t get it this. If you hate the airline so much, then why are you Chairman’s Preferred? If I thought an airline was unsafe and people were being pushed to do bad things, then I wouldn’t step foot on it.

      1. Haven’t been CP since 2009. Flew 6 paid segments this year so far. I stayed with them as I was a fortress hub captive in PHL. I got so fed up with US I took a job that requires very little business travel. As long as US is in Star Alliance I will fly them, but ONLY when the fare is rock bottom dirt cheap and unprofitable. That way I get to us my miles on real airline like Lufthansa etc.

        Up until about 2007 I never felt unsafe. Then as the planes got dirtier and dirtier and overheard bins were close and seal with duct tape I began to question. More I found out, less I flew. It’s also nice to see then when one can’t refute the message we see a poster resort to name calling, which is fine by me. Doug Parker’s record compared to Herb Kelleher and Gary Kelly speaks for itself so who am I to interrupt?

        1. Don’t fly US then. Its quite simple. But the whining…geez, get a life.

          Plenty of other airlines, go there, and take your silly group of wannabe nobodies with you.

    2. Now we know the agenda. All I can go on is what I’ve seen on the FFOCUS site and my own experiences with US. From my experience, FFOCUS’s views are 180 degrees opposite from mine; and they appear to be a whiny bunch of crybabies. US as they want it run went bankrupt twice. Us as it’s being run now is profitable. The facts speak volumes. But as much as I disagree with their agenda, FFOCUS is entitled to its views. However … in my humble opinion and with all due respect to “Mr. Johnson” personally, I now know I will question the truth and accuracy of anything and everything he posts.

      1. And I have to echo CF on this: If you hate US Airways as much as you seem to, don’t set foot on the airline. No one is putting a gun to your head to force you to patronize the company.

    1. Now there’s a blast from the past! He’s a gentleman, all right.

      But there is that issue of the Piedmont-USAir operations merger during the fall of 1989. I survived that nightmare as a customer. Not fun.

      1. I spoke to Ed Colodny last July and he said CEO Parker “would not even take my call”. That says enough about the class of the leader of LCC. ( LOW CLASS CARRIER )

  14. I am old-school, married to a medical professional who went through undergraduate, medical school and residency with an understanding of the need for delayed gratification for twelve years. Why does this not translate to pilots? It would be unthinkable for a group of medical residents to leap-frog above attending physicians,possessing more experience and expertise. What is going on with US Airways? Why are the younger and less experienced pilots unhappy that they have to wait their turn? Surely safety for any airline is enhanced by having its most skilled and experienced aviators at the helm.

    1. Not anyone’s problem but the pilots at US Airways. There is set merger policy within ALPA and both sides agreed to go to binding arbitration as part of the process. You can’t do that and then decide you don’t like the outcome so you storm off and do something else. This is completely an internal issue with the pilots and has nothing to do with management at all.

    2. You assume that the former AWA pilots are “younger and less experienced”. First, AWA never crashed an aircraft (only one hull loss on a runway overrun), nor killed any passengers in it’s 22 year existence. The pre-merger US Airways lost “5 in 5”. Five aircraft disasters in five years. Second, AWA’s pilots come from various and diverse backgrounds. Many old Eastern pilots were hired in the late 80’s, as well as TWA pilots early this century (including former US Airway’s pilots that were furloughed over the years starting in the mid 90’s). Third, the average age between the two pilot groups isn’t that great, just a few years. The old US Airways was famous for hiring the children of senior pilots, most of which were barely FAA qualified when hired, while AWA (and most other major airlines) hired only those pilots that were previous captains at other airlines (as well as a former military). This explains why the “younger” AWA airline has pilots that are close in age to the “older” former US Airways pilots.

      But, as CF correctly points out, that is not the problem. USAPA was created solely for the benefit of the east pilots at the expense of the west pilots, and have created a new seniority list placing the vast majority of the west pilots on the bottom of “their” list (including most former AWA captains!), even below former US Airways east furloughed pilots that had been furloughed for years without any hope of returning without this merger. Because the west pilots have been so far successful in court to prevent Usapa from implementing this new seniority list, and because the company won’t touch that new list unless a federal judge tells them that they would not be liable to the west for enabling Usapa in committing an illegal act, the east pilot’s union has become extremely frustrated and is employing illegal, and immoral acts against the company to pressure the company into capitulating to their demands. Because of Usapa’s whisper campaign to disrupt the airline, several east pilots have been fired, and more are to be fired it appears.

      1. Mark,

        Obviously your a “west” pilot. Your entire post is is rife with inaccuracies and falsities, not to mention outright lies! You just blew any chance of any credibility.

      2. Mark,

        You are obviously a “west” pilot with an agenda. Your entire post is rife with inaccuracies and falsities, not to mention outright lies. You’ve just blown any chance of any credibility.

        1. I have no agenda. Everything I posted is a fact. The problem you east usapa supporters have is that you run on emotion and disregard facts. Enjoy the injunction that will be coming out this week.

    1. Well, Sully actually testified on behalf of the union in the seniority debate, so it’s unclear to me how he’d react.

    1. I was waiting until I heard back from both sides, but AFA hasn’t responded. US Airways, however, did respond very quickly with the following information:

      From time to time, we encounter technical problems with our fleet of highly complex aircraft, just as all airlines do. We track every problem, every part and every fix for every aircraft on a flight-by-flight basis and we take the safe operation of all our flights as our most important priority.

      We are confident that the air quality in all of our aircraft satisfies all safety standards. Our maintenance program for systems affecting cabin air quality meet or exceed manufacturer recommendations.

      We monitor complaints aggressively through:
      *Daily monitoring/reporting process for cabin odors.
      *Using a standardized Cabin Air Event Report to provide a clear sequence of steps to bridge information between flight crews and maintenance teams.
      *Utilizing a suite of Troubleshooting Job Cards for maintenance technicians who standardizes the troubleshooting process and corrective actions.
      *Utilizing a procedure to ensure follow-up and final resolution of reported events is achieved and recorded.
      *Encouraging crewmembers to report with the highest degree of specificity possible any future incidents of odor problems.

      They also noted that the list of aircraft with “fume events” aren’t really all problems. Some of the aircraft listed on here could have had a single event where there was any smell reported – could even be burnt coffee.

  15. In US Airways defense, these types of incidents take place on virtually every plane manufactured, sold and flown by any airline. Some of the tail numbers were “One Offs” even AFA admitted as much in the e-line. My concern in raising the issue is to me at least the number of air frames involved seemed high. None of us here has the ability to benchmark US’s performance against other fleets of similar size.

    For me the source of my anger is the lack of true leadership at the top. If the Executives at US had shown some leadership I’m thinking this thread and USAPA would never exist. Yet it does and it does a disservice to the employees and customers of US Airways. I also have a problem with people who lie. One of my Colleagues at FFOCUS (less hot headed LOL) was invited to visit Tempe around 2008 and met with several executive level people who made all kinds of grandiose promises and to this very day not one has been implemented. Granted other cool things for the customer have been done. However they sat in front of him and lied through their teeth. To the naysayers I will gently remind you that we were the first customer advocacy group to meet with airline executives with the title of Senior VP or higher in the history of commercial aviation in the USA. Additionally US hosted us at round table with nearly 75 elite flyers back in 2004, so we have been an effective on behalf of the consumer.

    Sadly with the new crew at the top the only way to grab their attention and raise our issues is to embarrass them in the media, thus my presence here. The more we question them in the media the interested they become in hearing our point of view.

    I have no vendetta against anyone. What I do have is a razor sharp tongue and writing style. I happen to feel that US could be a great airline, not the mediocre one it is today. If they real Herb Kelleher, Gary Kelly, Gordon Bethune type leadership they’d have full flights and a revenue premium.
    Thanks for putting up with me

    1. How would executive leadership change things? The company agreed to binding arbitration, as did the west. The company is hamstrung, it has a seniority list it agreed to but can’t negotiate. Its not going to accept USAPA’s list because of the jeopardy of implementing something that isn’t ripe which would cause a DFR. The company asked for some assistance from the court, but they can’t do anything. Nor should they, the pilots have to either accept the Nic list or get the court to allow them to not agree to their binding arbitration. The company has remained neutral, this is the pilots internal war.

      1. True enough. I just benchmark against other carriers. DL-NW had a successful pilot integration as did WN/FL, Ditto for UA/CO (so far). We are now into year 6 with no end in sight. I have a copy of USAPA’s response to Mr Isom if anyone would like to view let me know and I’ll post it.

  16. Sorry to hog up the thread but one of my “Secret Squirrel” contacts sent me me the following verbatim:

    “Appx. 1 hour ago,CLT-LAX Crew & pax taken to hospital in LAX for fumes. Unconfirmed but from reliable source.”

    This is the third text this week.

    1. It’s no secret that Usapa is using their “safety campaign” as a code word for slowing the airline down. Besides that, pilot’s are notorious for spreading baseless rumors. If you are interested, compare the operating stats of PHX v. CLT, PHL, and DCA. The west based pilots aren’t having any issues out of the ordinary and the stats reflect that. If there was a systemic issue with safety, it would be more uniform among the bases. It’s not.

    2. UPDATE: US Airways files an Injunction against Usapa for their illegal job action campaign.

      Friday, July 29, 2011

      Dear Fellow Employees,

      Today the Company filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Charlotte seeking an injunction against USAPA, the labor union that represents our pilots. The lawsuit asks the court to stop USAPA’s illegal job action campaign.

      This is not a step we take lightly, but we simply can no longer allow the labor union’s illegal and misguided actions to harm US Airways, our employees and our customers. It is important you know that this lawsuit is aimed at USAPA and its leadership, not the thousands of dedicated airmen and women who – despite this political sideshow – operate their flights safely, on time and with the highest level of professionalism.

      Today’s filing contains overwhelming evidence of illegal activity by USAPA including a consistent pattern of statements from the labor union’s leadership encouraging its members to slow down the operation and:

      – A “safety” campaign that is clearly nothing more than a poorly disguised concerted illegal slowdown campaign
      – Anonymous text messages encouraging slow taxis and other delay tactics to arrive at “Block +16” minutes – thereby missing the DOT on-time arrival window and ensuring customer and baggage misconnections
      – Encouraging the delayed completion of online training in an effort to force flight cancellations
      – Directing write-ups of non flight-critical maintenance items just before departure so that flights are delayed
      – Threats to expose, intimidate and retaliate against union members who do not cooperate with the slowdown effort

      It is unfortunate USAPA has taken a page from an outdated playbook; namely, using the guise of safety to signal an illegal operational slowdown. We will never compromise safety at US Airways, but we also will not tolerate illegal job actions. We owe that to you – the 32,000 hard-working employees of US Airways – and to our customers, and we take that obligation seriously.

      I’ve heard from many of you expressing frustration at what USAPA is doing to harm our airline. I appreciate that concern and am grateful for your continued commitment to our customers. With the initiation of the litigation, we are a step closer to getting back to working together and moving forward as one team to ensure the long-term success of US Airways. Thank you so much for all you do, and please keep up the great work.


      1. I have a copy of the court docs and will spend the weekend reviewing them. Needless to say, for the airline to take this action, there is clearly compelling evidence.

        1. Agreed! Also do some research on one Jerry Glass a noted Union Buster Attorney current in the employ of US Airways. Also you may want to read the book “Confessions of a union buster”

          Remember anyone can file a lawsuit. One of the reasons you do it is to bleed the other side of money.

          Personally I’m thinking Stevie Wonder could see that USAPA overplayed their hand and it’s about to get bit HARD!

        2. Also anyone can get some of the court docs for free from Pacer. Register for an account here:

          The case is US Airways v. US Airline Pilots Association. Case Number 11-00371 and was filed in U.S. District Court, Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte.)

          You get $10 of documents for free from the US Court System every quarter. The initial complaint runs $3.20. I’ven’t gone after the additional documentation but each one is $0.08. So if someone wanted to grab a few of those I’d email them the initial complaint so we’d have them all.. (Email me via my website..)

  17. Maybe US Airway’s management isn’t quite as incompetent as some would have you believe. Maybe there’s been some union sabotage, too. As I wrote before, and was vilified for doing so, maybe we should get the whole story before jumping to conclusions or casting aspersions.

    Is US Airways perfect? No. Are its unions? No. Do passengers sometimes act as if they’re entitled to more than what they paid for, or overreact if something isn’t perfect? Yes. Do crew members sometimes overreact to criticism or have bad days? Yup. There are good people on both sides of these issues.

    Maybe we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with human beings.

  18. Cranky, if you could somehow share those court documents, I’d appreciate it. I used to be a labor lawyer who worked on these injunctions for the airlines, so I’m familiar with the process.
    From an investment standpoint, I’ve been following Doug Parker’s career for a decade now, and I agree with you that he is an extremely good airline CEO. And Scott Kirby is equally talented as President. I honestly think they’re the 2 smartest execs in the industry, and the employees at US Airways are unbelievably lucky to have them (I honestly wonder why they bother, given how hard their jobs are, and how they could make much more money with far less hassle elsewhere). If anyone doesn’t believe me, listen to a couple of investor conference calls with them — and listen to a couple from other airlines. And they both strike me as decent human beings who generally care about their employees. Folks might be surprised to learn that Parker is married to a former flight attendant who was a union activist:

    The behavior of USAPA has always struck me as bizarre, mean and counter-productive. I’ve wondered many times how a group of professional men and women could support their tactics — which seem to have done nothing but caused unnecessary co-worker friction and lower wages for them. Does anyone have an idea of the current scope of the “slowdown”? I hadn’t previously heard about this, so I’m guessing the participation rate is not that high, or the slowdown effort is relatively modest. It certainly seems like the incident in Philly that led to the newspaper ad was part of it.

    1. The company filed 22 documents in the UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, WESTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHARLOTTE DIVISION. I read the company complaint, and it’s 43 pages of extremely damaging evidence against Usapa. The company is very data driven, and they have volumes of evidence showing that this slowdown is real and is being perpetrated exclusively by the “east” pilots, in stark contrast to the “west” pilots who are maintaining historical averages. I have the complaint in pdf. file, but there is no way to upload it in this forum.

      1. That’s why we jokingly refer to Senior Managements as the “Spread Sheet Jockey’s”. If I recall “working to rule” or strict adherence to the FAR’s amd the FOM may not be enough to protect USAPA from damages. One is left to ponder what the USAPA’s next move will be.

    2. iahphx – I’m going to double check to make sure that these are things I can post. They should be, but I just need to make sure. I’m going to be writing about this during the week ahead, so with permission from the source, I will upload and link from those posts.

  19. Keep the comments flowing folks! This Cranky post is a success and on its way for most comments ever. Battling it out East vs West. With a court case just announced its gonna get ugly. US Airways vs USAPA Round one fight!

  20. I have flown US Airways for numerous years, and am sure I had been on many of the airplanes on the fumes list. Come to think of it, I remember occasions where I smelt something, not more than a short whiff. It is no worse than the exhaust from a car. I really don’t see how pilots and flight attendants could be disabled for life with any one encounter of “fume”. All of sudden they become experts, spouting complicated medical terms on their health conditions.

    Where I am getting to is the USAPA had been feeding all these BS about toxic fumes, complicated medical terms, circulating list of affected airplanes, to their members, making it appear that fume events is a daily affair. That’s taking it too far.

    I am quite sure that when, and if, USAPA gets what they want, the fumes will all of a sudden disappear totally.

    1. Actually the Toxic Fumes have been reported mostly by Flight Attendants. It’s actually not an uncommon problem with any of the fleet flown and most airlines have incidents. Are these exaggerated due to union issues? We will never really know. The person who feeds me the info is a F/A, they have yet to be wrong.

      1. Robert Johnson – Obviously your a US flight attendant. A very disgruntled one at that. I think it’s time you try and find a new career.

        1. 1. Not a F/A, been a Dividend Miles Member since 1996, 9 years as Chairman’s Preferred.
          2. I’d get a job emptying Porta Potty’s before I’d work for US.

          Worst thing ever happened to me is I got a peak inside of US due to my involvement with FFOCUS and the view isn’t pretty. Biggest mistake of my life as now I’m a bit of a Aviation junkie and I garnered a small reputation with the employees as someone who would fearlessly speak out on their behalf.

          While I’m on here, I’ve been trying to back into this number of $400 Million and I can’t get there. Fuel and Labor are an airlines biggest cost. The A330 burns 60lbs/min. Using a conservative 30lbs/min for the entire fleet, and 2000 minutes/day, the increased burn would obviously be 60,000 lbs. 60,000lbs=9,000gallons, so at a spot price of $3.xx, you have an increase of $27,000/day or $189,000/week or $810,000/30 day month or $9,855,000/year. This number assumes that EVERY Airframe in the mainline fleet is doing a slower taxi every day by an average of one minute. Just slow enough to alter the DOT stats. So triple this number and throw on another 30 million for labor and that still leaves $340 million in unaccounted for “damages”. Somebody is fiddling with the numbers IMO, just not sure who. In the end a judge will decide. I learned a long time ago not to believe a thing that comes out of DP and SK’s mouth. So let’s bring on the judge.

          1. First, where are you getting this $400M figure from? The complaint is asking for an injunction, not damages. I have heard of the $400M figure, but it came from an airline forum dominated by US Airways east pilots. What I did read in the complaint is that this illegal job action is costing US Airways about $377,000/day.

            Second, while you may be exactly who you say you are, I wonder about your objectivity. You appear to be regurgitating the same, vague, unsubstantiated allegations about Doug Parker/Scott Kirby that Usapa does, yet you have not put Usapa under any scrutiny. I visited your website and it’s the same thing, primarily focused on US Airways operations and there supposed safety problems. The complaint filed by US Airways alleges very specific acts committed by the east pilots, backed up by a mountain of data and various Usapa communications. I would think that might lead you to investigate the other side of the story.

          2. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back Bob. FFOCUS is a joke. Spend a career working for an airline, you’d have credibility. The fact is, the east coast folks are just permanently pissed off, nothing will make them happy and trying to make them happy would just result in bankruptcy. If this were any other industry, they would have to individually perform well to keep their job. They are in a union, so it protects the weak and the lazy. DP and SK saved this airline, the east will never accept that, so its time to get tough and fight back and let them know who is in charge. The east had their chance to work for an airline that makes money with good management, they decided to work against them. Bad move on their part.

  21. I hope the cause of these fumes can be found. I’ve seen them mentioned in other blogs and news stories. But I also believe it’s quite possible that some pilots are encouraging maintenance crews to improperly use toxic chemicals when they service the aircraft, thereby creating noxious fumes. Deliberate sabotage has been used by some in the past and is not outside the realm of possibility. I hope I’m wrong.

    To me, all of this is probably the work of a small number of disgruntled and overly militant pilots who have gone overboard and taken things too far. If the airline can find out who the culprits are and assemble well founded evidence against them, they should be fired and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    To the extent management contributes to a lack of safety, it should be held accountable. Safety should be a top priority; after all, a crash that kills and injures a hundred people is not the kind of positive PR an airline needs. Not to mention it’s not good for encouraging increased patronage.

    But safety can’t be an airline’s only priority. It does have to operate efficiently and make enough money to pay its people, give decent service, buy aircraft, pay its creditors and have some left over to provide a reasonable return to its owners. A liquidated airline is 100% safe. But what good is it to anyone?

  22. F/A’s have been hospitalized for up to two weeks as a result of the fumes. Later today or tomorrow I’m due to speak with a F/A who was hospitalized and hear what they have to say. Anything interesting, I’ll post. Don’t know if you noticed but I never identify anyone even by gender. US Airways has been monitoring the internet looking for employees who violate their Gestapo like rules. The reason people speak to me is they know US can’t touch me and I won’t “Out” them. Trust & Credibility go a long way in business and in life. To bad DP & SK missed that day in Sunday School

    1. Oh please, cut the baloney with words like “gestapo”. You lose any gravitas when you mouth off like that. You have a clear bias against US, and you let the “crazy” slip out when you post like this. If Parker told you the sun was shining at high noon on a cloudless day, you’d deny it.

      Fact is, US management is doing a great job with some lousy people, bad attitudes and operations they inherited from the east. As for “fumes”, it sounds more like Induced Mass Psychogenic Illness (look it up) with a touch of drama queen and pissed off employee in the mix. You hate USAirways, that is obvious, but even worse, you seem to be trying to make a career out of it. Stick to what you know, because you don’t know the airline biz.

  23. RE: USAPA,
    @Mike, You are correct that I haven’t said much about USAPA here and I apologize to you for that. I long ago made up my mind about the leadership of that organization and frankly it isn’t a favorable one. The history of ALPA/USAPA has not IMO been friendly to the rank & file pilots and now they have exposed their members to the potential damage assessments should US prevail in their legal actions. That’s just bad strategy and even worse tactics in what will be a vain attempt to speed up the contract process. IIRC Their own attorney advised them against doing what is alleged.

    The Railway Labor Act which regulates airline labor disputes has such an entanglement of rules that it virtually guarantees the employment of multiple attorneys on both sides.

    I do fault DP & SK because in the beginning they had a golden opportunity to settle this before it started. WN/FL, NW/DL & CO/UA have gone far smoother in terms of seniority integration and that’s partly due to those carriers learning what not to do from US Airways. So while USAPA can rightfully be blamed, the sad part is there is plenty of blame for all involved parties.

    I’ve spoken to several employees and the word is, “It’s Gonna get uglier than it already is” Take it for what it’s worth.

    1. I can’t see the logic is faulting DP & SK for the ALPA/USAPA’s fracas. When this started both pilot groups were part of ALPA which has a defined process for merging two pilot’s groups from different carriers. One side just decided not to follow that defined process.

      If I were in the management position I’d figure that the pilots would logically and rationally apply their union’s process and get on with it.. Getting involved inside a union’s internal processes shouldn’t be management’s problem, although it now is because of the USAPA’s wildcat tactics.

    2. Doug Parker was warned before the merger was complete, that he shouldn’t assume that saving the east pilots from unemployment would somehow endear him to them. He ignored that advice and is now finally having to face up to it. I agree, that much of what is happening could have been nipped in the bud before ALPA left the property and in regard to the Nicalou award. He should have taken a far stronger stand on the company’s acceptance of the award (absolutely required via the transition agreement between the 3 parties). Instead, I believe he took advantage of having a split pilot group, which has allowed US Airways to have the lowest labor costs of any major airline. That might make immediate business sense (saving’s of $120M/year just for the pilots alone), but it also allowed the east pilots to so far avoid their previous agreements regarding the binding arbitration and created the monster known as Usapa, an organization whose primary purpose was to impose their will upon the west pilots and management. I don’t know if the merger was really a good idea or not, but it did save the old, rotting US Airways (and their employees) from extinction. And despite a series of economic crisis’s, the new airline is a pretty good success.

      From a passenger point of view, I would imagine this illegal work action and turmoil it is creating is far worse than the usual passenger complaints about food, paying for coke, surly gate agents, etc. On time performance, baggage handling, ticket prices and a reputation for safety are no doubt the top concerns of passengers. And in that regard, Doug Parker and crew have delivered. Usapa knows this and is trying to ruin LCC’s reputation in an attempt to force the company to relent on changing the seniority list accepted by the company, along with quickly cementing that with a new contract (in a hope of making the west pilot’s denial of fair representation lawsuit that much harder) . LCC has refused to play along, and instead has finally gone to court to clarify their obligations under the transition agreement.

      Another problem with Usapa’s illegal work action, is their use of the “safety card” in an attempt to further pressure LCC, in that it makes legitimate safety issues, like toxic fumes on some aircraft, highly suspect.

  24. Maybe US Airways should emulate Delta and buy out the older pilots and other employees. The best thing for all parties this dispute is to get rid of the disgruntled old fogies and let everyone get on with their lives and business.

    The days of regulation and artificially high fares and high wages is long gone. People now vote with their wallets; and ultra low fare carriers like Spirit and Allegiant who offer cattle car service and charge fees for virtually everything are far more profitable then legacy carriers who offer more amenities.

    Southwest has also been growing for years and eroding legacy market share. It doesn’t have first class, food or power at every seat, etc. But it’s consistently profitable. Why ? low costs. Why are Southwest’s costs low? Productivity. Costs entail more than wages and benefits. Much of what drives cost are work rules and asset utilization. Southwest is legendary for its asset utilization.

    The “old” US Airways went bankrupt twice and was almost liquidated because of its high costs. The “new” US Airways, with its lower costs, is at least marginally profitable on a reasonably consistent basis.

    I almost get the sense that some in USAPA wish to drive US Airways into bankruptcy. It doesn’t seem to understand the idea that a profitable company is good for labor, too. Can unions be useful to counterbalance potential management excess? You bet. But until airline unions and their work rules come into the 21st century, airlines will continue to struggle financially.

    As I wrote above, a liquidated airline has a 100% safety record. It’s never late. It never loses luggage. It doesn’t charge fees. Eastern, Pan Am and Braniff have perfect safety and on time performance records in the years since they went out of business. Of course they haven’t carried a passenger or paid one dollar in wages either.

    Details …

    1. Agree with most of the post. However the current CASM at the “New US Airways” is among the very highest in the industry even when adjusted for stage length and fuel.

      1. True, but the old US Airways had the same problem, maybe even worse (two bankruptcies in just a couple of years). The old AWA had near the lowest CASM’s until the merger, where both sides were averaged. This is why US Airways closed down the LAS base, which was profitable when AWA had their base there, but when they combined the east CASM into the mix, it then became unprofitable. It’s a shame, as the AWA was very competitive against SWA in almost every market, including LAS.

        1. Oh man!

          Your version of reality is something else. US Airways closed down the LAS base because there is no money there. It is an entirely leisure market!

          What is your reasoning for all the red ink the casinos are generating? Just because something was great when everyone in the country was spending like drunken sailors doesn’t mean it stays that way forever.

          1. Typical of a east usapa supporter, just emotion and no facts. US Airways (AAA) had and and has a very high CASM due to it’s NE based routes. That’s just the way it is and was. America West had a low CASM due to not having to operate all it’s flights in the NE (and other reasons). Yes, Las Vegas was hurting in 2008 due to the economy, no one disputes that, but there is also no disputing the very high CASM for the east based operation, and how that effected the overall combined CASM, which made a LAS based unprofitable. You might want to ask yourself why LCC closed LGA and PIT.

        2. In reality, the Las Vegas hub closed because profitability declined for a couple reasons. A large part of that was plummeting revenues after the housing bubble collapse and subsequent recession. Of course, any CASM creep will also impact profitability. In the end, that’s why it closed, and it had little to do with the merger.

          Old US Airways costs had been significantly brought down in bankruptcy – that’s the only reason that America West was willing to take on such a massive gamble. Bankruptcy provided the key to getting a halfway decent cost structure.

          1. However you want to look at it, LCC’s CASM is higher than AWA’s. When you have aircraft sitting in taxi lines for extended times due to a high concentration of traffic, and/or nasty NE weather, your CASM will just be naturally higher. And that’s just one variable as to why.

          2. The other big factor was the spike in fuel. The LAS night system was inherently low-yield utilization flying. When fuel went up, those routes went cash-negative fast.

            I’m not sure I understand this East v. West CASM debate. Neither carrier would be reporting CASM numbers today if there wasn’t a merger.

          3. Agreed, Ken. Fuel spikes were the big part of that CASM creep that killed one side of the equation. Combine that with the plunge in demand on the other side of the equation and it was ugly. With the expectation that fuel would stay high on a prolonged basis and uncertainty on the demand side, it probably made a lot of sense to shut down Vegas.

      2. I’ve seen various analyses. Most have US Airway’s costs somewhere in between UA, CO, AA’s and WN’s. A recent analysis by Barclays (on CAPA, I believe) re: Spirit showed that, too. In fact based on that analysis and others I’ve seen, US’s costs are in roughly line with AS and HA’s. So, with all due respect, I believe your information is factually incorrect. But if that’s what you want to believe (and I think you want to believe only the worst about US), be my guest. The information I’ve seen from multiple sources paints a very different picture from yours.

        Based on your previous posts, I believe you (and FFOCUS, too) ultimately want to see US Airways liquidated. You appear to hate Parker personally and that has clouded your judgment, in my opinion (and you know what Clint Eastwood said about opinions). I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a US Airways liquidation, however. I’d give AMR a better (although rather low) chance. By the way, I sincerely hope I’m wrong about your motives.

        If you live in PHL, you can always take Amtrak to EWR and connect to United there if you want to avoid US as much as you say you do. EWR is only about 85-90 miles from 30th Street Station in PHL if I remember correctly. UA (more precisely, CO) and Amtrak code share at EWR (as an aside, I wish there were more such air to surface transportation arrangements, but I digress … ). Which carrier(s) you choose to use is your business, of course.

        I’ve had nothing but reasonably good service from US Airways. Has US been perfect? No. But I don’t expect perfection either. Has US been as bad as you insinuate? Not even remotely close.

        1. An EXCELLENT Source for information regarding an airline is a website for the Airline Data Project which is funded by MIT. An institution that I think would to be an independent and reliable source. They break the data down so many ways you can easily get a very good snapshot of any US airline you choose. US Airways has the 2nd highest CASM (ex-Transport) of any carrier. Now they’re all pretty close. If you look at CASM (Ex-Fuel) US has the highest cost of any domestic carrier with a 12.70 Cents CASM. Next closest is UA at 11.47 cents.

          On the employee productivity side defined as Total ASMs Produced per Employee Equivalent US ranks DEAD LAST of ALL carriers.

          The real challenge is when you look at the true LCC’s and their cost advantage over any legacy carrier. Since 2008 US has lowered its CASM nearly 2 cents, however Southwest still has a 4.93 cents LOWER CASM and when they want to they can beat US like a red headed stepchild. Old HP& New US compete by picking and choosing very carefully where to go head to head which is why LAS has de-hubbed. The guy who should get the credit for whatever success US has had is Andrew Nocella who was with both companies prior to the merger and IMO is the reason we’re still here discussing US. He’s very clever when it comes to Revenue Management and I firmly believe there wouldn’t be an HP, US or the merged entity if not for him. You look in any any company and you have the figureheads like DP & SK. Then dig a little deeper and you’ll find who is really doing the heavy lifting.

          1. I’ve been happy to sit on the sidelines and watch people go back and forth, but I absolutely have to step in here. You are misusing those CASM numbers to get the result you want, and that’s why you see what you see. CASM is highly dependent upon length of haul, and US Airways will always have a much lower length of haul than other major airlines due to its limited international route network. For example, for the full year of 2010, US Airways mainline had an average length of haul of 981 miles while United mainline was 1,789 miles. CASM goes down with longer flights, so adjusting for stage length you will see that US Airways has a much lower CASM.

        2. @DesertGhost. I absolutely do NOT want US Airways to liquidate or suffer through a bankruptcy. And I’m pretty sure no where have I suggested that. In fact, above I stated that Doug Parker has delivered in regards to creating a new airline that is doing a good job, and that it is a pretty good success. And no where do I state my personal feelings about Doug Parker, mainly because it has nothing to do with the discussion.

          As far as CASM, I dont’ know how it stacks up today, but I do remember what it was when they compared AWA to AAA. If it is now competitive, I think it’s mainly due to the artificially low labor costs. That will change sometime in the future, depending on how fast Usapa collapses.

          1. Oops! My comment was aimed at “RobertJohnson” not you. I probably pushed the wrong “reply” button.


            I hope all of this can be resolved in an adult manner, but the prospects don’t look too good.


            To reitterate what I wrote to “Robert” I hope I’m wrong.


            To CF, the CASM debate reminds me of Mark Twain’s old bromide, “There are three kinds of lies; lies, dam*ed lies and statistics.” Most of the analyses I’ve seen are stage length adjusted. As is true of many things (sports comes immediately to mind) statistics don’t always tell the whole story. That’s why I’m not a fantasy football fan, but I’m getting way off topic.

  25. Speaking from my perspective as a British airline Captain…. It does not matter now if US Airways were right or wrong to remove their Captain from the flight… they wanted to send out a message to the union and they have succeeded. What the FAA says about MEL defects being compliant or not is all so much political BS. US Airways have now ensured that every Captain will remain silent when faced with a critical unservicability and that he will accept the aircraft regardless of the associated peril. Just go away and think about that for a while…..

    There are simply some people in life whose judgement you have to put your trust in, as much as you might not like being in control… it is unfortunately true.

    1. Unfortunately, there is much more to the story. She refused the aircraft, which falls under her captain’s authority. But the reason she was removed from the airport was because she made some very inappropriate announcements to the passengers regarding her opinion of how safe the airline was. She made an announcement on the aircraft, then later in the boarding area. She was not removed because she refused to fly. What makes this even worse is that Usapa is engaged in an illegal job action and the company has been watching everyone (east based, since that is the pilot group involved). Since Usapa chose to make safety a political issue in negotiations, they have themselves eroded the captain’s authority.

      1. The comments “she made to the pax” is simply a lie. My source said that “NEVER HAPPENED”. It was a story made up by the management person that was in charge that night.

        Yes the East pilots are fed up. Are you aware the the West pilots are paid 16,000 dollars more per year; receive 10 days more vacation per year; better sick leave benefits and much more.

        One senior (30 years plus) Airbus 330 International Captain earns almost 100,000 dollars a year less than their child who has been flying for Southwest for only seven years as a copilot. They have given over 50% of their pay to keep the airline afloat and 6 years is way to long for Parker to keep this disparity. The have’s and the have not’s will always be the source of this discontent. No matter how you see it manifested, that is the root of all of this.

        The East pilot learned from the Northwest Pilot from a few summers ago. No over time, no extra anything. Northwest pilots then received a much better working agreement and the airline has awaiting line of pilots looking for overtime. Win Win.. Can “Parker hear the pilots now”.

        1. Its your fault you are on LOA93. Accept the nic and then you can start working on a contract. Nic is not going away. You already forfeited years worth of better pay by trying to get DOH. The east settled for LOA93, not the company’s fault, its your fault. You could have had a contract long ago if you had just lived up to your binding arbitration promise.

        2. @vailskier: If you really believe she was removed from the airport for only refusing to fly an airplane, you will believe anything.

  26. According to MIT’s Airline data project US stage length is 1,447 versus 972 for US. Interestingly enough the Industry’s most consistently profitable airlin had and average stage length of 636 miles.

    Average Stage Length Flown of Total Large Narrowbody Fleet, US has the second longest stage length losing to CO by 3 miles.

    When you look at Stage length adjusted CESM, US leads the pack with the lowest cost for a legacy. They are also #1 in ancillary fees in raw dollar terms beating out significantly larger carriers.

    I used this chart, System Total Expense (Excluding Fuel) per Available Seat Mile (CASM ex fuel) as this is the one you normally see published and sadly US doesn’t fare well as I noted. If stage length were so critical then the airlines with the shortest stage length would have the highest CASM which is not always the case. The Arline Data Project has more charts, graphs and information regarding airlines then I have ever seen in one place. It’s mind numbing and right now I know first hand!! LOL

    1. The numbers I used were directly from the airline SEC filings. They can vary depending upon what time period you use, but the results are effectively the same. On a systemwide mainline basis, US Airways has a significantly lower CASM.

      Interestingly enough the Industry’s most consistently profitable airlin had and average stage length of 636 miles.

      That’s really irrelevant. Profit is a function of RASM minus CASM, and RASM also tends to be higher for shorter haul flights. The fact that Southwest may have a shorter stage means nothing.

      If stage length were so critical then the airlines with the shortest stage length would have the highest CASM which is not always the case.

      Oh boy. There’s nothing scarier than a little bit of knowledge being stretched into something completely incorrect. Stage length is not the only input into CASM, but it’s essential that you calculate for its impact. Labor costs, fuel costs, other expenses, etc all make up the basic CASM number, and every airline has different rates for each. So would the airline with the lowest stage length automatically have the highest CASM? Of course not. The point is that you need to adjust for stage length so that you can then see how airlines differ on a level playing field. Even that’s not perfectly level. United uses a less dense configuration on its airplanes so CASM is naturally higher there as well. The point is to make up for it with higher RASM.

      In the end, US Airways has a significantly lower CASM than the other airlines and that’s because its hubs aren’t able to produce as high of a RASM as other legacy airline hubs. The profit is there because it doesn’t have the high costs of the other legacies. Do not do this kind of analysis without adjusting for stage length or it will be incredibly inaccurate.

      1. Not according to Scott Kirby, the carrier’s president suggested add-on “ancillary” fees will account for all of the company’s profit in 2010. This is from USA Today. So based on Mr Kirby it would seem that regardless of Stage length adjusted CASM or standard CASM ex fuel, US Airways can’t run a tight enough ship to make a profit without fees.

        So the open question is how much money would be saved/made operationally with an integrated pilot work force?

        1. US Airways and most other airlines consider fees to be an integral part of their revenue strategies. The thought that any airline could be profitable with a barrel of oil costing near $100 is nothing short of miraculous. Having fees is part of the way that airlines are making up for that cost disadvantage, and it works.

          So the open question is how much money would be saved/made operationally with an integrated pilot work force?

          It’s probably less than you think. Sure costs can be lowered by having a single pilot group, but wages will go up when that happens. The reality is that the airline is almost entirely integrated with the exception of pilots and flight attendants, so the savings are really in crew scheduling with more efficient routings and minor functional duplication.

          But you continue to try to put this on management when in fact the problem lies within the pilot group itself. The group will be one as soon as they agree upon a seniority integration. Not management’s fault.

          (Also, I never responded to this earlier, but your assertion that the CO/UA pilot integration is going well is completely wrong. It’s been awful and may get much worse.)

    1. Me Too!

      All I did was grab stuff off an MIT website. All of the RASM/CASM numbers for US are skewed IMO due to the impasse with the pilots. I’m no airline exec but no one can tell me that a fully integrated airline would not have lower cost and better opportunities to enhance RASM.

      1. Not necessarily. A few US Airways earnings calls have included management’s opinion on the net effects of a new contract with all of the synergies and pay raises (the ones offered by US) taken into consideration. Labor costs overall will be higher by a few million dollars (I don’t remember the figure off the top of my head) when the raises go into effect and the operational benefits. Parker and Kirby have been very consistent and up front about this. USAPA is harming its members by its actions.

        Have we set a record for comments, yet?

        1. I only addressed costs in the last post. I’m no expert but I guess (and that’s all it is) that higher utilization could help increase RASM. That is part of the equation. But the bottom line is this; it’s way past time to get this whole thing resolved.

        2. The so-called “Kirby proposal” was offered sometime around May 2007. It would increase pilot labor costs by $120M. If not for the east pilots leaving joint contract negotiations shortly thereafter, an even more expensive contract would have been obtained.

Leave a Reply to vailskier Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier