Masters of DeSkies

February 17, 2015

Who’s your airline employee working for?  
The trend among the airlines is to outsource as much as possible to third-party vendors, from the pilots and flight attendants at the regional jets, to the baggage handlers and ramp agents
Soon, ‘virtual airlines‘ may be the norm, where the airlines will be mere ticket sellers, and someone else will be responsible for what happens up in the sky, or when something goes wrong.
How do you feel about flying on aircraft with outsourced maintenance? The FAA has said they do not have enough people to sufficiently inspect many maintenance companies in foreign lands.   
United was in the crosshairs of consumer advocate, Ralph Nader, on Friday. He penned a letter to CEO of United, Jeff Smisek, telling him that costs are not the issue -it’s service that leads to revenues, and United is awful on that issue.  
Dear Mr. Smisek,  
stories have come to public attention about your airline, which invites
some serious introspection by you and your fellow executives who make
millions of dollars a year.

The first appeared in the January 23, 2015 edition of the Wall Street Journal titled, “Suddenly Flush Airlines Debate How to Use Cash.” 

article posed the choices: for increased services for consumers and
reduced fares; for investors to cut debt and buy back stock. There was
no indication of a cash dividend increase. Then this paragraph: “United
returned $320 million to shareholders last year through share
repurchases, and it said Thursday it could accelerate its buybacks with
extra cash flow.”

Stock buybacks – really a poor use of productive
capital – are favored by executive suites as a way to
elevate executive compensation compared to cash dividends.
Now comes the second story that was not so widely publicized.
Your subordinates have been instructed to outsource 2,000 union jobs
under a vendor bidding process that you will throw against your loyal
skilled workers to match, or else.

stations at airports are affected in this round. You hope to save $2.7
million out of the pay of long-time United Airlines workers (many who
make $15 per hour and benefits) on the tarmac at dawn or dusk, and rain,
snow or shine.
these two stories prod you to wonder what’s going on in your monetized
mind that excludes common decency and elemental labor management
relations? Do you think that vendors’ lower paid, inexperienced labor
pool is not going to cause you problems down the road?
does a merged airline (with Continental) planning more unproductive
stock buybacks to pile on the $320 million in 2014 have any qualms
squeezing 2,000 already hard-pressed workers with families out of $2.7
million (not to mention other similar plans, past and future),
astonishingly at a time of record profits? 
appears to be your corporate policy tool for your passengers as well –
for example squeezing their leg room, squeezing them by innumerable fees
and penalties and squeezing their time by delays on the phone in
responding to their questions.
is it that a far tighter oligopoly of domestic airlines than before
deregulation mimics each other’s race to the bottom in labor and
consumer relations, instead of mimicking better practices by Southwest
Airlines with a far more consistent record of profits and no layoffs?
Does this perverse behavior also make you wonder?
Smisek, you’re pushing the envelopes in ways that reflect a power trip –
that is if you can get away with it, you will. At this point I am
reminded of the courteous UAL of the Sixties, Seventies and early
Eighties with services and attentiveness, with a fine record of domestic
maintenance standards. That history should provide you with some
contemplation about the role of top management over the years.
this advice: drop the risky outsourcing; treat your employees as
Southwest does; and stop ratcheting up the fees for baggage, changes of
reservations, etc. Unless, that is, you believe that customer backlash,
investigations by media and lawmakers and lower job gratification are
not anywhere on your horizon.
Your response is welcomed.
Ralph Nader
PO Box 19312
Washington, DC 20036
the airline industry has devolved into the customer-unfriendly
entities. However, it’s not just United (get the irony of that name?)
-all of the airlines are laying off employees, outsourcing and charging
extra fees.

In January we wrote about the wisdom of United outsourcing baggage handling for all United Express flights in Denver to Simplicity
right before the holiday rush to cut costs, leading to weeks of turmoil
on the tarmac and baggage claims. The employees with Simplicity were
working for $8 an hour. 
should not be acceptable to passengers. But we’ve been so drilled down
to accept diminished service when it comes to commercial aviation. Soon
there will be a generation that never knew how flying used to be, and
what has been taken away. Media Advisory

WHAT: Media Briefing on Petitions to Reduce Airfares and End Airline exemptions from consumer protection & antitrust laws.

It will hold a media briefing on its
petitions and initiatives to reduce change fees on international
flights, to reduce airfares generally due to lower jet fuel costs, to
amend the Airline Deregulation Act to remedy numerous abuses, and to curtail airline exemptions from consumer protection and antitrust laws.

WHO:, with legal experts on aviation consumer law and rights

Including Paul Hudson, President of and Member, FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee

WHEN: February 18, 2015 9:30 – 10:30 AM

WHERE: 218 D Street SE, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20003 (Capitol Hill)

CALL IN for audio access is 1-605-562-0020 Access Code 656-991-615

Skype access also available.

For more information call 800-662-1859, the largest
airline passenger group with 50,000 members and the principal advocate
for the 2010 tarmac confinement and truth in scheduling rules, has filed
a formal rulemaking petition with the DOT.

                              Sign our Petition 
                                     for a Passenger Bill of Rights


                                Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights
                                   with Paul Hudson, President
Consider making a secured donation to FlyersRights.
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