Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career change

CRJDriver

Well-Known Member
Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career change

Wed Jul 2, 2008 5:58pm EDT
By Kyle Peterson


CHICAGO (Reuters) - United Airlines pilot Todd Coomans has yet to fully recover from a painful furlough five years ago that set his airline career back several years and, along the way, also cost him his marriage.

Now the 46-year-old first officer, who returned to United just a year and a half ago, is bracing for another layoff. And this time he thinks the prospects are even worse.

"I can't believe I'm going through it again," said Coomans, who now may look for work in China.

Coomans is convinced he will be among the 950 pilots that United, a unit of UAL Corp, will eliminate as part of a downsizing effort that the No. 2 U.S. carrier hopes will offset skyrocketing fuel prices.

"This is all I've done my adult life. I love flying," Coomans said. "I don't know if I can do this up and down every few years."

The last time he was furloughed, he found work at an air charter company. But the sudden job loss put such a strain on his marriage that it ended in divorce.

Coomans and his colleagues are not alone. While UAL, which plans to cut up to 1,600 jobs, is the first big airline to detail the impact of cuts on pilots, layoffs are planned at all major carriers as they try to offset record-high fuel prices.

AMR Corp's American Airlines said in May staff cuts were coming, and said on Wednesday it would shed 900 flight attendants. Continental Airlines Inc plans to cut 3,000 jobs and US Airways Group Inc plans 1,700 cuts.

Delta Air Lines Inc, which plans to merge with Northwest Airlines, said earlier this year it would eliminate 2,000 jobs. Northwest also expects job cuts.

Downsizing may be the last hope for airlines to avoid potential devastation as fuel costs threaten to negate the progress they made during years of restructuring.

Fuel costs -- linked to record-high oil prices -- have more than offset a series of fare hikes that led to profits in 2006 and 2007 after five years of losses. The Air Transport Association sees a $10 billion loss for airlines this year.


WHERE TO GO?

Clearly, it's as gloomy a time as anyone who works at a major U.S. airline can remember.

Thousands of workers -- from management down to baggage handlers -- face imminent job cuts and a terrible job market. Many airline employees will have to switch careers.

But some employees, like pilots and flight attendants, are in a particularly tight spot because their careers are so closely connected to seniority at a single airline, which dictates pay, work rules, and routes they are assigned to fly.

A further complication is that seniority does not transfer between airlines. A United pilot who takes a job at American, for example, goes to the bottom of American's seniority list.

If a furloughed pilot wants to keep flying for an airline, the options are limited, especially in the United States.

Some airlines have arrangements with regional partners to give preference to furloughed employees for open positions. Often, however, the pay is much less for a regional pilot, and those jobs also are scarce.

Regional carriers flying 70-seat aircraft, such as Republic Airways Holdings Inc, continue to see some growth.

Airline consultant Robert Mann noted hiring opportunities for pilots in the Middle East and Asia. Many of those jobs, however, are contract positions, meaning the job is not guaranteed once the contract ends.

Some pilots who are in the U.S. National Guard also may consider flying for the military, Mann said.

"So, there are options for those who had the foresight to create options," he said. "I think it's a function of what foresight you've had to create a safety net."


CASTING BLAME

Anger is simmering among pilots about the prospect for unemployment after they and other work groups made steep sacrifices to help save their companies in recent years.

Unlike the last downturn -- triggered in large part by the September 11, 2001, attacks -- this one could have been avoided, said United Capt. Jay Heppner.

He's not buying management arguments that no one could have predicted oil prices would rise to $140 a barrel. Airlines could have been better prepared, he said.

"We're very angry that it's come to this," Heppner said.

Heppner, 54, who believes his job is safe for now, said simply ducking a round of layoffs does not preserve a pilot's lifestyle.

For every large aircraft eliminated from the fleet, pilots who flew that plane lose status that they worked hard to achieve. Senior pilots find themselves flying smaller planes on less-desirable routes or large planes with a lower rank.

"It just cascades," he said. "It ripples throughout the whole airline."


http://www.reuters.com/article/burningIssues/idUKN0237590120080702?sp=true
 

fly8slep

New Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

If it's not too late, don't be an airline pilot. After college you can start out with the same salary as senior captains and still be home to enjoy life. Right now I would consider my job on par with a city bus driver, at least he has a better quality of life.
 

BobDDuck

Island Bus Driver
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

I worked with Jay a few months back during an ALPA Seminar. He pretty much predicted this was coming, but his wording certainly wasn't as press friendly.
 

sigpilot

Well-Known Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

Regional carriers flying 70-seat aircraft, such as Republic Airways Holdings Inc, continue to see some growth.
Umm what growth? Last time I checked we were losing some 30 aircraft over the next year or two
 

B767Driver

New Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

If it's not too late, don't be an airline pilot. After college you can start out with the same salary as senior captains and still be home to enjoy life. Right now I would consider my job on par with a city bus driver, at least he has a better quality of life.
There's not too many jobs worse than commuter airline pilot. The mantra has always been, "get in...move up...or get out".
 

cfii2007

New Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

The problem with the airlines is on the revenue side of the equation...they can't blame everything on the price of oil.
 

mwflyer

Well-Known Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

If it's not too late, don't be an airline pilot. After college you can start out with the same salary as senior captains and still be home to enjoy life. Right now I would consider my job on par with a city bus driver, at least he has a better quality of life.
really?? according to apc, most senior captains are making 180k plus. please tell me where i can start out making that with my bachelors or masters.
 

fly8slep

New Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, and stupid jobs like computer programmers where you sit on a desk and get paid more than you need. You won't start with 19K that's for sure.... And by the way most will never see 180K as a pilot, and certainly not with the way things are going.
 

Gonzo

Well-Known Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, and stupid jobs like computer programmers where you sit on a desk and get paid more than you need. You won't start with 19K that's for sure.... And by the way most will never see 180K as a pilot, and certainly not with the way things are going.

So go be one of the people that gets paid more then they need.:banghead:
 

TheShortOne

Well-Known Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

really?? according to apc, most senior captains are making 180k plus. please tell me where i can start out making that with my bachelors or masters.
those are the MOST SENIOR captains. You couldn't start out making that in any career - especially not a pilot. Look at the first year pay rates. Pretty much ANY job has a better starting pay. Hell I made more than a first year xjet FO and I'm a ski instructor/golf course eye candy.
 

jtrain609

Uniting the black vote.
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

There's not too many jobs worse than commuter airline pilot. The mantra has always been, "get in...move up...or get out".
You mean like the guys that go up and out to United in September of 99? Erm...they're getting furloughed, again.

Or the guys that went to Continental in the last year? They're on the street too.

How about everybody at the bottom of Northwests list? Probably the street.

Airways? Furloughed 6 times and on reserve for most of your adult life? No thanks.

It's a compete paradigm shift that I think we're having a hard time swallowing, as for the last 50 years the tradition was to get your time in and get to mainline as soon as possible, but that's not the way things work anymore. There are guys that are at the top end of regionals that are making six figures, have 20 days off a month and have some stability, quality of life and decent pay that they won't EVER make back at the mainline carriers.

There is no stability anywhere and there is no future. As soon as I realized this, and realized if I really try to ram rod this down my family's throat, I realized I was going to be divorced in 5 years if I kept with this job.

Furlough is a blessing right now...
 

jtrain609

Uniting the black vote.
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

really?? according to apc, most senior captains are making 180k plus. please tell me where i can start out making that with my bachelors or masters.
You're believing what you want to believe, not what is presented in front of you.

I have yet to make more than $20,000 a year in almost 3 years of being a professional pilot. I'm home less than 80 hours in a 14 day period. I'm getting married in a few months to tell you the truth, the only way I know I'll have my wedding day off is because I'm about to lose my job.

Open your eyes, this ain't all sunshine and roses.
 

bike21

9-5 Ruins Lives
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

Well said John-

Like it or not, things are changing and there isn't much left we can do about it except bitch all the time which I refuse to do. I also refuse to sacrifice my family life and personal well being just to say I fly a big airplane. After a few years in this industry, I am committed to finding that QOL factor instead of being able to say I fly [insert cool airplane].

I moved to Colorado for a reason (to play outside!) and if I have to commute to reserve and play the furlough/chasing big airplanes/chasing big pay game then it isn't worth it IMHO. Don't get me wrong I wouldn't mind still flying some bigger metal down the road, but not at the expense of my marriage, sanity, health, pocket book, cycling addiction, snow addiction, etc. I might be just slightly different than some pilots in that airplanes are not life. I love me some flying, but I do not define my life by my job or what airplane I fly.

If the stars align and I am able to move on to greener pastures with a bit of hope and an educated guess, so be it. However, for the moment I ain't leaving this job (unless there isn't a job to come to) until I am gainfully self-employed or I have an epiphany of sorts that I am done with this business.

Not to detract the noobs here, "to each their own" is one of my favorite mantras, but in the end I do not want to the 10 year veteran FO at X Legacy airline facing my 3rd furlough and angry at life because I never 'made' it. However my journey proceeds, I will rest easy at night knowing that there are more important things in life than the ol' airline industry. It is the journey not the destination that matters right? :)
 

MQAAord

Scheherazade
Staff member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

It's not like turmoil is anything new to this industry.

In the years following deregulation, many proud carries went TU, leaving lots of very experienced pilots suddenly with nothing.

When I started in 1995, upgrades at Simmons were 8 years, Flagship was furloughing with Simmons hiring. When Bill got out of college, many majors/legacies had guys on furlough. His instructing job was hard to come by, and he instructed for years before networking his way to the opportunity at Scenic.

This industry is cyclical, and we're seeing another "bottom"......... it does suck out there right now. Like anything in life, it's what you make of it. Everyone's life experience & situation is different....... this job & lifestyle is for some people, and not for others. Go into with your eyes open, and understand that there are hardships and difficulties that can befall you, but if you still want to do it, go for it and enjoy every minute.
 

mwflyer

Well-Known Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

those are the MOST SENIOR captains. You couldn't start out making that in any career - especially not a pilot. Look at the first year pay rates. Pretty much ANY job has a better starting pay. Hell I made more than a first year xjet FO and I'm a ski instructor/golf course eye candy.
i agree fully, but the poster said that you could start out making more than a senior airline captain if you went to college. then he comes back and lists doctor and lawyer, whic require more than a bachelors. and it takes an engineer a long time to see 180k. not fresh out of college. so i said all that, just to say that i agree with you, nobody is making that kind of coin fresh out of school, although you will make more than a regional fo.
 

mwflyer

Well-Known Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

You're believing what you want to believe, not what is presented in front of you.

I have yet to make more than $20,000 a year in almost 3 years of being a professional pilot. I'm home less than 80 hours in a 14 day period. I'm getting married in a few months to tell you the truth, the only way I know I'll have my wedding day off is because I'm about to lose my job.

Open your eyes, this ain't all sunshine and roses.
and you have also never been a senior captain at a major. im not disputing the bottom of the payscale. but i think its silly for someone to say you can match senior captain starting out after finishing college.
 

jtrain609

Uniting the black vote.
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

and you have also never been a senior captain at a major. im not disputing the bottom of the payscale. but i think its silly for someone to say you can match senior captain starting out after finishing college.
You've got a lot of things to learn.

Do you realize how few people actually make it to that point? Folks like Doug are not the norm in this industry. Once you actually get into it you'll start to realize that there are folks that WANT to move onto the mainline carriers, but for one reason or another they CAN'T, and it usually isn't for lack of trying.

Like I said, you're believing what you WANT to believe, not what's going on. Ignore those of us that are losing our jobs right now, that's fine; but you'll end up with the same fate as us I'd imagine.
 

mwflyer

Well-Known Member
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

You've got a lot of things to learn.

Do you realize how few people actually make it to that point? Folks like Doug are not the norm in this industry. Once you actually get into it you'll start to realize that there are folks that WANT to move onto the mainline carriers, but for one reason or another they CAN'T, and it usually isn't for lack of trying.

Like I said, you're believing what you WANT to believe, not what's going on. Ignore those of us that are losing our jobs right now, that's fine; but you'll end up with the same fate as us I'd imagine.
and you're missing my point, which is that nobody starts out making 180k with just a bachelor's. thats all im saying.
 

jtrain609

Uniting the black vote.
Re: Article: Airline pilots brace for downsizing, career cha

You realize that you may NEVER reach that point, and it's realisitic to expect to probably not make much more than about $100,000 in this career after working at it for a good 10+ years, right?
 
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