Air France-KLM Buckles in Pilots’ Strike

Air France Pilots strike
Air France Pilots strike

A week of crippled flights due to a pilots’ strike has persuaded Air France-KLM to soften its plans to migrate its short-haul flights to a low-cost unit. The airline said today that it would slow the planned expansion of Transavia, a KLM discount carrier, until the end of the year to allow for more time to reach an agreement with Air France-KLM pilots. Pilots quickly rejected the offer, calling it a “smoke screen that does not offer more guarantees than the previous announcements, and does not solve any problem.” The pilots contend that Transavia should operate with the same salaries and benefits, and they have not shortened their strike, which is in effect through Sept. 26.

The strikes began on Sept. 15 and have cost Air France-KLM as much as $180 million, based on its estimate of up to €20 million ($25.7 million) per day. Only about 40 percent of Air France-KLM pilots are flying during the work action.

Air France-KLM is seeking to curb costs for its short, intra-European flights as it faces increasing pressure from low-cost airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet. Those airlines, and others, have both cost and fare structures radically different from the large, formerly state-owned carriers such as Air France, Lufthansa, and Alitalia, which generate most of their profits from their long-haul flights and premium cabins.

Air France-KLM’s plan mirrors a similar strategy at Lufthansa, which has moved most of its short intra-European flights to its lower-cost Germanwings airline. In 2012, Austrian Airlines—which is also owned by Lufthansa—transferred 2,000 pilots and flight attendants to its Tyrolean Airways unit. Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice ruled that the transfer did not nullify the higher-wage labor contracts the workers had agreed to at Austrian—a verdict that further complicates Lufthansa’s effort to reduce employee expenses.

Transavia France has about 14 jets now and Air France-KLM wants to migrate its domestic flying to the unit and away from Air France-KLM, where costs are 27 percent higher. Under the airline’s Perform 2020 plan unveiled this month, Amsterdam-based Transavia would grow to 100 airplanes by 2017, from 41, and carry more than 20 million passengers per year while generating about €100 million in earnings.


World’s coolest Airline Pilots

Chesley B Sullenberger - Hudson River hero pilot
Chesley B Sullenberger – Hudson River hero pilot

Last week the captain of an Icelandair flight treated passengers to a lap around the erupting Bardarbunga volcano. We take a look at this and five other examples of pilots keeping their cool – or just getting the pizzas in – under pressure.


Delays and detours normally mean bad news for passengers. Those on board an Icelandair flight last week, however, seemed more than happy to take the roundabout route as their pilot treated them to a couple of laps of the erupting Bardarbunga volcano. The “scenic” route gave passengers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see smoke and lava billowing out of the crater below them, which more than compensated for the minor delay.

In 2012 a similarly thoughtful pilot on an Air Canada jet flying over Australia took his plane on a detour to help look for a missing yacht. Speaking to The Australian, Captain Andrew Robertson said: “I had already made a PA announcement telling passengers what we were doing and as we got into the area, I said: “We’re coming into the search area, please everybody look out to the window and if you see anything let us know.” Sure enough the yacht was found, and the sailor on board saved.

The Domino’s effect

You could say it was the “best delay ever”. A stranded Frontier Airlines plane had been stuck on the runway in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for over an hour due to bad weather when its (increasingly hungry) pilot, Gerhard Bradner, decided to take action – by calling Domino’s and ordering pizza for everyone on board. Passenger Logan Marie Torres told Fox 31 about the moment the surprise announcement was made: “He said: ‘Ladies and gentleman, Frontier Airlines is known for being one of the cheapest airlines in the US, but your captain is not cheap … I just ordered pizza for the entire plane.’” Needless to say, the plane erupted in applause. And as if that wasn’t enough, Bradner paid for all 50 pizzas out of his own wallet.

Miracle on the Hudson

It’s probably the greatest crash landing of recent history. When US Airways 1549 struck a flock of geese over New York, causing its engines to cut out, pilot Captain Chesley Sullenberger coolly landed the plane in the Hudson river, safely ditching the Airbus A320 into the water with everyone on board intact. Sullenberger was praised for remaining calm and collected throughout the incident – which became known as the “miracle on the Hudson”.

But if Sullenberger seems cool-headed to you, spare a thought for pilot Eric Moody, whose plane suffered complete engine failure at 37,000 feet after flying through volcanic ash over Indonesia in 1982. In truly epic fashion, Moody made the following announcement over the Tannoy: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.” Luckily for all on board, after the plane dropped to 12,000ft the engines restarted and it landed safely. Years later Moody told the BBC: “It was, yeah, a little bit frightening.”

Can anybody land this plane?

In a turn of events uncannily similar to the plot of the film Airplane!, an off-duty pilot was forced to jump into action when the captain of a United Airlines flight suffered a heart attack at 30,000 feet on the way from Des Moines to Denver, and staff had to make the desperate request: “Are there any non-revenue pilots on board? Please ring your call button.” Fortunately, air force captain Mike Gongol was aboard and (after getting permission from his wife) he hopped into the cockpit to assist the co-pilot as she made an emergency landed at Omaha airport. It was equally fortunate that a nurse also happened to be on board; and she was able to take care of the sick pilot, who survived the attack.

Classical delay

Last February, passengers snowed in by bad weather at Lambert International in Missouri were treated to an impromptu concert, when pilot Billy Hock sat himself down at a piano in the airport. And we’re not talking a quick singalong – Hock performed for a whopping three hours, solely playing music he composed himself. Although some of the 1,700 passengers – like those who ended up singing Hey Jude while stuck in Newark airport a few years ago – probably would have preferred a singalong, Hock’s piano playing seemed to cheer up some of them, not least local news teams looking for an interesting angle on an otherwise mundane transport story.


Female commercial airline pilots still rare in industry

Female Pilot

A trip Jann Waldhauser took as a child put her on a career route not often traveled by women.

“I flew to California when I was 8 on a TWA flight and thought, ‘Wow, what a great job; these people get paid to fly around,’ ” Waldhauser thought of the pilots.

On the flight, her mom read to her an article about one of the first female pilots at TWA; it was in a magazine she pulled from the seatback pocket.

“I said, ‘Girls can fly planes?’ She told me girls can do anything they want to do,” Waldhauser recalled.

She decided then and there she wanted to be a pilot.

Today Waldhauser, 40, is a first officer with Chicago-based United Airlines flying Boeing 737s. That makes her among the 4 percent of female pilots out of nearly 150,000 pilots certified to fly commercial airplanes in the U.S., according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration. Waldhauser has been a commercial pilot for more than 15 years and worked for several airlines, including Northwest Airlines.

“Flying is the best job on the planet,” she said. “You go to work. You get to do what you love. You get to go somewhere new every day. The view of the office changes.”


Boeing Forecasts Rising Demand for Commercial Pilots and Technicians

Airline Pilots
Airline pilots will now follow more stringent rules to avoid fatigue

Boeing (NYSE: BA) is forecasting continued strong growth in demand for commercial aviation pilots and maintenance technicians as the global fleet expands over the next 20 years.

Boeing’s 2014 Pilot and Technician Outlook, released today at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, projects that between 2014 and 2033, the world’s aviation system will require:

  • 533,000 new commercial airline pilots
  • 584,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians

“The challenge of meeting the global demand for airline professionals cannot be solved by one company or in one region of the world,” said Sherry Carbary, vice president, Boeing Flight Services. “This is a global issue that can only be solved by all of the parties involved—airlines, aircraft and training equipment manufacturers, training delivery organizations, regulatory agencies and educational institutions around the world.”

The 2014 outlook projects continued increases in pilot demand, which is up approximately 7 percent compared to 2013; and in maintenance training, which increased just over 5 percent. Pilot demand in the Asia Pacific region now comprises 41 percent of the world’s need, and the Middle East region saw significant growth since last year’s outlook due to increased airline capacity and orders for wide-body models which require more crew members.

Overall, the global demand is driven by steadily increasing airplane deliveries, particularly wide-body airplanes, and represents a global requirement for about 27,000 new pilots and 29,000 new technicians annually.

Projected demand for new pilots and technicians by global region:

  • Asia Pacific – 216,000 pilots and 224,000 technicians
  • Europe – 94,000 pilots and 102,000 technicians
  • North America – 88,000 pilots and 109,000 technicians
  • Latin America – 45,000 pilots and 44,000 technicians
  • Middle East – 55,000 pilots and 62,000 technicians
  • Africa – 17,000 pilots and 19,000 technicians
  • Russia and CIS – 18,000 pilots and 24,000 technicians

United Airlines Pilot Dies After Flight Diverts to Boise to Treat Him [VIDEO]

United Airlines Boeing 737
United Airlines took the top spot as the worst on-time U.S. carrier according to low fare specialist ‘Let’s Fly Cheaper’

A United Airlines pilot suffered an apparent heart attack in midair on a flight to Seattle on Thursday evening, and later died after the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Boise, Idaho, a hospital spokeswoman told NBC News.

A doctor and military personnel reportedly attempted to save the pilot’s life by administering CPR amid a dramatic scene, as another passenger rushed to help get the plane safely to the ground.

The spokeswoman at Saint Alphonsus Hospital in Boise confirmed the pilot’s death on Friday morning. United Airlines spokeswoman Christen David said that the flight’s captain was the individual involved in an email to NBC News.

The pilot was alive when he arrived at the local hospital but died during the night while being treated, hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Krajnik told the Associated Press.

“I am sad to confirm that our co-worker passed away last night,” David said. “Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Boise Airport spokeswoman Patti Miller told Reuters that the airport received a call “at about 7:55 p.m. Mountain Time declaring an emergency, they said the pilot had had a heart attack.”

“We’ve got a man down, chest compressions going on right now,” a co-pilot said to the Boise tower, according to a recording of the flight-to-tower communication.

The plane landed less than 15 minutes later, Miller told the news service.



FAA Issues Policy to Improve Workplace Safety for Aircraft Cabin Crewmembers


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), working with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), today issued a final policy for improving workplace safety for aircraft cabin crewmembers.

While the FAA’s aviation safety regulations take precedence, OSHA will be able to enforce certain occupational safety and health standards currently not covered by FAA oversight.

“Safety is our number one priority – for both the traveling public and the dedicated men and women who work in the transportation industry,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “It’s important that cabin crewmembers on our nation’s airlines benefit from OSHA protections, including information about potential on-the-job hazards and other measures to keep them healthy and safe.”

“This policy shows the strength of agencies working together and will enhance the safety of cabin crewmembers and passengers alike,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “It is imperative that cabin crewmembers have the same level of safety assurances they provide the public.”

Aircraft cabin safety issues that fall under OSHA standards include information on hazardous chemicals, exposure to blood-borne pathogens, and hearing conservation programs, as well as rules on record-keeping and access to employee exposure and medical records. The FAA and OSHA will develop procedures to ensure that OSHA does not apply any requirements that could adversely affect aviation safety.

“Our cabin crewmembers contribute to the safe operation of every flight each day,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We’re taking an important step toward establishing procedures for resolving cabin crew workplace health and safety concerns.”

“We look forward to working with the FAA and through our alliance with the aviation industry and labor organizations to improve the safety of cabin crewmembers,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Through the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress required the FAA to develop a policy statement to outline the circumstances in which OSHA requirements could apply to crewmembers while they are working onboard aircraft.

The policy will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. OSHA will conduct outreach and then begin enforcement activities after the first six months from the effective date.

Ryanair Blasts “Pilots Survey” Questioning the Carrier’s Safety

Ryanair Boeing 737-800
Ryanair 737-800

Ryanair today (12th August) dismissed inaccurate reports in a number of UK papers, including the Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph, which made references to a “survey of Ryanair pilots” and comments attributed to an Evert Van Zwol, the self styled Chairman of the Ryanair Pilot Group’s Interim Council.

Ryanair pointed out the Ryanair Pilot Group is in fact a Non Ryanair Pilot Group (NRPG), as it is a PR front for the European Cockpit Association, which is the group representing pilot trade unions of Ryanair’s competitor airlines.

Ryanair also pointed out that the self proclaimed Chairman of this Non Ryanair Group “Interim Council”, Evert Van Zwol, is in fact a serving KLM pilot and recent President of the Dutch Pilot Union. Ryanair finds it strange that the Financial Times and others attribute quotes about Ryanair’s safety to this individual without pointing out (in the interest of balance and accuracy) that he is not a Ryanair pilot, but is rather a KLM pilot and the recent President of the Dutch Pilot Trade Union.

Ryanair pointed out that this so called pilot survey was in fact fabricated by the European Cockpit Association (ECA) which is the pilot trade union club for Ryanair’s competitor airlines. Another member of the NRPG Interim Council is a Ted Murphy, a lifelong Aer Lingus pilot, former Chairman of the Aer Lingus pilots union IALPA, and a two term President of IFALPA, the international pilots union.

Ryanair’s Robin Kiely said:

“The Non Ryanair Pilot Group (NRPG )is quite clearly a PR front for pilot trade unions of Ryanair’s competitor airlines. A so called “survey” fabricated by these ECA pilot unions, which does not have access to or contact with the entire 3,000 plus pilots employed by Ryanair, lacks any independence, objectivity or reliability. It is another failed attempt by ECA pilot unions to use non-existent safety “concerns” to advance their 25 year failed campaign to win union recognition in Ryanair.

“Both Ryanair and the Irish Aviation Authority operate confidential safety reporting systems which allow any Ryanair pilot with any legitimate safety concerns to report these in complete confidentiality – without any fear of reprisal – either through Ryanair’s confidential system or the IAA’s independent and confidential system.

Ryanair’s outstanding 29 year safety record is a matter of rigorous oversight and fact based evidence. It is not something that can be voted on or subjected to anonymous or fabricated trade union surveys. It has been rigorously regulated and independently verified by the Irish Aviation Authority, operating to the highest EU safety requirements – and the IAA have recently confirmed that “Ryanair’s safety is on a par with the safest airlines in Europe”.