Pilots Say Flying United Airlines Isn't That Safe

Categories: Labor

airplane_movie.jpg
United makes this flight seem safe

A flock of United Airlines pilots will stand post at the doors of San Francisco International Airport this weekend, but not to greet frequent flyers or to help you with your carry-on. They will be there to rail on the airlines, like every other frustrated flyer.

Pilots have been in contract negotiations with United Airlines' management team for more than two years, and they are currently working under a nine-year-old bankruptcy contract, which isn't making them happy, according to Lisa Cohen, a spokesperson for the Unfriendly Skies organization. The pilots aren't just worried about their huge pay cuts, or the risk of losing their jobs to United's foreign partnerships, they are also worried about your safety (and theirs) while in the air.

You see, the pilots are also planning to use this day of protest to warn passengers about United's shoddy safety training practices. That's not comforting.

Since 2000, United's 12,000 rigorously trained pilots are strained by the 50 percent cut in staffing. The Unfriendly Skies organization claims 66 percent of United's domestic flights are currently outsourced to regional carriers whose safety requirements might not be up to par. 

Now might be a good time to remind readers that one of United's partners, Colgan Air, is the carrier that crashed in Buffalo, New York in 2009, killing 50 people. "Inadequate training and fatigue" were listed as factors to that accident.

If safety concerns aren't enough, there's a lot more to complain about when it comes to United Airlines (starting with the over-priced Internet access and they don't serve Philz Coffee like Virgin Airlines does). Like the fact that local United Airlines' jobs have declined from 30,000 to 10,000 in the last decade, according to Unfriendly Skies.

Unfriendly Skies points blame to United's partnerships with more than a dozen foreign airlines, including Air Canada, Air China, Singapore Airlines, and EGYPTAIR. The organization also suspects United's next partner will be the Middle Eastern business, Gulf Airlines.

"Labor laws allow these airlines [to] hire and let go of flight attendants at will," says Unfriendly Skies' website. "Pilots have no protections for long term employment with very few benefits."

So will United Airlines return to rigorous safety training and lifelong benefits for its pilots? Or will those pilots be forced to stand outside SFO, passing out leaflets, convincing potential passengers that United Airlines just isn't safe to fly.

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21 comments
Paulcbegley
Paulcbegley

It seems to me that United pilots are denigrating the very system that many of them have followed (commercial license, regional carrier, big time)  and are now terrified of those going through the process now.  Why?  Money.  The little green colored pieces of paper care not how they move, nor is the movement thereof intrinsically safer among two different groups following a similar career path. 

Makescents2Me
Makescents2Me

Don't forget that many pilots are also veterans, like Sully, who have many years of experience handling serious mechanical and catastrophic events. If they are saying that over their careers that these events are becoming too commonplace for the safety of the traveling public, I would take their word for it over the multi-million dollar windfall motivation of the top 1% of the top 1%.

You can't make this stuff up (and why would you want to).. there was investigations that found that the FAA was lioking the other way on maintenance, outsourcing of parts that were not certified, fatigue studies and new laws to compensate for the degradation in safety, highlights on te importance of proper training, and a peek into the retirement heist of the airlines by big corporates in Wall Street.

I say look out. If we continue to allow this quality of life erosion to continue for the sake of the relatively few, pretty soon we all will be asked - no told - that we all should work 18 hours a day and be thankful to have even that.

United should become the laboratory example of what is wring in America and the President, or the President elect, should have a plan on how to save it and us from the globalization that takes us more away from the shining house on the hill and closer to the autocratic caste systems of the third world.

Think about it.

I don't blame them and quite frankly I wish all Americans would take note. If these are our "best if the best", our "right stuff" veterans.. those who were targeted and sacrificed suring and after 9/11, and THEY get treated like dirt for their labor, then what do we all have to loom forward to?

Gunn569
Gunn569

United will not being using Colgan Air after July 2012.

LogicalDoctor
LogicalDoctor

What I do is buy from a travel site that discloses whether it's an alternate carrier flying me.  That way I won't buy the ticket. 

I will only buy the ticket if United itself is flying the route.

Andrew Ferraro
Andrew Ferraro

Wow, what an irresponsible article. The writer got sucked into a negotiating ploy...

Amazingly unprofessional..

Flyerdreamer
Flyerdreamer

You're missing the point. United, and some other legacy carriers, are pursuing the path of outsourcing the flying to those will will do it cheaper, but won't be better trained or qualified, looking for lesser foreign carriers and commuter airlines. You put your life in the hands of the pilots who fly you from here to there, just as you put your life in the hands of the surgeon who operates on you. Would you feel the same if your surgeon was given to you via an outsourced job, the hospital hiring someone who didn't have as much training or experience and could operate under lesser rules? Pilots and doctors are jobs that require professionals with many years of training, who also live their day to day lives in a responsible way so as to be ready for their duties when they show up for work. To compare pilots to flight attendants or some cubicle worker isn't right or accurate. When the Miracle on the Hudson pilot Sully addressed congress, outsourcing and the degradation of pilot jobs was his major concern. He said he wouldn't encourage his own kids to become airline pilots, and said if we continue on this path the airlines of the future will see many more fatal crashes because the good folks won't be seeking airline jobs because the pay and the quality of life will be better in the other careers they'd be qualified for, like law and medicine etc etc. You may not like the way the pilots are sending their message but kudos to them for trying to warn the public before United and all the rest go irrevocably, and dangerously down that path.

Sterliv
Sterliv

"pursuing the path of outsourcing the flying to those will will do it cheaper, but won't be better trained or qualified, looking for lesser foreign carriers and commuter airlines."

Nothing in this article suggested that the foreign partners were "lesser" in any way.  If you want to argue that giving away domestic business is bad due to high unemployment levels domestically, or even the negative impact on those who remain employed in the industry (overworking, little job security) by all means go ahead - these have been stated in the article as concerns the pilots have.  But don't try and base your argument on unfounded biases/preconceptions about standards and training in foreign markets. Your xenophobia is showing.

Ulyssespsa
Ulyssespsa

While I think it's ridiculous that the pilots do not have a contract. I think that this article is misleading! If the issue is safety they should take it up with the FAA, but don't combine it with your contract problems. If foreign carriers have different HR practices it's ridiculous to use that as a reason to not partner with them.

MalcolmO
MalcolmO

Doesn't sound like such a bad reason. Maybe the foreign partners should  back out and partner with a carrier that actually flies its routes instead of handing them off to someone else.

Lorenzt8
Lorenzt8

As a former Airline employee I agree with the pilots on getting a better contract but find it hard to believe they are saying it's not safe to fly. Do you mean to tell me they put their own lives on the line every time they fly? I kind of doubt it. Would you let some one drive your car if they didn't know how to drive? Flying a airplane like a 737 is the same if you fly for any airlines. You got check sheets you follow while your flying. The change over is rather simple, the word meanings may alter some but not enough to say the flight is unsafe. Stick to getting a new contract and quit scaring the flying public in telling them it's unsafe to fly. 

MalcolmO
MalcolmO

If you're a former airline employee, you should _well_ remember that one of the now-defunct major carriers spent their last year (was it longer?) filing faked safety reports. The maintenance _records_ were fine pieces of paper; but there was no one actually doing the work.

Requiresafeflying
Requiresafeflying

 I think the safety issue comes from the fact that over half of United Airlines' domestic flights are operated, not by United pilots, but United Express pilots.  These pilots are not hired or trained under the same specifications as when hired directly by United, therefore there is a possible compromise to safety.  Until United starts flying their own routes, this will continue.

Luke David Nasaw
Luke David Nasaw

"Labor laws allow these airlines [to] hire and let go of flight attendants at will," says Unfriendly Skies' website. "Pilots have no protections for long term employment with very few benefits."Welcome to 2012. Why should a flight attendant have this protection, if 90% of their customers don't? 

MalcolmO
MalcolmO

> Welcome to 2012. Why should a flight attendant have this protection, if 90% of their customers don't?

Don't begrudge people what they have, Luke! It pretty much guarantees that people will begrudge you what _you_ have! I haven't had income for a year and a half but I _don't_ wish it on you! Get my point? By the argument you've put forth, once 90% of the workforce have been squeezed out and their jobs made unpaid volunteer positions, you'll want the remainder to relinquish their wages/salary willingly? Not gonna happen. Will you show up at work and say, "I'll keep on working but stop paying me"? Didn't think so. Until you're ready to do that, don't play the card that sees to it that none of us gets anything.

Naturistman94114
Naturistman94114

Right!  This notion of entitlement (to a job .. to anything) just indicates being out of touch with today's reality.  Here's how it works now:  we are employed at the pleasure of our employer.  If and when the employer decides that conditions no longer warrant our employment, then said employment ends.  We're not "entitled" to long-term anything.

MalcolmO
MalcolmO

This notion of entitlement to a person's labor and the prime of their life just goes to show how out of touch with eternal reality the employer is. The fact is this: Our time and our life is worth more than can ever be given in return for it. And if the CEOs and stockholders want to line their pockets with cash, they can do it by asking us all if we want fries with that.

Pikenawildbunch
Pikenawildbunch

You're not buying a ticket on said airline.....right? N

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

A part-time United mechanic did work in my bathroom once.  Let's just say that if you can't cut tiles straight, you have no business "repairing" an airplane engine.

Naturistman94114
Naturistman94114

Do they use bathroom tiles in airplane engines now? :D

My point being ... while I get your point about quality of workmanship, the skills required to cut bathroom tiles may not necessarily be those required to repair airplane engines.

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