Although many industry experts have been saying that American Airlines’ bankruptcy is largely the result of the airline’s high labor costs some American employees are stepping up and saying the bankruptcy is not their fault:
“We’re used to hearing that. We’re like the beaten dog,” said Beth Smajstrla, a 27-year flight attendant. Yes, several longtime American employees concede in a series of recent interviews, the Fort Worth-based airline may have higher labor costs than its major competitors. But the employees said they aren’t the reason American is in bankruptcy, and that just cutting employees’ pay and pensions won’t solve the airline’s problems.”It’s a far bigger problem than labor,” said Jim Poole, a 22-year veteran pilot, who wonders why what was once considered one of the world’s best airlines is no longer a leader.”I fly to Africa on Delta. I get there and there is United. Where is American?” Poole said. “I have to wonder where we are in the global picture.”
American employees are saying people should look at some of the airline’s shortcomings and poor choices in recent years…the delay in updating their fleet to more fuel efficient aircraft and overall poor leadership:
“You want a leader to get out and lead. My perception is I never saw that from [Gerald] Arpey,” said Craig Thorson, 52, a 22-year veteran pilot. “I want Mr. Horton to succeed. Absolutely, he must succeed. My career and that of every pilot and mechanic and flight attendant is far more dependent on the success of American Airlines than those of the executives.”
A sore point that remains with employees are the $100 Million in bonuses executives received at AA in 2006 when the airline was soaring in profit. But this came at the expense of huge pay cuts to American workers in 2003 to the tune of $1.6 Billion to avoid bankruptcy back then:
“Their bonuses came out of our pockets,” said Mike Morales, a 24-year ground worker who says he still makes $2 an hour less than he did before the 2003 pay cut.
‘But the concessions the unions granted to keep American out of bankruptcy in 2003 went beyond just a simple wage cut or working a couple of more days each month.’
“I think we’re all pretty much on the same page,” said Smajstrla, the flight attendant. “We’re here to do whatever it takes to make this company successful. That’s our commitment.” But for that to happen, the employees say they believe there will have to be big changes in American’s management and its approach to business and people.
Image: Flickr [ReneS]