Fighting Words At American Airlines

Last year Delta Air Lines retired The Spirit of Delta, a Boeing 767 that airline employees bought as a gift for their employer in 1982 to help the company through tough financial times. I can’t imagine a thing like that happening today.

I especially can’t imagine it happening at American Airlines, where the relationship between management and pilots appears to be reaching new depths.

"Enjoy your blood money and your union-busting," Lloyd Hill, the president of the Allied Pilots Association, wrote to American CEO Gerard Arpey. "We’ll see you in court, in the newspapers, and on the picket line."

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the story, which points out that it may be as long as a year before the strike threat could legally be carried out. The Airline Biz blog at the Dallas morning news has the full text of the letter.

The main issue that has so enraged pilots at American, and many other employees of the Big Six legacy carriers, is the bonuses and pay increases that executives have received as the airlines have returned to profitability.

According to the Dallas Morning News:

… top executives and other key managers of American and parent AMR Corp. received about a quarter-billion dollars in AMR stock in 2006 and 2007 while employees have received only small pay raises since taking big cuts in pay and benefits in 2003.

The bitterness of rank-and-file employees is showing. Lloyd Hill, who sent the letter, was elected president of American’s pilots union on a promise to stop playing nice with management.

Looks like he keeps his promises.

(And it looks like I should have mentioned United Airlines, too. The Chicago Tribune suggests the pilots union there is heading down the same path, or at least in that general direction.)


2 thoughts on “Fighting Words At American Airlines

  1. horselvr

    I found Lloyd Hill’s letter to AA unprofessional and desperate at best and it reflected poorly on the APA. Many people are not happy about the rise in executive compensation in all industries – the refrain, “How much money does one person need?” is heard frequently. The fact is that AA’s upper management is on or below par with salary and bonuses for high-level corporate executives and the AA pilots are above par compared to their peers and way-above par considering the health of the industry at large. Scare tactics and extortion is no way to negotiate a contract and I think Lloyd Hill is setting a destructive course with no decent outcome for AA’s other employees or passengers.

  2. justapilot

    As a pilot for American Airlines, I feel compelled to comment on the above posting. Lloyd Hill’s comments to AMR management come as a result of continuing frustration among the pilot group at American, and although unfortunate, reflect the current situation here at the airline. AMR employees were forced to take painful salary and benefit cuts to bail out a CEO who brought this company to the brink of destruction. We do not forget that when Don Carty took over as CEO of AMR, the company had over 6 billion dollars in cash. When he was finished buying TWA, buying back stock, removing seats from the aircraft, and then sitting there like a deer in headlights after 9/11, we were over 21 billion dollars in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy. For this outstanding performance he received millions of dollars in exit compensation when he (thankfully for us) was asked to leave. In light of this stellar management performance, AMR workers of all departments have seen their wages and benefits reduced, in some cases by 50 percent, while upper management wages and bonuses have turned once justifiably well-paid executives into multi-millionaires in the span of a few short years. Sadly, this is a trend throughout America, and yes, many people in America are not happy about it. Why should they be? Should they be happy that our country is turning into a two-class society, replete with a greedy bourgeoisie and struggling proletariat? In addition, comparing AMR management compensation to an already overcompensated executive class does not justify that compensation, at my company or anyone else’s. In truth, the pilots of American Airlines love, and are dependent on, the company more than any executive. We are here for the duration, as seniority concerns prevent us from switching companies, unlike some of our executives. Take for example, Tim Horton, CFO of AMR, who left the company when the going got tough after 9/11 with a lucrative exit package, only to be brought back by his close friend Gerard Arpey, the CEO of AMR, with an even more attractive signing bonus. Lastly, we do not make our demands lightly and do not relish the idea of inconveniencing our passengers, should we be forced to withdraw our services by striking or through some other means. We know that if this company goes under, management simply moves on to the next great thing while the pilots lose everything. Let’s be clear. We are in the fight of our lives, and for us the stakes could not be higher. But, we know we are fighting the good fight, and have finally come to the conclusion that enough is enough. And, we know we are not only doing this for ourselves, but for all airline pilots in every company, and for all workers of America.


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