Why is it my fault?
The structure of airline pay scales has doomed the airline pilot’s salary since the beginning. Senior pilots blame young kids, regional jets, and low cost carriers for the demise of the once glorious airline pilot salary. Although they have certainly contributed to the demise of the pilot salary, the problem lies more in the exponential pay scale of the top pilots.
Pilots exhibit greed at its best, and can be classified by such catch phrases “eat their young to stay alive” and “pull the success ladder up from behind them”. Where they born like this? Maybe, but most likely they acquired these traits when their profession took upon the most ridiculous of pay scales known to man. A major airline pilots beginning and ending salary can be in excess of 5 times each other. This has led to the phrase “seniority is everything”. Simply put, it does not pay to jump around between companies; the object is to get in with an airline that you can spend the most years with at the top ranking salary. This leads to devastation when a pilot has been with a company for 5+ or 10+ years and all of a sudden finds himself furloughed for economic reasons, or maybe his company just goes out of business. He either has to go to a new company and start on the bottom wages barely able to provide for his family or he can play crapshoot sitting on his couch collecting welfare in hopes that he will be recalled at his original salary. This also leads to the contempt towards senior pilots by both management and junior pilots. Pilots are blue collar union workers, but they do not want to act like one. Having observed my father working in the construction union for his entire life, when the economy took a downturn and he was laid off., he went out and found other union work. He might not have made exactly what he did before but at least it wasn’t 5X less than what he was at with his present company. Herein lies the problem with pilot salaries. Do you see a union janitor start out making 30K a year and end up retiring at 5X as much = 150K? hell no, otherwise there’d be a lot more happy janitors around. A janitor may start out at 30K and maybe the company will pay his loyalty a few extra bucks over the union rate by giving him a few bonuses here and there, and he can eventually make 40K or more. If he got laid off because the company went broke, he can go find a job elsewhere and start maybe at 30K again. Sure his family will need to compromise here and there but at least it’s bearable compared to what he was making. He does not need to start at the bottom making only 5 k a year by the airline equation.
Now take for example a major airlines pay scale. For simplicity we will use an airline with only one aircraft and assume that the pilot was hired at the age of 40 giving him 20 years left to work for the company, something very reasonable since many people make it before the age of 40. If so, that would allow more years at the top, and increase my “average numbers” below a few bucks. Assuming he upgrades to captain in 7 years you can add his salary together and find that he will make roughy $3,004,000 over his career of 20 years. 50K+85K+94K+104K+114K+117K+180K+182K+184K+186K+188K+(8years at 190K). These numbers are not perfect and have been oversimplified but do present a reasonable route. Divided that 3 million by 20 years and he makes an average of 150,000 a year. Should every pilot make 150,000 a year?. No, there should be some reward for dedication and seniority to the company, but to start out at 50K and end up retiring at 190K is absolutely ridiculous and the reason for the downfall of the profession. You can see where the pilots have the developed the mentality to do anything to stay on top because if they fall, they have only a limited amount of years to restart on the bottom making absolute crap. This mentality has carried over into negotiations in the past years. Management at legacy carriers knows that pilots are greedy and will kick and fight to stay “on top” or what’s left of being on top. They laugh behind your backs because they know they will almost always get what they want. Why? Because of your weak unions, and they know pilots are greedy. If in the last 6 years all the legacy carrier unions took a firm ground and said NO to pay cuts and told management that you need to raise ticket prices and distinguish yourselves better from LCC service, then things wouldn’t have gotten as bad as they are. But once again pilot’s greed played into the equation. Delta pilots secretly thought to themselves, lets give a few bucks back right now so that NWA can go bankrupt, then well ask for the money back. NWA pilots probably said the same thing to DELTA and USAIR and every other fucking air carrier losing money. “Lets give em a few bucks back right now so we can stab that other carrier out of business, THEN WELL ASK FOR IT BACK AND BE ON TOP!!!!!” ALPA is a loose association of different companies employees at best. They need to unite themselves on a national level, dissolve the boundaries of different companies and stand as one, set a national standard for each aircraft instead of different pilots earning different salaries for the SAME aircraft. If one company wants to strike, then every airline pilot is going to honor it.
Sure a little competition is healthy, but not the way your unions do it. I don’t see construction workers and truckers all stabbing each other in the backs. You say that if you struck, then other pilots would be right there to replace you. That’s true because your unions once again have lost all credibility. What happened to the days of if you crossed a picket line you had to fear for your life? Now you just go and whine about scabs on the internet.
Well now that I presented the problem you probably wanna know the solution?
What if the pilot at this company started at 130K for an FO and retired at 180K for a Captain, he can still make the same amount over his lifetime? More similar to the blue collar union janitor stated earlier. In the event of a termination, Certainly the pilot would be upset that he needs to start over but at least he is not trying to provide for his family on poverty wages again. 130K first year is still far, far, far, above the national average wage. What if a 747 guy started at 180 and ended at 250K, the math may not be right but you get the point?
Why will this work? Because if a pilot doesn’t like his company, he will not have regrets about starting over at a new company. Once his first company has a shortage of pilots because everyone is skipping town for the new company, they will be FORCED to improve working conditions in order to attract people there. Now you have companies competing to KEEP pilots instead of competing to see who can give their pilots the biggest paycut and watch them show up to work everyday anyday. Why do you keep showing up to work after all these paycuts? Because your hogtied to your company after you complete your first year at a new airline due to the stupid payscale! This will also dissolve the animosity towards senior pilots because now management hates ALL the pilots since their wages are closer together
You also need to fix your flight time only pay numbers. This is what has led to the public misconception when it comes to pilots. When United went to court for bankrupty, they told the rep. what a pilot makes PER HOUR. The rep said “who let them make that much per hour in the first place”. That cunt failed to realize, along with most of the public, that you are actually at work for more than likely double the amount of time you are actually paid for, hence the reason for the excessive hourly figures that used to sometimes reach up to the $300’s. (kiss those numbers goodbye you pussies). But anyway, go to bankrupty court and tell the judge that a Mesaba pilot makes $20/hr and we need to cut it back to $16/hr and he will probably say “that aint too bad since minimum wage is 7 dollars”. Now your already on the defensive trying to explain to the judge that theres so much more that goes into that number, but its too late cause hes already made up his mind. Or you can change your pay scales to be paid straight up from clock in till clock out and the previous conversation would now sound like this. “A Mesaba pilot makes 10 bucks/hr and we need to chop him back to 8 bucks/hour”. The judge is now going to say “what, this kid is in charge of my life and your going to pay him the same amount as someone flipping burgers at McDonalds. I sure as hell hope you hired someone worth more than a fast food cook to be in charge of my life in an airplane” See how the tone changes? It’s the same set of numbers, just in your favor now. This would also cause a company to be more efficient because there paying you to sit at the gate now and want your ass moving, unlike before where they could care less.
You complain about the regional jets and blame me for being a young kid and flying that jet for crap. Its all trickles down to every level of aviation. Am I supposed to refuse that job flying a jet and say id rather earn less than minimum wage flight instructing?. Am I supposed to go to an interview get the job and tell them that I don’t want it unless they pay me more? Watch the interviewers roll onto the floor laughing. It’s easier to fight for the company workers when you work for them, not when your interviewing for them. Why doesn’t this happen? Because the senior RJ guys believe that they will be moving on soon so why bother? “I had to deal with crap now you do too.” ? Furthermore, the regionals paychecks come from you! Give us a raise, that means more we need to charge your company and more out of your paycheck! Never thought about it like that did ya, now your probably happy im flying around for only 20K a year. If lucky a senior RJ capt. can make 100K a year but starts at 20K. What if he started 80K and ended at 120K before moving upward, (I didn’t do the exact math on this example but you see the point). Surely this is much more respectable and you wouldn’t have pilots all stepping on each others backs to get out of the regionals. Sure its not the glorified major wages yet, but at least its respectable and you can raise a family and wait a few more years for a major. But this will never happen. You call it shiny jet syndrome. Well it seems like the people hiring are looking more and more towards turbojet PIC and less on turboprop PIC. I didn’t make that decision, you put a pilot on the hiring board don’t you? So now the equation pans out as follows…go fly a barely legal 1900 and do some of the hardest flying of your life, make maybe 50K after a few years if lucky and no go anywhere else, or I can go to a nice new RJ, push the flight director around for a few years and get the time that a major is looking for and make a little bit more than 50K if your lucky. The answer is simple folks, don’t blame shiny jet syndrome on me!
You complain about the LCC and pilots working for substandard large airplane wages. If you fixed the problem as stated in the paragraph above about the regionals, this wouldn’t happen. You know why the LCC pilot happened? Joe pilot has been sitting in the captains seat of an RJ for 2 years still making absolute shit for what he does and the economy still hasn’t rebounded in full force. Hes seen other people less qualified than him move up because they “know someone” He hates his job, his schedule sucks, and his pay still sucks and it doesn’t look like the majors are ever gonna start rehiring in large numbers again. Here comes this LCC where he’ll get to fly a bigger jet for more money than what he’s getting right now. His regional airline exists basically for the sole purpose of feeding its major partner. In other words his company gets a set amount of $ to do their job. Every year that he moves up in pay is taking more from the money that big brother gave his company. Every year everyone moves up in pay is another year closer to another airline stepping in and doing their job for less because of a younger pilot workforce!, why wouldn’t he take this new job at a LCC? At least he works for a company that sells tickets for their money and he can have a little security. If the major guys stood up for their little counterparts and said were not going to do our job unless you let company X KEEP doing their job for us, instead of cheaper company M, then this shit wouldn’t happen. This combined with regional pilots better unionize and fighting for better pay, maybe he wouldn’t mind spending a few more years there till he can get on with a major. This is why regional pilot are willing to go work for alter ego airlines and to step on each other’s backs to get that coveted PIC time and get out. Theres no such thing as a good regional, you either picked them at a good contract or you don’t!. Furthermore, you unknowingly foster the development of LCC’s. You still offer jumpseats to most of them don’t you? I am not sure but I can’t think of any other industry where union workers give free rides to work to the people that are undercutting them! Why is this? Cause ALPA has become some neo-hippie, non confrontational, useless organization. When Lorenzo started New York Air with non union pilots who were going to earn less than the going rate, ALPA launched a million dollar publicity campaign against them. Pilots even threatened to boycott Pepsi because a Pepsi bottler was on the board of Lorenzo’s main company, Texas International. I didn’t hear any sort of uproar like this with Jetblue, Air Tran, Frontier…….happened. No instead you give them free rides to work. Instead if ALPA made it publicly known while these companies were in their upstart phases that they would not be given jumpseat privileges, that would change the minds of the people applying to work their. If they couldn’t get enough applications, they would have to make themselves MORE ATTRACTIVE somehow. Hmmmm, maybe raise wages? Well maybe you use that LCC to get to work yourself sometimes because you commute? Keep reading and youll get my opinion on commuting later. Anyway’s, you managed to commute somehow before the LCC showed up, im sure you can do it without them.
I hear so many other ridiculous arguments from senior pilots. Lately Fedex pilots are complaining about the people who pick up overtime because it helps to hide the problems of low staffing and the lack of a contract. If a senior captain is picking up shifts, I can understand the problem, but I assume there probably being picked up all the <5 year guys. Why? Because they have families to feed and your payscale structure is so ridiculously stupid that it is hard for the first few years! The answer to this problem, read the above paper and maybe you can figure it out!
Do I honestly anticipate this reworking of the pay structure to happen overnight? Hell no. Why? For many reasons but the main one is the senior pilots say “I had to struggle to make it, you do too” Once again, it’s the pull the ladder of success up behind you syndrome. But I urge you all, with each new contract to stop worrying about the senior guys and work more on bumping up the initial pay. Once you’re a senior captain does it really make a difference if you make 230K a year as compared to 250K? your already doing better than 99% of Americans. But it does make a difference whether or not your earning 30K or 50K or first year. It may take many contracts but stop worrying about what you top out at and starting bringing the junior guys up.
Pilots complain that they only see your families 8 days a month because you commute. That’s your decision to commute! Nobody made you. You are one of the only professions that allows you to go across the country for free to go to work everyday. You don’t like it, move your family closer to your base! What does 99% of the rest of America do when they can land their dream job in another part of the country, they take it and they bring their families with them.
You complain about the railway labor act and not being able to strike. Do you really think 30,000 people are gonna be thrown in jail? What your more concerned about is the industry is so fragile right now that you don’t wanna lose your comfort “on top”. The NYC transit workers, were not afraid to show the country just how important they are. It’s a safe bet that most of them don’t even have a college degree, but there smart of enough to know how to get what they want. How come pilots haven’t figured it out yet. Even if you don’t strike, there are other ways to show just how important you are. There’s another word for being forced to go to work if you don’t want to go, its called SLAVERY. Grow some balls and stop hiding behind the RLA
You complain about these 70 and 90 seat jets flying your routes now. Well you’re the ones who let it happen. Why do you keep relaxing your scope clauses!??
You complain about these kids that go thru bridge programs and get jobs with only 500 hours. Don’t you usually put a line pilot somewhere on the interview process?
Well why is he letting the kids get hired? I contemplated every single day of CFI’s just calling it quits and going to one of the “programs”. Just the shear liability concerns of CFI’in and losing your ticket because of someone else mistake makes a program look attractive. I only made 4grand CFI’in. 4 grand! I lost money everyday I drove to work in gas if I didn’t have at least 2 flights. My father offered to send me thru one of the “programs” after seeing my heartbreak every day. I told him no, Im gonna do it the hard way and I did make it. But in all honesty I probably wouldn’t have done it again. If I go to a small community college, learn at an FBO on the side, and then go to a “bridge program” after my ratings, its still less $ than 4 years at Embry Riddle, and no liability concerns! Im responsible for my own flying, not someone else’s. That’s why these programs exist, it isn’t that bad of an opportunity. And I pay the money back just like a school loan afterwards. I can make $20 grand my first year flying, or I can make $4grand. You do the math.
In short, don’t blame it on me the new guy/young kid for ruining your jobs, I wholly intend on fighting for the little guy if I ever make it to the top or whats left of it. I will also be the first person to vote yes on a strike. The profession was doomed to fail eventually and all it took was a few unfortunate events to set it off. The only way you can save it is to better unionize and fix your ridiculous starting and ending wages. Sure there are an overcapacity of pilots right now, but was it wrong for me in high school to pursue my dream? Apparently you did the same, you followed your dream, otherwise I don’t know why you would be reading this. There is an overcapacity of Portuguese construction workers in the northeast but that doesn’t mean construction wages are plummeting. If you could get the majority of airlines under the SAME union, major and regional, that actually has the balls to strike every once in a while, you might have a chance of redeeming yourselves. People fail to realize that they do HOLD the power in shitty situations. For instance if everyone banded together and agreed not to buy a single ticket from a ticket scalper, the business would go away. However as long as there is one person who is willing to pay 1,000 for some shitty Rolling Stones ticket, there will still be a scalper to sell it to him.