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February 18, 2011

In this Issue...

The Way It Has To Be, Part 1  

ALPAWatch Unveils a Think Tank Paper on

Pilot Pay, How it Affects the Pilot Profession

and What to do About it


 In the last ALPAWatch Newsletter we told you how ALPAWatch had spent years analyzing the problems with pilot pay, how to correct it and our intention to bring that plan to the pilots. At the center of that plan is the ALPAWatch Think Tank Paper, The Way It Has To Be (published in its entirety).

It is a lengthy publication so to make it easier to read, The Way It Has To Be is also being published in a 5 part Newsletter series, beginning with this issue. You have the choice of reading it all at once or waiting for the Newsletter versions. In either case, if you find that you agree with concepts in The Way It Has To Be, ALPAWatch is encouraging each pilot to get in touch with their LEC reps and ask them if a pay rate proposal is in the works or not. If not, why not and if so what is its status.

Since our last Newsletter we gained information that leads us to believe the subject of a mid-contract pay rate proposal might have come up during the 1Q MEC meeting that took place the week of February 14th. If so, this is very good news but it would still be a long, long way from a done deal. ALPAWatch believes in order for there to be a successful outcome on this subject, the union will still need a push from the pilots in the form of contacting their respective LEC representatives.

The Way It Has To Be was not originally written for the pilots. It was written for the union leadership in hopes that it would spur action on the number 1 issue for most pilots,PAY. It asks many open ended questions. These are purposely open ended questions to encourage thought or to be answered using the professional resources of ALPA National. Even the most important question, what should Delta pilots be paid is not answered. However, The Way It Has To Be makes it clear that our current path is not a good one for the airline industry and change has to occur. It offers some suggestions and courses of action to address this problem but in the end the expectation is that pilot pay at Delta will be adjusted to provide both short and long-term stability for pilots, Delta Air Lines, its customers, and its investors.

For now, here is Part 1 of the Think Tank Paper, The Way It Has To Be.



Executive Summary

Left unchecked, the downward pressure on the airline pilot profession will most likely result in these two situations:

  • A less safe airline industry
  • A less stable pilot workforce for that industry. 

The downward pressure presents itself in the form of greatly reduced wages, pensions, lifestyles and general disrespect for the profession.  The source of this pressure comes from a hostile economic environment for the industry, questionable airline management relying on short term goals, and bankruptcy laws.  To date, the pilot group/unions have had very limited success at resisting these forces.

Nevertheless it is in the best interest of the profession, the industry, the public and in the long term, even the shareholders, to return the pilot profession to a stable and sustainable position.  This proposal makes the case for and provides the concepts ALPA (mostly DAL ALPA) must embrace to return the pilot profession to a stable and sustainable position, thus ensuring that the pilot component of safety is as good in the future as it is now.  Among those concepts are:

  • Showing correlation and possible causation between pilot compensation and safety.
  • Reshaping the mindset of both ALPA and its members about what the union is and its role in their careers.
  • Explaining why it is the pilot’s responsibility to take the lead in returning this profession to a stable and sustainable position.
  • The reality of pilot compensation as a component of operating costs.
  • Why it is in Delta Air Lines best interest to adopt these concepts.
  • The average line pilot’s role in this proposal.

Objective of this Proposal

To return the Major Airline Pilot Profession to a stable and sustainable position.

This objective is attainable through these steps.

  • Define what elements cause a stable and sustainable pilot profession.
  • Re-organize the union (ALPA in this case) as necessary to peruse these concepts:


    • The long term goal is to bring about contracts that reflect a stable and sustainable pilot profession, verses the old school ideology of pattern bargaining, demand bargaining, value added, or just old fashion money grabbing.  Stable and Sustainable provides both the Motivation and Justification for setting the pilot compensation rates of the future.


    • The union is a business tool, a tool that collectively assists thousands of small business people (individual pilots with multi-million dollar careers) in managing those businesses.  The union is a white collar organization in partnership with airline management. 


In recent years, the airline industry, especially large major airlines, has been enjoying the greatest safety period in history.  The pilots flying the airplanes for the major airlines make an important contribution to this remarkable safety record.  They are an integral part of the system that is providing this safety record.  Unfortunately, that part of the system is in its early stages of decay.  Unless this profession is repaired, this decay will negatively impact the safety of commercial aviation in the future.  Preventing this from happening provides the pilots of Delta Air Lines with the justification and motivation for returning this profession to a stable and sustainable position. In other words, guide this profession to the way it has to be.  Not necessarily the way it was, not the way the pilots wish it to be, but the way it has to be.

Two U.S. accidents that occurred in early 2009 broke the longest accident free period in U.S. air travel history and stand in stark contrast to one another.  An Airbus 320 loses all thrust over one of the most congested metropolitan areas of the US and everyone survives a landing in the Hudson River.  A few weeks later, a mechanically sound Bombardier crashes, killing all aboard.  What is the stark difference between these two accidents?  Pilot experience.

Returning this profession to a stable and sustainable position will help assure more of the former outcomes and fewer of the later.


Part 2 will cover

Making the Case

To read the entire Paper click on The Way It Has To Be


Thank you again for participating in ALPAWatch.  With the participation of pilots such as you, ALPAWatch will be successful in obtaining the Union Leadership that the Pilot Group deserves, and in doing so regain our fair compensation, our quality of life, our future, and our dignity.