Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Skies of Wrath

In the last 64 days I have flown seven times. Seven days, one leg each of those seven days. The longest was Zurich to Washington. The shortest Chicago to Washington. There was also a 3-day simulator proficiency check somewhere in there.

This idleness is ostensibly because the company announced it would decrease flying in our fleet beginning September. Boy, did they ever. The line-holders have been cut back to 70 hour lines. They have been used to 85 or so. Now they pick up all the open flying they can get to make up for lost pay. This leaves little flying for reserve pilots like yours truly, but we are accustomed to 70 hours (minimum pay), so we are kicking back and enjoying the time off.

Why so few flights? Here's the strategy: You cut back on service. That's less fuel you pay for, less maintenance you must perform, and lower payroll costs. But, you say, that's also less product to sell. (Product being a seat available to put a paying butt in.) Think.

Ah, but now you see the light. Reduce service and raise the prices. As long as demand does not diminish, you get more bucks for the butts. Those of us working in the trenches are ill-informed about such things, so we don't understand them. Somehow we think that as long as demand is strong, why not increase capacity and reap an even bigger harvest?

So, it makes you wonder about this alleged coming pilot
shortage. Yeah, I know. Lots of retirements are looming and military pilots are saying it ain't worth it. But, are you hearing the numbers they're throwing around? Tens of thousands of new pilots needed soon.

Don't believe it. They (the airline industry) just want you to think pilot shortage. Remember The Grapes of Wrath? It's based on historical events. The California growers sent messengers to drought-stricken Oklahoma farmers telling them there was an acute shortage of fruit and vegetable pickers in their state. They put up billboards on Oklahoma highways that said Come to California: JOBS!

The Okies did so in droves. In fact so many of them showed up there weren't enough jobs. The growers low-balled wages. The “lucky” Okies―the ones who could find jobs―had no choice but to take the peanut wages offered. The growers patted themselves on the back. Mission accomplished. 

You, my young friend―you building up your time and working hard on your certificates―may have your heart set on landing one of the coveted airline jobs for which applicants are so scarce.  Don't get duped. Tell them to show you the money. Then and only then will you believe in their much hearlded coming great pilot shortage.