Are United Airlines Pilots Getting Greedy With Contract Demands?

Are United Airlines Pilots Getting Greedy With Contract Demands?

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At the moment we’re seeing pilots at most major airlines negotiating new contracts. They didn’t have much leverage to negotiate during the first couple of years of the pandemic, and they now have great bargaining power, given the pilot shortage.

Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines have already ratified new contracts. Meanwhile pilots at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have both authorized a strike (which nowadays just seems to be a standard part of the negotiation process). That leaves United Airlines pilots, who still seem to be the furthest from having a new contract.

United pilots want a better contract than Delta

Delta pilots recently negotiated an unprecedented, industry-leading contract, which will get pilots $7.2 billion of value over the course of four years. In addition to huge pay bumps, pilots are also getting quality of life improvements.

Just for some context on the value of this contract, between 2016 and 2019 (considered the “best of times” in the industry), Delta’s total net profit was $16 billion, while American’s total net profit was $7 billion.

You’d think at this point that American and United pilots would just be happy with a contract that matches Delta’s, which is ridiculously lucrative. Well, that’s not the case. As reported by Reuters, Garth Thompson, the head of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) for United, expects the airline to do better than that.

In an interview, Thompson has stated that United pilots want higher pay than their counterparts at Delta, and similar quality of life improvements. He stated that any contract that falls short of those expectations will have no takers.

United has been negotiating a new contract with pilots going back as far as five years. As you’d expect, negotiations were put on pause at the start of the pandemic. Then in 2022, pilots voted against a tentative agreement, and have been negotiating ever since.

United pilots want a better contract than Delta has

Why a new contract will be especially rough on United

Presumably in the end, American, Delta, and United, will end up with similar pay scales. For example, Delta’s new contract states that if another airline negotiates a better contract, Delta pilots will get that matched, plus 1%.

I question how sustainable these pilot pay increases are for the industry. Among American, Delta, and United, all airlines having higher pilot pay does put Delta at a competitive advantage. That’s because Delta is able to command a revenue premium from passengers above American and United.

Meanwhile I’d say significantly higher pilot pay puts United at the biggest disadvantage. That’s because the airline has by far the biggest ultra long haul route network of the “big three” US carriers.

Flights of over eight hours typically require three pilots, while flights of over 12 hours typically require four pilots. Even though pilots rest for roughly half of ultra long haul flights (when there are four pilots), they all get paid for all hours they’re onboard.

At what point does very high pilot pay starts to impact the viability of some routes? Let’s just assume that United matches Delta’s new pay. San Francisco to Singapore is blocked at around 17 hours, and requires four pilots, with one captain and three first officers.

Under the new Delta contract that maxes out in 2026, a senior captain would be paid $474.20 per hour, while a senior first officer would be paid $323.92 per hour. So the four pilots would be getting paid $1,445.96 per hour, meaning the pilots alone would be earning over $24,500 for the one-way flight. That doesn’t factor in any of the other benefits (health insurance, per diem, hotel accommodations, etc.) they’re receiving.

Incrementally, we’re talking about an extra $7,000+ in expenses per direction. That’s not an insignificant amount, especially when you consider that many ultra long haul flights already have challenging economics, and are already only marginally profitable.

This higher pay could be a challenge for ultra long haul flights

How much do pilots “deserve” to be paid?

I very much respect what airline pilots do, and I think they deserve to be well compensated. I also recognize that they’ve had a rough several years, and I’m happy that things are finally looking up for pilots. Between significant pay scale increases and “upgrades” to bigger jets and left seats, pilots are already starting to earn more than before.

At the same time, we’re now getting to the point where some senior captains are earning around half a million dollars per year. American’s CEO has even said that a new contract would see some pilots making up to $590K per year.

While I’m happy for them, one has to wonder how exactly these pay increases will be paid for. Will we see profit margins at airlines decline? Will we just see ticket prices increase? Historically airline pricing isn’t based on how much a flight costs to operate, but rather is based on how much airlines can get away with charging.

There are a couple of things I’m fundamentally struggling with.

First of all, aviation is incredibly safe, and airlines around the globe have high safety standards. That’s true for airlines where the pilot pay scale maxes out at $100K, and it’s true for airlines where the pilot pay scale maxes out at $500K. You should feel safe flying Ryanair, and you should feel safe flying Delta.

Second of all, the argument by unions is that pilots deserve this much money because there’s a pilot shortage. Okay, fair, but what happens in a few years if there’s no longer a pilot shortage? Will pilots be willing to voluntarily take significant pay cuts to reflect that?

Going back several years, the industry was downright exploitative. Pilots at regional airlines got paid so little that some of them lived at the poverty line. That shouldn’t be the case. But now we’re seeing the opposite extreme. First officers at regional airlines can now quickly make $100K+, while captains can even make $200K+. Meanwhile at legacy airlines, first officers can make $300K+, while captains can make $500K+.

And while I say all of this, let me also mention that I think it’s absurd how much the CEOs at airlines make. Some of them are making eight figures annually while doing a lackluster job, so I certainly can’t blame pilots for trying to negotiate just a small fraction of that.

Will pilots take pay cuts when the pilot shortage ends?

Bottom line

Delta pilots recently negotiated an industry-leading contract, which is the benchmark for other airlines. However, United pilots don’t just want the same pay as Delta, but they want more pay, in addition to qualify of life improvements.

It’s a great time for pilots to be negotiating contracts, and I certainly can’t blame them for trying to get as much money as they can (goodness knows that airline executives do the same). However, one has to wonder about the long-term implications of these massive pay increases.

Airlines had no problems exploiting pilots for very little pay when there was a surplus of them, and now we’ve gone to the other extreme. The question is how this will stabalize over time.

What do you make of the demands of United pilots?

Conversations (115)
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  1. Notborn Ayer Guest

    Scott Kirby. $1M salary with $8.7 million in bonus and stock options.

    United President total compensation package: $3.7M

    When they leave a nice golden parachute with travel privileges for life.

    Average cost for a pilot’s initial training over $200k out of pocket. Dedication for working for peanuts to someday get to a major airline to someday be able to retire without worrying about only having social security.

    Big Business is where the Greed is.

  2. Chris Guest

    If the one way cost increase on a long haul is $7000 (assuming all pilots are maxed out on the scale…not likely), and average passenger load on an international flight is, say 250 passengers (A350 holds over 300), the average ticket price increase to be cost neutral is just $28.

  3. Brian De Jong Guest

    Mismanagement blaming the pilots for their mismanagement? Who could have seen that tired old false narrative coming? Just once, I’d like for mismanagement to step up and own their mistakes. Stop blaming the people who actually do the work and make your profits.

  4. Tom Guest

    How much money is wasted on DEI nonsense? Executive bonuses? Shall I continue?

  5. George Guest

    The writer of the article is not well informed or simply made little effort to get things correct. On the long haul flight he references Delta uses two Captains and two Copilots while United flies it with 1 Captain and 3 copilots. Even with substantially higher pay rates at UAL their costs per flight will be lower than Delta.

  6. FUPM Guest

    You greatly mis interpret pilot pay. We only get paid when the door is closed so if you breakdown that hourly rate for the 5 days we are away from home in Singapore what does that come out to be? Also? We only get paid 89 hours a month instead of 160 hours of a 40 hour work week.

    Compare apples to apples.

    Also, Pilot medicals are strenuous and any little thing can end our...

    You greatly mis interpret pilot pay. We only get paid when the door is closed so if you breakdown that hourly rate for the 5 days we are away from home in Singapore what does that come out to be? Also? We only get paid 89 hours a month instead of 160 hours of a 40 hour work week.

    Compare apples to apples.

    Also, Pilot medicals are strenuous and any little thing can end our careers at the snap of a finger. We have to be ready to be jobless and be able to support our families at any moment. Most people can get in a car accident and keep their job…..that isn’t the case for pilots. A simple concussion can put us out of a job for months because the FAA needs to investigate our ability to fly. Getting a medical back can take months or years and This process is extremely expensive.

    Also pilots are forced to retire at 65 many of us have had our pensions stripped in bankruptcy. From 2001-2012 we took 30% or higher pay cuts forced upon us.

    This job isn’t rainbows and it’s finally time for us to get our cut of the billion dollar profits made off our dacks

  7. Big4 Pilot Guest

    The ad hominem attacks are not a good look, clickbait-laden headline or not.

    As for the “concern” over what will happen to UA if the pilots achieve an industry leading contract, especially with regard to long haul flights — do the math per passenger. Another commenter here broke it down pretty well, with an example of a ticket going from $1500 to $1520. They’ll be fine.

    ESOP, pensions, 9/11, not one but two bankruptcies, pay...

    The ad hominem attacks are not a good look, clickbait-laden headline or not.

    As for the “concern” over what will happen to UA if the pilots achieve an industry leading contract, especially with regard to long haul flights — do the math per passenger. Another commenter here broke it down pretty well, with an example of a ticket going from $1500 to $1520. They’ll be fine.

    ESOP, pensions, 9/11, not one but two bankruptcies, pay cuts of nearly 50%, the “LCO” (low cost operation) which had different rules and protections for widebody pilots, and dreadful mismanagement by the C-suite rewarded with bonuses, golden parachutes and promotion.

    UA spent $3.45 million on lawyers for the first bankruptcy alone.

    Is it greedy to bargain for improvements to the current contract which contain rules from those bankruptcy eras? Because that’s what they have over there. Empty promises from both sides (management and union) to “fix” things on the next go around.

    We have, now, a new generation of airline pilots that come into this with eyes wide open. They know the intricacies of each company’s work rules, how much they’ll make and the kind of work/life balance they’ll be able to achieve with a massive amount of time away from home. UA pilots are negotiating for themselves but, as some have pointed out, to attract talent as well. This is nothing new. United Next is one of the most aggressive capital campaigns I’ve seen in the last 25 years, at least. It all falls apart if most pilots, new or otherwise, choose to go elsewhere.

    I don’t think any of the pilots there give a rip about whether the author or his readership consider any of this “greedy” or not. Excise the last demons of bankruptcy era agreements and close the book on that nasty chapter of airline history.

    I can’t locate it, unfortunately, but one of the newsmagazine shows (Frontline, maybe?) did a piece on the lead attorney UA brought on from Kirkland and Ellis for the bankruptcy. To say that it’s stomach turning is the understatement of the century, whether in or out of the industry.

  8. Bill Guest

    With all the apparent UA pilots telling us how important they are and they deserve to be 1%ers, I have just one final question. You already are paid about double the pay of Air Force One pilots. Why do you deserve/need more?

    1. Commander 757 Guest

      Many of us did full military careers, at significantly lower pay rates than the current ones. Airlines are not the military. My compensation graph looks like a sine wave, bankruptcies, furloughs, etc. Every downturn we make sacrifices to protect the companies. No interest in choking the golden goose. We lose significant pay and benefits. In my case, we agreed to a second round of concessions after 9/11 in return for protecting our pensions. Our company...

      Many of us did full military careers, at significantly lower pay rates than the current ones. Airlines are not the military. My compensation graph looks like a sine wave, bankruptcies, furloughs, etc. Every downturn we make sacrifices to protect the companies. No interest in choking the golden goose. We lose significant pay and benefits. In my case, we agreed to a second round of concessions after 9/11 in return for protecting our pensions. Our company gleefully hired the strongest, slimiest lawyers available to take that from us. When the billion dollar profits return, management (remember, they are employees as well) delights in rewarding themselves bonuses and stock options, yet drag their feet for as long as possible in negotiating our contract. That's their game, and that is why unions are necessary. They preach "shared sacrifice, shared reward" during crises, but they become pretty stingy about sharing when we are seeing record profits.

  9. Mike S Guest

    Funny that I don't recall you bemoaning the airline buying back $8 billion in stock in the 4 years leading up to Covid. What was that an investment in? Time to invest in labor.

    1. TangoAlpha Guest

      What about the other labor, including those who chose not to be unionized? The office staff who strategically plan the business for the long-term. Are they not as important?

  10. Carl K Guest

    Tell me that you have been paid by Ford & Harrison without telling me that you have been paid by Ford & Harrison.

  11. Jayson Guest

    All of the statements are intriguing. I rarely get involved in the fluff, but as I responded to someone else, I can honestly see both sides. I'm a military pilot so I've done all the missed personal events, being overworked, and undervalued for wayyyyy less pay. I was also a federal officer (1811) in the past and did way more for less. I'm highly educated and fly just as complex aircraft and do it for...

    All of the statements are intriguing. I rarely get involved in the fluff, but as I responded to someone else, I can honestly see both sides. I'm a military pilot so I've done all the missed personal events, being overworked, and undervalued for wayyyyy less pay. I was also a federal officer (1811) in the past and did way more for less. I'm highly educated and fly just as complex aircraft and do it for less, but then there's another sense of fulfillment there.

    All that being said, I have tons of commercial friends and I get it, it's not them against the public, even though the public will feel the cost of any higher contract agreements, it's them against their management. It's a tough pill when you see CEOs and exec management teams getting millions in compensation and corporate pork packages and you're making a measly 150k. Just keep in mind that there are some people in the public who understand your lifestyle and understand it for less. It doesn't take away the validity of what you're all saying, just I'd be careful with making the perception that only commercial pilots know such a hard lifestyle and deserve half a mil for it. You might lose some style points there.

    1. Bill Guest

      Thanks for serving. Your view vs the many commercial pilots who don’t know what a deployment is comes down to having a purpose vs being a mercenary. Highest bidder vs mission. Glad to see someone satisfied with their choices.

    2. Commander 757 Guest

      One of the many rewards of serving 22 years, missing half of them on cruises and deployments, is having a marketable skill to improve my family's quality of life. And don't think that the military didn't use that when recruiting us!

  12. Rob matel Guest

    Sounds like the writer is jealous?!? Orthopedic surgeons make how much?!? I know some making well over 1 mil. U don't think that drives cost of healthcare up?!? These articles that are writing by outsiders are embarrassing to journalism.

  13. Jim Guest

    How much is an airline pilot worth? No, really, how much should an airline pilot be paid? How about a brain surgeon? Let me ask it another way. How many lives are in the hands of any given brain surgeon at a time? How about an airline pilot?

    I can tell you definitively that not all pilots are created equal. The difference between passengers living and dying under dire circumstances is often the tenacity, knowledge...

    How much is an airline pilot worth? No, really, how much should an airline pilot be paid? How about a brain surgeon? Let me ask it another way. How many lives are in the hands of any given brain surgeon at a time? How about an airline pilot?

    I can tell you definitively that not all pilots are created equal. The difference between passengers living and dying under dire circumstances is often the tenacity, knowledge and skill of the crew. United pilots want to attract the best of the best to work with us as we are justifiably proud of our safety record and want to keep it that way. If United is at the bottom of the pay scale, the best pilots will go work elsewhere.

    As to the assertion that we are asking too much, consider the fact that those near the bottom of the seniority list in each seat on each fleet cannot make plans outside of work due to the fact that a day off can often be “rolled” by the company. This means that a day off is not a day off. We can also be “reassigned” into days off at the end of a trip on a whim by the company and there is nothing we can do about it. I have three children and can count on ONE HAND the number of birthdays I have been able to spend with my children. My youngest is 20 years old.

    Matching Delta’s pay rates is a given and even United management understands that. What we really want is quality of work life balance improvements which will allow us to enjoy time with our families like everyone else. Scott Kirby, United’s CEO, put this in a Mother’s Day letter to the employees: “I’ve learned to keep a good work-life balance and am blessed to be able to spend so much time with Kathleen and the kids.” We want - and frankly deserve - no less than that. Ask anyone who makes 7 figures but works 29 days a month how much free time they have to enjoy life. Do you want your pilots to be relaxed and generally happy with their lives or do you want them preoccupied with the stresses of knowing that they are constantly on the brink of divorce because they cannot spend the time necessary at home to make life good for their spouse?

    How much is an airline pilot worth? How much is your life worth to you?

  14. Henry Faffenbach Guest

    I think you've glossed over the "exploitative" part of your points above. This seems like a big jump now, but it's not even where it should be had airlines like United not abrogated pilot contracts in the past. All the pilot groups are trying to do is get the rates back to where they should have been all along.

    Yes, aviation is safer than it's ever been, especially in the US. That's not only because...

    I think you've glossed over the "exploitative" part of your points above. This seems like a big jump now, but it's not even where it should be had airlines like United not abrogated pilot contracts in the past. All the pilot groups are trying to do is get the rates back to where they should have been all along.

    Yes, aviation is safer than it's ever been, especially in the US. That's not only because of automation. In the end, you're paying the pilots for the .01% scenario. An example is the MAX issue - pilots in the US reported those issues, yet training and skills meant they still operated the aircraft safely and prevented accidents. So what's the dollar value you'd place on those passenger lives?

  15. Bill Guest

    The part of this that is so interesting is the pilots commenting on the pay of others. CEO's, doctors, etc. If their desire was to be a CEO or a doctor, etc then why did they learn to fly. The reaction from the ticket purchasing customers is understandable. If a pilot gets paid double tomorrow how does that benefit the passenger? Are we more safe? More likely to be on time? Better treatment as a...

    The part of this that is so interesting is the pilots commenting on the pay of others. CEO's, doctors, etc. If their desire was to be a CEO or a doctor, etc then why did they learn to fly. The reaction from the ticket purchasing customers is understandable. If a pilot gets paid double tomorrow how does that benefit the passenger? Are we more safe? More likely to be on time? Better treatment as a valued customer? No to all. Just paying a higher price. When Medicare cut reimbursements to doctors this year after the greatest inflation in decades I doubt anyone felt their physicians would become less careful, less skilled or less anything except lower paid. Bottom line, if you aren't satisfied with the career you chose or the tradeoffs to earn your lofty salaries aren't worth it any more do what the rest of us do. Make a change that makes you happier. No need to share your misery with your choices.

    1. Tim Guest

      Yep...I agree Bill...let the free market decide. Guess what? Pilot pay and conditions were horrible for years. I'm talking food-stamps-governemnt-cheese horrible. Only those few that loved the job stuck with it, driving thousands away and preventing interest by thousands more. This is why we're here. The industry is in demand and there's short supply...the price goes up. The industry is consolidated enough that the cost will be transferred to the customer. The great news...the customer...

      Yep...I agree Bill...let the free market decide. Guess what? Pilot pay and conditions were horrible for years. I'm talking food-stamps-governemnt-cheese horrible. Only those few that loved the job stuck with it, driving thousands away and preventing interest by thousands more. This is why we're here. The industry is in demand and there's short supply...the price goes up. The industry is consolidated enough that the cost will be transferred to the customer. The great news...the customer still has a choice not to pay, and drive to their destination.

  16. Toadaso Guest

    4 pilots 2 captains and 2 first officers for a flight to Singapore? You're like a small child that wanders into a movie halfway through and starts asking what's going on. An augmented crew has 1 captain and 3 first officers or 1 captain and 2 first officers depending on length. Maybe you should focus on the millions CEOs are getting paid on bonuses instead of complaining about labor.

    1. T H Guest

      2 Captains, 2 First Officers. FAA requirement on the ultra long haul flights.

    2. WHS Guest

      For flights over 16 hours, there is a requirement to have 2 Captains and 2 First Officers at United.

  17. Erik Stark Guest

    What a bunch of corporate contrived crap. Considering the average pilot makes less than a surgeon, but is responsible for 100’s of lives every time they go to work, in ways most people can’t imagine, the notion poor old United can’t afford this contract is corporate propaganda at its finest. Whoever wrote this article strikes me as a corporate shill, devoid of actual facts of what pilots gave back in wages and pensions after 9-11,...

    What a bunch of corporate contrived crap. Considering the average pilot makes less than a surgeon, but is responsible for 100’s of lives every time they go to work, in ways most people can’t imagine, the notion poor old United can’t afford this contract is corporate propaganda at its finest. Whoever wrote this article strikes me as a corporate shill, devoid of actual facts of what pilots gave back in wages and pensions after 9-11, after the 2008 economic crash, during COVID, etc. When you have no idea what you’re actually talking about, it’s easy to paint a picture of greedy, unreasonable pilots. Congrats, and management thanks you for painted a corporate-slanted narrative. Doesn’t have a lot to do with actual reality. Cheers, though.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      as much as pilots want to tell us how valuable they are because of the number of lives in their hands, there are plenty of people in the marketplace and government that have responsibility for as many or more lives = and they make less than pilots.
      Pilots in the US make as much as they do because of heavy unionization and very effective pattern bargaining over decades and decades. Pilots in other countries...

      as much as pilots want to tell us how valuable they are because of the number of lives in their hands, there are plenty of people in the marketplace and government that have responsibility for as many or more lives = and they make less than pilots.
      Pilots in the US make as much as they do because of heavy unionization and very effective pattern bargaining over decades and decades. Pilots in other countries have no less responsibility but make far less.

      Wages and benefits are driven by market forces in a perfect free market world - but unionization distorts that "perfection"

      That said, the reason why UA pilots expect and will get higher wages is not because of the reasons you state but because market forces - largely driven by the shortage of pilots across all types of flying and because of Delta's very generous contract.

      You won't be any more or less important depending on the amount of money you make before or after a new contract. You will make more because of forces that are beyond what you as an individual pilot control - the most notable of which is one of your most direct competitors decided to pay its pilots hefty retro and much higher salary levels. In the pattern bargaining system that is the airline industry, you will benefit - just as you should

    2. Matt Guest

      You know what else distorts the equation? Working under the Railway Labor Act. Pilots and their unions are not allowed to strike without going through a long drawn out process that usually results in being denied by the President/Congress. This certainly benefits management and weakens pilots’ leverage. Pilots work under old rules and pay scales (typically for several years) during negotiations. All the while, inflation is eating away at their earnings. As for work rules,...

      You know what else distorts the equation? Working under the Railway Labor Act. Pilots and their unions are not allowed to strike without going through a long drawn out process that usually results in being denied by the President/Congress. This certainly benefits management and weakens pilots’ leverage. Pilots work under old rules and pay scales (typically for several years) during negotiations. All the while, inflation is eating away at their earnings. As for work rules, many airlines are still operating under ones that have hardly improved since bankruptcies in the 2000’s. It would be stupid for pilots not to use this opportunity to make gains in pay and work rules they have been fighting decades for.

    3. Steve Guest

      “ there are plenty of people in the marketplace and government that have responsibility for as many or more lives = and they make less than pilots.”

      Please list examples of what you are referring to with this statement.

    4. Commander 757 Guest

      All valid points, and true. The game that management plays is to tout "shared sacrifice, shared reward" in the downturns, taking every thing that they can from the pilots, and other labor groups. Then, when the companies return to fantastic profits, they reward themselves with pretty ridiculous bonuses and stock options while dragging their feet as long as possible on labor contracts. That's what creates the adversarial relationship.

  18. Josh Guest

    Unfortunately, what plays out in situations of greed if the pilot shortage stabilizes, the market will eventually stabilize. The company can hire, but just as easily can shrink a workforce. Union or no union. This will be seen as the glory days of making 500k. That or they cause a shift within UA for shorter routes thus more profitable for the business.

  19. Azamaraal Diamond

    When you look at the micro economics that a flight might cost $7000 more you lose sight of the fact that with 350 passengers that is an incremental cost of $20.

    Your eggs went from $2.50 to $9. So a flight went from $1500 to $1520. It isn't the end of the world. Since every airline is experiencing the extreme inflation in pilot salaries there won't be much impact on any one airline unless someone caves completely.

  20. Donald Kelly Guest

    You are 100% correct that legacy pilots come off as whinny babies completely out of touch with their customers and the rest of American labor. Other than you basically promoting UA corporate’s version of what’s happening with their contract negotiations, why is that?

    As said, the references to what the United pilots want seem like canned sound bites promoted by corporate management to undermine their employees and two, the ultra long haul routes you...

    You are 100% correct that legacy pilots come off as whinny babies completely out of touch with their customers and the rest of American labor. Other than you basically promoting UA corporate’s version of what’s happening with their contract negotiations, why is that?

    As said, the references to what the United pilots want seem like canned sound bites promoted by corporate management to undermine their employees and two, the ultra long haul routes you mention are a tiny fraction of UAs business model. This contract should have been resolved long ago but Airlines recognized decades ago that they had no incentive to update contracts and no penalties to drag their feet and negotiate in bad faith. Unlike most American labor, airline workers are LEGALLY OBLIGATED to continue working whatever schedule the company publishes or quit. They can’t even refuse as a group to pick up overtime or call the company out on abusive practices without having the company drag them into court to have a judge order them to comply.

    While high paid pilots at a legacy carrier can certainly be faulted for being tone deaf to how well off they are compared to other American workers (and you do) it’s an indictment of our entire labor system in this country that labor protections and compensation as a percentage of corporate profit have fallen so far in the last 40 years. The bulk of ANY businesses revenue SHOULD be going to the operating cost of the business, not investors. Investors derive the value from their investments from the value of the companies they’re invested in, not from extractive dividends, overpaid corporate boards, and stock market gimmicks like stock buy backs. THAT is what needs to change.

  21. John Guest

    Ben why don't you write an article on the executive team that just took more stock options. Scott Kirby now is making over $30 million as CEO is that OK for you? Go read the 8K and the upcoming BOD meeting in Denver May 25th. By the way Kirby only wants to pay Delta rates not the the work rules. If Covit has taught all of us quality of life is just as important as pay.

  22. Leigh Diamond

    I have huge respect and even envy for those in the industry, perhaps especially pilots. My very young niece is currently doing accelerated flight school program to be a pilot, and she'll soon be with a DL regional...and I have special passion to see her succeed beyond all dreams.

    But I do note many negative comments about Ben, the writer. I find many of those comments unnecessarily disparaging, and not in a way any professional...

    I have huge respect and even envy for those in the industry, perhaps especially pilots. My very young niece is currently doing accelerated flight school program to be a pilot, and she'll soon be with a DL regional...and I have special passion to see her succeed beyond all dreams.

    But I do note many negative comments about Ben, the writer. I find many of those comments unnecessarily disparaging, and not in a way any professional would want to represent their industry.

    Remember that most who write and read this and similar blogs (blogs! not some media outlet!) are the ones that fill the plane that generate the revenue for the airlines...so have some respect. It's a two-way street.

  23. Michael Sampson Guest

    Are United’s execs and bod members getting too greedy??? That’s a better question if you are going to be asking

  24. Brian Guest

    Keep in mind, we are highly trained, worked years and years for pennies and are finally seeing the pay catch-up to what we are worth. We have hundreds of lives in our hands daily, are gone for at least two weeks every month, live on hotel and airport food and sleep in a different bed nightly two weeks out of the month. We work holidays, miss birthdays, anniversaries, and funerals just to name a few....

    Keep in mind, we are highly trained, worked years and years for pennies and are finally seeing the pay catch-up to what we are worth. We have hundreds of lives in our hands daily, are gone for at least two weeks every month, live on hotel and airport food and sleep in a different bed nightly two weeks out of the month. We work holidays, miss birthdays, anniversaries, and funerals just to name a few. A lot of us lost our whole retirement after 9/11, took massive pay cuts and got furloughed for years. Do we deserve this pay? Absolutely! We are only now starting to get back what the airlines took away from us in the early 2000’s. I’m sick and tired of people who know nothing of this industry complaining about our pay. These airlines can afford it and much more.

  25. Tom Guest

    What a clueless take from a failed private pilot who had to give up on his airline pilot dreams because he’s an idiot.

    1. Leigh Diamond

      And with your comment, you demonstrate your own despicable level of character that no one should take advice from.

  26. david Guest

    It's really not that much when you compare it to reparations being recommended for lazy worthless losers in SFO.

  27. Frances Case Guest

    Two comments: United Airlines sucks! Pilots got us from Dublin to Chicago all right. However, a totally full plane with only one toilet functioning! Next comment: the executives should all be fired!! From a customer who just stepped off an international flight. 5/12/23

  28. Joe Petroni Guest

    Pilot wages haven't kept up with inflation. Work rules were decimated during bankruptcies and haven't recoverred. Theres a pillot shortage. Supply and demand for pilots suggest much higher rates.
    Airliies need to raise fares. Pretty simple

    1. Brian Guest

      The 4 large US airlines pay well before and after the most recent Delta contract. Most US pilots are locked into flying for US carriers, so pilots have few other employment prospects if they wish to fly. It is in airlines interest to look at increasing the supply of pilots with more tieups with flight schools. Pilots are also compensated with profit sharing that exists off the pay scales.

    2. Commander 757 Guest

      In 25 years as a pilot, with 2 major airlines, my total profit sharing payout is under $40,000. Fresh out of the military, I took a 50% pay cut. After 9/11, I took a 42% pay cut. I love my job, and would have gone elsewhere if I needed guaranteed pay raises, but I also expect to share in the reward when our company makes record profits. Management never hesitates in self-reward, but always slow-rolls the labor contracts in good times. Just my personal perspective...

  29. Bill Guest

    Two comments. First, it would be interesting to publish a table of compensation at major non US airlines. Same planes, same level of safety. I expect the US pilots would be greatly overpaid. Second, if private companies like US airlines want to commit financial suicide let’s be sure the taxpayer doesn’t bail them out. Again! What did we get for our $50 Billion?

    1. John Cutter Guest

      As a pilot, I share your disapproval of the way in which management used the pandemic airline bailout funds.

      Should we compare US pilot compensation to that of non-US pilots? To apply your premise consistently, we are then compelled to compare executive compensation at US airlines with that of non-US airlines. By that standard, US pilots are grossly underpaid.

      Capt. John Cutter

    2. Bill Guest

      You added a new premise by discussing a different job. I was looking at what is the skill set of a pilot worth in the world economy.

  30. Richard Ellmyer Guest

    I just took a United flight from Dulles in D.C. to Portland, Or. It was easily the worst flight I've taken in more than fifty years. If the seats were any closer I would not have been able to breathe. No power of any kind to keep computers, phones etc. working during an excruciatingly long flight. The pilots are surely not to blame. However, they may want to get out of their comfortable cockpit and take a look at how their passengers are being treated.

    1. Azamaraal Diamond

      Whoa partner! Pilots have nothing to do with the seating at the back of the plane.

      Their job is to get you safely from A to B. Don't blame them because you chose a horrid airline that has 28" seat pitch.

      Would you rather have pilots that cannot actually fly an airplane safely? Lots of examples!

    2. Richard Ellmyer Guest

      1. Richard Ellmyer, "The pilots are surely not to blame"
      2. Azamaraal, "you chose a horrid airline." NO CHOICE. It was the only airline going where I wanted to go on a date and time I needed to travel.
      3. Azamaraal, "Would you rather have pilots that cannot actually fly an airplane safely? " I do not recall any opportunity when checking out ticket availability that informed me and other travelers who the...

      1. Richard Ellmyer, "The pilots are surely not to blame"
      2. Azamaraal, "you chose a horrid airline." NO CHOICE. It was the only airline going where I wanted to go on a date and time I needed to travel.
      3. Azamaraal, "Would you rather have pilots that cannot actually fly an airplane safely? " I do not recall any opportunity when checking out ticket availability that informed me and other travelers who the pilot would be and how well he performed his job. Airline customers have no choice but to accept that the FAA, the airlines and their insurance companies are not licensing and/or allowing pilots to have licenses and fly their planes that are neither trained nor capable of doing so. If you have insider knowledge of unlicensed or pilots incapable of flying passengers safely please speak up. Publicly publish your allegations to the FAA, the airlines and the general flying public. Thank you.

    3. John Cutter Guest

      We pilots definitely sympathize with our passengers' discomfort. At my airline (one of the "big four") 70% of pilots commute to work by air -- often in the middle seat in coach. Airlines will continue to cram more seats in back until passengers "book away" because of discomfort. In coach, the natural tendency of occasional travelers to click on "lowest price" without regard to seat pitch takes comfort out of the market force equation. Minimum...

      We pilots definitely sympathize with our passengers' discomfort. At my airline (one of the "big four") 70% of pilots commute to work by air -- often in the middle seat in coach. Airlines will continue to cram more seats in back until passengers "book away" because of discomfort. In coach, the natural tendency of occasional travelers to click on "lowest price" without regard to seat pitch takes comfort out of the market force equation. Minimum legroom set by government regulation would be a valid option.

      Capt. John Cutter

  31. Matt S. Guest

    How out of touch can an author be…read this article and find out. This sounds like it was written by the negotiators for the airlines, not by a true journalist. The biggest hang-up with the new contract seems to be quality of life issues, not pay. United CEO Scott Kirby has talked repeatedly about his own family and how important they are to him, why should a pilot be able to have a similar quality...

    How out of touch can an author be…read this article and find out. This sounds like it was written by the negotiators for the airlines, not by a true journalist. The biggest hang-up with the new contract seems to be quality of life issues, not pay. United CEO Scott Kirby has talked repeatedly about his own family and how important they are to him, why should a pilot be able to have a similar quality of life and relationship with their family. The work rules at United are some of the worst of the majors and asking for a quality of life on par with United executives is not greedy, it should be essential for an airline that touts “Caring” as its number one Core 4 principle.

  32. Jim Ayers Guest

    Ben, it’s called “pattern bargaining,” and when times are good, unions at their respective companies will negotiate to one-up the industry leaders. We’re not greedy. We’ve given up a lot over my 26 years at United and are actually dying to capture back a lot of the work rules that we lost under the bankruptcy. It is fundamentally a different industry with the Big 3 on much better footing than the last decade. You call...

    Ben, it’s called “pattern bargaining,” and when times are good, unions at their respective companies will negotiate to one-up the industry leaders. We’re not greedy. We’ve given up a lot over my 26 years at United and are actually dying to capture back a lot of the work rules that we lost under the bankruptcy. It is fundamentally a different industry with the Big 3 on much better footing than the last decade. You call us “greedy” but don’t mention anything about the Delta pilots’ “me too” clause which increases their pay even further after we ratify our contract. The pay figures are a given. The company will pay Delta pay rates. Quality-of-worklife improvements are a must. How many birthdays and life events have I missed over the years because the company owns our time while we are on the road. And I have seniority and choose to bid lesser paying equipment than I can hold, for the benefits of seniority. You’re calling us greedy? C’mon man!

  33. Wolff13 Member

    Pilots, in general, are greedy.

    1. Prop Pete Guest

      How many Christmases have you worked away from home? Missed any other big days? You work early mornings? Nights? 14 hour days? If the answer is no you’re not a pilot. You pay to get a medical exam for no pay every 6 months that could be career ending?

    2. Bill Guest

      Ever notice what health care workers have been doing for the last three years? All of them. From the physicians to the housekeeping workers.

    3. Jayson Guest

      That's an intriguing statement. I can honestly see both sides seeing I'm a military pilot so I've done all that and more for wayyyyy less pay. I was also a federal officer (1811) in the past and did way more for less. I'm highly educated and fly just as complex aircraft, and do it for less, but then there's another sense of fulfillment there.

      All that being said, I have tons of commercial friends...

      That's an intriguing statement. I can honestly see both sides seeing I'm a military pilot so I've done all that and more for wayyyyy less pay. I was also a federal officer (1811) in the past and did way more for less. I'm highly educated and fly just as complex aircraft, and do it for less, but then there's another sense of fulfillment there.

      All that being said, I have tons of commercial friends and I get it, it's not them against the public, even though the public will feel the cost of any higher contract agreements, it's them against their management. It's a tough pill when you see CEOs and exec management teams getting millions in compensation and corporate pork packages and you're making a measly 150k. Just keep in mind that there are some people in the public who understand your lifestyle and understand it for less. It doesn't take away the validity of what you're saying, just I'd be careful with making the perception that only commercial pilots know such a hard lifestyle. You might lose some style points there.

    4. Steve Guest

      Please explain and support your claim…

    5. ted poco Guest

      They are just emulating the executive team and board. It is the American way to get as much money as possible, who cares about the future.

  34. Robert Daly Guest

    Good for the pilots many years ago when United filed bankruptcy all the airline pilots lost there pension in the bankruptcy so get what you can I’m sure the big wigs walked away with good compensation

  35. Rico Guest

    Poor take by someone who clearly knows nothing about professional aviation. Nice try though, mgmt lackey.

  36. Bertram Rowe Guest

    You have very little idea of what you’re talking about.

  37. Miguel Francisco Guest

    They offer you First a class for life?

  38. Dave Guest

    Never mind an upcoming pilot shortage, the global economy is in a downturn, not to mention the potential for additional conflicts in Europe and Asia. I think we'll see in a few years that these exorbitant contracts will cause mass bankruptcies. Short term gain for long term pain.

  39. John D Guest

    Did Scott Kirby write this?

  40. John G Guest

    How much did United pay you to write this piece?

  41. TravelinWilly Diamond

    How quickly we forget.

    "We don't want to kill the golden goose. We just want to choke it by the neck until it gives us every last egg."

    -Frederick Dubinsky to United CEO James Goodwin in 2000, the year of the summer from hell. It took United years to recover from that fiasco, and rightly so. Anyone recall how the mechanics tried their shenanigans after UA management capitulated to the pilots? "United rising" indeed.

    ...

    How quickly we forget.

    "We don't want to kill the golden goose. We just want to choke it by the neck until it gives us every last egg."

    -Frederick Dubinsky to United CEO James Goodwin in 2000, the year of the summer from hell. It took United years to recover from that fiasco, and rightly so. Anyone recall how the mechanics tried their shenanigans after UA management capitulated to the pilots? "United rising" indeed.

    Let's hope the pilots don't engage in the work slowdown crap they did in 2000. It will cost them dearly.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      The only thing that seems to be forgotten is how badly American's balance sheet was damaged by the massive fleet spending that AA engaged in for a decade - and yet it is United that has 3X more commitments for aircraft than Delta and even more than that for American.
      It isn't labor costs that will kill the company - it will be reckless spending. When other airlines can generate as much or more...

      The only thing that seems to be forgotten is how badly American's balance sheet was damaged by the massive fleet spending that AA engaged in for a decade - and yet it is United that has 3X more commitments for aircraft than Delta and even more than that for American.
      It isn't labor costs that will kill the company - it will be reckless spending. When other airlines can generate as much or more revenue and not have to spend near as much on fleet, then it is United that is structurally disadvantaged and with a business plan that cannot support the salaries that are comparable to UA's competitors - and UA's employees have no reason to see their salaries remain stagnant in order to subsidize fleet spending.

    2. Leigh Diamond

      @Tim, you're a smart guy, but the post doesn't make sense to me. AA might have ordered the required equipment for a fleet renewal, but it's not like it all hit the balance sheet at the time. The full valuation only occurs with delivery, which will take some time, and even then the capital asset pricing model factors the expected return on investment to measure its real value. It would be the same for both...

      @Tim, you're a smart guy, but the post doesn't make sense to me. AA might have ordered the required equipment for a fleet renewal, but it's not like it all hit the balance sheet at the time. The full valuation only occurs with delivery, which will take some time, and even then the capital asset pricing model factors the expected return on investment to measure its real value. It would be the same for both DL and UA as well, or almost any industry that requires large capital investments.

      I won't argue that DL has the current overall best business formula given their financial results. But I wouldn't point a finger at AA's fleet investment as the source of their comparative weakness.

    3. Sean M. Diamond

      Two Dubinsky mentions in the comments section in the same day! If Rick was dead, he'd be rolling in his grave.

      That said, the ALPA MEC today lacks the strong leadership that Dubinsky provided, for better or for worse. That generation of ALPA leadership had taken on Dick Ferris in the 1985 strike and had a history of playing hardball. This generation seems to be more involved with making publicity gestures and political infighting.

  42. MiddleSeater Guest

    United Airlines grossed over $27 billion in profits last year and is projected to beat that in 2023. That profit is made, so the brass tacks issue on the table is what slice of that pie goes to management and shareholders vs. what slice goes to the employees who actually did the work. (United is also stiff-arming Association of Flight Attendants in a parallel negotiation) You’re calling the pilots greedy, so what would make them...

    United Airlines grossed over $27 billion in profits last year and is projected to beat that in 2023. That profit is made, so the brass tacks issue on the table is what slice of that pie goes to management and shareholders vs. what slice goes to the employees who actually did the work. (United is also stiff-arming Association of Flight Attendants in a parallel negotiation) You’re calling the pilots greedy, so what would make them less so? Ceding their slice of the pie to Scott Kirby who made over $9 million last year? Backing down on demands so shareholders can see better earnings? How many hours did Kirby fly? How many days was he on the road, away from family? You insinuate there isn’t enough money to pay for a contract that basically keeps up with inflation, but make no mention of “greedy” executive compensation. Regardless of what contract results, Kirby and friends will not concede a penny of their own personal compensation, will pass those costs on to passengers, all while blaming the greedy pilots. Why do you hate labor?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ MiddleSeater -- "United Airlines grossed over $27 billion in profits last year and is projected to beat that in 2023." You might want to check your facts, as you're off by over 95%. United reported a net income of $843 million in 2022.
      https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-airlines-fourth-quarter-and-full-year-financial-results-achieved-9-1-pre-tax-margin-ahead-of-schedule-in-q4--301723778.html

      "You insinuate there isn’t enough money to pay for a contract that basically keeps up with inflation, but make no mention of 'greedy' executive compensation."

      Allow me to quote...

      @ MiddleSeater -- "United Airlines grossed over $27 billion in profits last year and is projected to beat that in 2023." You might want to check your facts, as you're off by over 95%. United reported a net income of $843 million in 2022.
      https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-airlines-fourth-quarter-and-full-year-financial-results-achieved-9-1-pre-tax-margin-ahead-of-schedule-in-q4--301723778.html

      "You insinuate there isn’t enough money to pay for a contract that basically keeps up with inflation, but make no mention of 'greedy' executive compensation."

      Allow me to quote the post I wrote:
      "And while I say all of this, let me also mention that I think it’s absurd how much the CEOs at airlines make. Some of them are making eight figures annually while doing a lackluster job, so I certainly can’t blame pilots for trying to negotiate just a small fraction of that."

    2. MiddleSeater Guest

      I’m not off at all; I said “gross” and you’re deliberately conflating it with “net.” But since you brought it up, Is Kirby’s inspired leadership so invaluable that he’s worth 1.16% of United’s net profit? Assuming he works 60 hours a week and not counting stock options, does his contribution to the organization rate $3,155/hr while a 737 captain who’s been at United an equal number of years earns $273/hr? If United lost a CEO,...

      I’m not off at all; I said “gross” and you’re deliberately conflating it with “net.” But since you brought it up, Is Kirby’s inspired leadership so invaluable that he’s worth 1.16% of United’s net profit? Assuming he works 60 hours a week and not counting stock options, does his contribution to the organization rate $3,155/hr while a 737 captain who’s been at United an equal number of years earns $273/hr? If United lost a CEO, they’d poach another one from a competitor, but if they can’t hire high-caliber pilots due to their uncompetitive contract, the airline fails and this discussion is moot.

    3. MiddleSeater Guest

      …This is no different than the perineal debate about whether or not ̶p̶r̶o̶ ̶a̶t̶h̶l̶e̶t̶e̶s̶ ̶m̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶ ̶m̶u̶c̶h̶.̶ pro athletes take too much money away from franchise owners who would otherwise pocket that same exact money. There are a limited number of humans who can do that specialized job, so pay them what they’re worth or they will throw the ball or fly the plane for someone who will. Maybe CEOs AND pilots make too much....

      …This is no different than the perineal debate about whether or not ̶p̶r̶o̶ ̶a̶t̶h̶l̶e̶t̶e̶s̶ ̶m̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶ ̶m̶u̶c̶h̶.̶ pro athletes take too much money away from franchise owners who would otherwise pocket that same exact money. There are a limited number of humans who can do that specialized job, so pay them what they’re worth or they will throw the ball or fly the plane for someone who will. Maybe CEOs AND pilots make too much. I don’t know. However, if you’re not proposing draconian salary caps for everyone, this is just class war and unless you’re a CEO yourself, you shouldn’t undercut those pilots’ efforts to get a fair slice.

    4. SeattleR Guest

      Gross income is a very misleading metric. you sound smart enough to know that.

  43. Tim Dunn Diamond

    You got it almost right, Ben

    Remember that airline unions pattern bargain so each new contract has to ask for more than the one before

    Second, United pilots didn’t have work rules as good as Delta even before Delta’s new contract. Quality of life matters.

    Third, Delta employee salaries have benefited from hefty profit sharing which no one else is expected to be able to match. Thus, United employees have to ask for more to avoid the lower profit sharing

  44. Eskimo Guest

    Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

  45. JetSetFly Guest

    Why not pay these pilots a base salary and rest stock options? That way if the stock goes up, pilots can possible make even more money. When stock goes down, well, everyone is on the same boat. This way you don’t have pilot walk outs etc because their net worth is depending on stock performance. Problem solved.

    1. Goforride Member

      Because they don't want to be risk partners, especially when there are so many things beyond their control.

    2. Wolff13 Member

      Well, a lot of things are beyond the airlines’ control.

  46. majesticgiraffe Guest

    Perhaps the real reason is that airline fares are "too cheap"...
    The fares have not kept up with the cost. People expect to fly transcon for $400 roundtrip. Then make no qualms about paying $300/nt plus resort fees etc at a hotel.

    1. theoneadndoonly Guest

      How are they “too cheap”? United reported billions in profits. I just don’t see how airline pilots think they should be compensated higher than most physicians.

    2. A. Wolf Guest

      UA has not reported billions in profits.
      When other work groups ask for a raise, I’d like to see what gives; btw, pilots can’t fly without the other workgroups. It should be fun.

    3. MW Guest

      Except how many people die when a physician makes a mistake? Pilots deserve their salaries and benefits to at least keep up with inflation.

  47. majestic giraffe Guest

    The article seems very biased with a point at the outset to be proven. The author fails to mention that the company pilots gave 30% wage cuts for years for an ESOP and on average lost $500,000 when that was all
    "erased" with the bankruptcy in 2004. In addition, the pilot pension which was promised at $8,000 per month per year after retirement was also terminated. It was given to the PBGC and pays...

    The article seems very biased with a point at the outset to be proven. The author fails to mention that the company pilots gave 30% wage cuts for years for an ESOP and on average lost $500,000 when that was all
    "erased" with the bankruptcy in 2004. In addition, the pilot pension which was promised at $8,000 per month per year after retirement was also terminated. It was given to the PBGC and pays $974 a month. The company stated they could not fund the pilot's pension and claimed a certain amount of assets in the Mileage Plus program as proof. Then in exit financing they claimed the Mileage Plus assets as 5 times the amount they had claimed two years earlier. It was revisited in court and the court ruled in favor of the pilots but the company said "sorry it's too late the PBC has it". The company could have redone the plan like the steelworkers did in the same scenario; but chose not to. The article also fails to mention the 40% pay cut endured for many years in the years 2000. It is basically "catch up baseball". It is sad and misleading to spend an entire article on the 'exorbitance" of a new contract and not provide the unbiased background.

    1. Voris Johnston Guest

      I agree with you. The author doesn't even have any bachelor degree, he doesn't know what he's talking about. It's usually very biased and filled with wrong information, typos, etc... No fact checking has done obviously. to my point of view, it clearly shows how educated he is.

    2. Jetiquette Guest

      Tell me you're a pilot without telling me you're a pilot.

    3. Ken Guest

      Lol what does having a bachelor's degree have to do with this? I have no skin in the game but I'm pretty sure the owner of this blog makes more than you. And here's the funny part, each click you make to insult him probably adds to his coffers

  48. Dubs Guest

    Scott Kirby brought home $9.8 million in 2022. He didn't even fly me home once.

    Pay the people that do the work.

    1. SeattleR Guest

      Okay, so that covers the cost of 20 pilots. What about the other 12,180 United pilots that will make $500k per year each?

    2. Brett Guest

      You do not have good reading comprehension but to be fair, this undereducated writer did not make the compensation clear. Only a tiny percentage make that much. Starting pay (after years of other aviation experience) equates to about $95-$100k per year. The vast majority are in the middle.

  49. Kevin Guest

    Without considering the increasing top pay of executives at the legacy airlines while talking about pilots who work long hours, aren't paid for delays and considerable amount of work during a shift, and overnight stays at hotels away from family, this article is laughably out of touch. Pilots should absolutely be able to bargain and if United wants to benefit from increased travel routes by touting itself as the best and largest airline in the...

    Without considering the increasing top pay of executives at the legacy airlines while talking about pilots who work long hours, aren't paid for delays and considerable amount of work during a shift, and overnight stays at hotels away from family, this article is laughably out of touch. Pilots should absolutely be able to bargain and if United wants to benefit from increased travel routes by touting itself as the best and largest airline in the world, it certainly can pay it's pilots the best airline salary in the world as well.

  50. Isaac MacAdoo Guest

    It's a negotiation tactic. Look at the history of Union negotiation tactics, they meet somewhere in the middle. Why come out with what you truly need?

  51. Brian L. Guest

    "What do you make of the demands of United pilots?"

    They're greedy bastards, that's what I make of it.

    1. Capt Obvious Guest

      CPI from 2001 puts pilots at $650k, so we are all behind on the power curve.

    2. Dave Guest

      Clueless is what I make of you.

    3. Brian L. Guest

      The two aren't mutually exclusive. :)

    4. MiddleSeater Guest

      Scott Kirby made over $9 million last year and didn’t fly a single plane. United grossed over $27 billion last year, but the pilots who did the work are greedy? Ok I’ll bite. If not the pilots and flight attendants, who is more deserving of those profits? The poor executives?

    5. Brian L. Guest

      Is Scott Kirby saying that he must always make more money than the CEOs of DL & AA? That's what the pilots are saying.

  52. Sean M. Diamond

    "Those who peg their costs to the apex of revenue always live to regret it".

    The more outlandish the contract, the shorter they will actually benefit from it before it is restructured, rejected, busted, or whatever other means the inevitable market correction takes.

    Maybe UAL will demand a DAL +1% contract to go with DAL's already negotiated UAL +1% contract, so the two will keep increasing to infinity and beyond one percent at a time?...

    "Those who peg their costs to the apex of revenue always live to regret it".

    The more outlandish the contract, the shorter they will actually benefit from it before it is restructured, rejected, busted, or whatever other means the inevitable market correction takes.

    Maybe UAL will demand a DAL +1% contract to go with DAL's already negotiated UAL +1% contract, so the two will keep increasing to infinity and beyond one percent at a time? That would be one way to end things!

  53. Guest Guest

    United pilots deserve a contract that is in keeping pace with the industry standard, as currently set by Delta. Perhaps the business strategy of United is more suspect in this discussion than what the pilots of United demand and deserve.

    Also, to the final question of long term sustainability, nothing in this industry is. It’s always in a constant state of feast or famine, action/reaction etc. There is never a calm “resting state” of...

    United pilots deserve a contract that is in keeping pace with the industry standard, as currently set by Delta. Perhaps the business strategy of United is more suspect in this discussion than what the pilots of United demand and deserve.

    Also, to the final question of long term sustainability, nothing in this industry is. It’s always in a constant state of feast or famine, action/reaction etc. There is never a calm “resting state” of normal. That is the job of management to navigate, not the pilots’ Union to structure their demands around.

  54. Ryan T Guest

    Look at what United and their union are trying to do to Skywest Charter. They’re also actively trying to artificially increase the barrier to entry and new pilots coming in to continue the pilot shortage. Eventually we’ll get to a breaking point.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      The entire 1500 hour regulation is an artificial barrier to entry. The FAA has consistently shown itself to be behind the curve of aviation developments in the last few decades unfortunately. That shows from its weakened regulatory oversight to its politicised IASA program to its abysmal ATC system. That the US aviation system is still relatively safe is more a function of the systemic safety culture built up during the good years than any sort...

      The entire 1500 hour regulation is an artificial barrier to entry. The FAA has consistently shown itself to be behind the curve of aviation developments in the last few decades unfortunately. That shows from its weakened regulatory oversight to its politicised IASA program to its abysmal ATC system. That the US aviation system is still relatively safe is more a function of the systemic safety culture built up during the good years than any sort of active contribution by the FAA. The 1500 rule will eventually wind up biting the industry in the backside as airlines will be compelled to hire anyone with a pulse and 1500 hours towing banners, rather than actual quality training like the MCC courses embraced by EASA provide. But hey, political decisions often wind up being counterproductive in the long run.

  55. Daniel B. Guest

    and at the same time "non-profit" hospital CEOs also make eight figures......

  56. rjb Guest

    Pilots should demand $1 million a year. Why not? Congress will bail out the airlines sat the expense of the taxpayer. $35 trillion in national debt? $40 trillion? So what! Get it while you can.

  57. Goforride Member

    BTW, if you were to actually read the facts about CEO pay, not just for the airlines, but for most publicly traded corporations, the CEO's get rather modest actual salaries.

    Most of their income is in stock grants which means it's the other stockholders who suffer in the form of diluted share value.

    Anybody getting millions of dollars in compensation would be insane to get it in salary, for which the company has to actually...

    BTW, if you were to actually read the facts about CEO pay, not just for the airlines, but for most publicly traded corporations, the CEO's get rather modest actual salaries.

    Most of their income is in stock grants which means it's the other stockholders who suffer in the form of diluted share value.

    Anybody getting millions of dollars in compensation would be insane to get it in salary, for which the company has to actually pay them money. They would be paying just under 40% marginal US income tax, not even counting state income taxes.

    They always get the bulk of their compensation in stock grants, for which there is a much more favorable tax rate from capital gains, assuming there is a capital gain, which is the whole point.

  58. Goforride Guest

    "Greedy" is a value judgement and is irrelevant to economic interactions.

    Nobody, other than left wing hippies, says, "Oh, no. Don't give me any more money. I have enough already."

    I suspect if one ran the numbers, one would find that the overall compensation in the new pilot contracts simply returns pilot wages to where they were, in real dollars, to pre-9/11.

    The problem is that those wages were unsustainable and were already on their...

    "Greedy" is a value judgement and is irrelevant to economic interactions.

    Nobody, other than left wing hippies, says, "Oh, no. Don't give me any more money. I have enough already."

    I suspect if one ran the numbers, one would find that the overall compensation in the new pilot contracts simply returns pilot wages to where they were, in real dollars, to pre-9/11.

    The problem is that those wages were unsustainable and were already on their way to disaster for the airlines before 9/11 as the tech boom faded.

    The greater problem is that all the other airline employees are going to expect to have their compensation boosted accordingly, so that at the first hint of any kind of slowdown, flights will be cut and employees will be laid off.

    As was the case with the pilots back in the boom '90's, even if 10% of the pilot workforce was furloughed, the other 90% are going to be making a pile of money and they know that.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      I always said that the person who did the most damage to the US aviation industry in the early 2000s was not Osama Bin Laden but rather Rick Dubinsky, the United ALPA MEC Chair who orchestrated the "Summer From Hell" and forced Jim Goodwin to sign a contract that simply couldn't be sustained. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    2. Commander 757 Guest

      Do you realize that the "summer from hell" wasn't a strike, a sick-out, or even job action? It was the United pilots deciding not to fly voluntary overtime, trying to get the company to negotiate in good faith. That's it. The union was sued, and the company won. So the pilots were forced to fly VOLUNTARY overtime, or risk billions of dollars in fines. Also, that contract would have easily been sustainable, I believe, had...

      Do you realize that the "summer from hell" wasn't a strike, a sick-out, or even job action? It was the United pilots deciding not to fly voluntary overtime, trying to get the company to negotiate in good faith. That's it. The union was sued, and the company won. So the pilots were forced to fly VOLUNTARY overtime, or risk billions of dollars in fines. Also, that contract would have easily been sustainable, I believe, had 9/11 not decimated the soaring business profits of the majors. I also believe that Goodwin and the boys could have signed a significantly lower cost contract with the pilots if they hadn't shoved them into a corner for years, while delighting in personal profit.

  59. Geoff Guest

    A union head asking for the moon and the stars? No way. $590K/ yr for a pilot? That's extreme. Yeah supply and demand blah blah blah.
    Remind me to sell every airline stock I've ever looked at. What crap business model. Cost of capital, unions, commodity prices, competition....

    1. Tini Guest

      That $590k figure cracks me up. I fly for a major airline and as a former military pilot I have literally dozens of former colleagues that fly for every airline (including ups and fedex). Not one makes even close to that. That number is the absolute top for a wide body Captain that works as much as they legally can. I make less than $200k as a data point. (Been flying professionally for 29 years...

      That $590k figure cracks me up. I fly for a major airline and as a former military pilot I have literally dozens of former colleagues that fly for every airline (including ups and fedex). Not one makes even close to that. That number is the absolute top for a wide body Captain that works as much as they legally can. I make less than $200k as a data point. (Been flying professionally for 29 years now) And again to emphasize, the current state of negotiations at United isn’t focused on the pay rate, it’s focused on improving quality of life and work rules which lag behind all the majors to include spirit and frontier.

  60. Jason Guest

    How should CEOs at airlines be paid, and how much? It's like any other multi billion dollar industry - tied to company performance, company revenues (billions), stock price, etc. If you're proposing to change airline CEO pay, that means you need to change CEO pay in general. So what would you do? These things are not done in a vacuum. What's your proposal? There's one ceo responsible for a multibillion dollar company and the careers...

    How should CEOs at airlines be paid, and how much? It's like any other multi billion dollar industry - tied to company performance, company revenues (billions), stock price, etc. If you're proposing to change airline CEO pay, that means you need to change CEO pay in general. So what would you do? These things are not done in a vacuum. What's your proposal? There's one ceo responsible for a multibillion dollar company and the careers of thousands of people. A pilot has nowhere near the level of responsibility, and with pay rates going higher and higher you'll see a quick movement to replace pilots with automation.

    1. David Diamond

      Some CEOs do get paid with stock options and performance-based compensation; if they do a bad job, they get a big "pay cut". The average tenure of a CEO is also much shorter than a pilot; they're much more liable to getting replaced than unionized pilots.

  61. Melvin Guest

    That's capitalisms at it finest - ECON 101. (Supply and Demand) The airlines were fine paying poverty wages, now the pendulum has swung the other way. I have zero sympathy.

    1. Brian H Guest

      Management wants to socialize the losses and privatize the gains. Never changes.

      Why do people argue that the law of supply and demand is broken when it comes to pilot labor? Airlines are in a mess of their own making. For a decade or more they made the job one not worth having by outsourcing flying to the lowest bidder with the smallest regional jets, and paying chump change to those pilots. Lots of...

      Management wants to socialize the losses and privatize the gains. Never changes.

      Why do people argue that the law of supply and demand is broken when it comes to pilot labor? Airlines are in a mess of their own making. For a decade or more they made the job one not worth having by outsourcing flying to the lowest bidder with the smallest regional jets, and paying chump change to those pilots. Lots of folks with ATPs decided not to do the part 121 job. Chickens have come home to roost, and yet labor isn't supposed to leverage the labor problems management created, and used to bludgen them with for decades.

  62. Chris Guest

    That’s not how pattern bargaining works. Each new contract is theoretically supposed to piggy back and enhance off the last contract signed. Kind of like how the CSuite at the airlines like to out do each other.

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TravelinWilly Diamond

How quickly we forget. "We don't want to kill the golden goose. We just want to choke it by the neck until it gives us every last egg." -Frederick Dubinsky to United CEO James Goodwin in 2000, the year of the summer from hell. It took United years to recover from that fiasco, and rightly so. Anyone recall how the mechanics tried their shenanigans after UA management capitulated to the pilots? "United rising" indeed. Let's hope the pilots don't engage in the work slowdown crap they did in 2000. It will cost them dearly.

3
Sean M. Diamond

"Those who peg their costs to the apex of revenue always live to regret it". The more outlandish the contract, the shorter they will actually benefit from it before it is restructured, rejected, busted, or whatever other means the inevitable market correction takes. Maybe UAL will demand a DAL +1% contract to go with DAL's already negotiated UAL +1% contract, so the two will keep increasing to infinity and beyond one percent at a time? That would be one way to end things!

2
Leigh Diamond

And with your comment, you demonstrate your own despicable level of character that no one should take advice from.

1
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