Thursday, February 18, 2010

Regional Salaries vent

I need to vent. I was reading an airline forum and clicked on a thread that was about Michael Moore's movie "Capitalism". I haven't seen this movie yet, but I have heard that apparently he talks to some pilots who are on food stamps. Anyway, the thread was started just to make the point that pilot pay scales are sad. A few posts into the thread someone wrote this: "Its not sad at all. If you look at the resumes stacked on Colgan's desk you'll understand that the regional salaries are justified."
This really pissed me off. You could take this to mean two things: One, there are a TON of applications coming in, so based on supply and demand, the salaries are justified because pilots still apply and want to work there even though the pay sucks. Two, the resumes of pilots that apply justify crappy pay- IE they don't have enough experience to be paid better than they are. In both cases, this struck a cord with me.
Regional pilot pay in most cases is still ridiculously low. I realize that in a perfect world pilots could take more of a stand against low pay and refuse to consider working at airlines do not pay their pilots more. The thing is, when your choice is between driving a hotel van or flying a plane and you are trained to fly planes, I think you're going to choose flying planes, even if it goes against your principles that this and other airlines are not paying their pilots enough. Or, if you are a newly trained pilot- what other choice do you really have? It kind of puts all that in to perspective. Which is not to say that it's not still very wrong that a lot of airlines don't pay their pilots enough. Because I personally thing it is wrong that they pay so little. I get why it is that way, since regional airlines under bid each other to keep their contracts with the majors, and therefore to keep the costs low, they have to pay their pilots less. I still think it's wrong though and don't agree with the statement that it's justified. Pilots go through a lot to get trained to fly planes. It's a big responsibility, whether it's a huge 777 or a Dash 8. I think there should be a minimum acceptable pay level and that pay level is not $20,000 a year.
Now, taking it to mean the latter- that all pilots that apply to certain regionals have resumes that should warrant low pay- I obviously disagree with this as well. I think there's an awful lot of pilots that have been cruising along with a career that started at A and is progressing towards B without much of a bump in the road and are sitting pretty with six-figures plus, just thinking "if I did, so can they". My husband, on the other hand, has a career that looks like a game of Chutes and Ladders. He was moving along the board nicely climbing ladders, moving up to Captain, then bam a chute: your airline went out of business, go back to start. You got furloughed, go back to start again. It's hard for a pilot that hasn't had this happen to understand that the entire pilot population is not made up of pilots that had a smooth career and are right where they should be in the hierarchy/seniority. It's easy to judge and say that everyone at the bottom deserves to be there because they MUST only have 500 hours of flight time and not know how to tell their left from their right yet. Well, those people need to wake up and see that the industry actually has a lot of very qualified, hard-working, pilots that maybe just weren't in the right place at the right time. Even if Atlantic Coast Airlines/Independence hadn't gone under in the first place and Greg was still a Captain there, there would still be a lot of major/legacy pilots that would be judging him and saying he deserved less pay than them. There are tons of regional pilots that have a lot more experience, hours, and years of flying than major/legacy airline pilots. I just want them to think about this stuff before they generalize and say that everyone on the bottom of the totem pole deserves to be there. A lot of this industry is being in the right place at the right time, luck, and who you know. In the end pilots just want to fly and want to be able to provide for themselves and their families. It seems to me that if you have that, you should want the same for your fellow pilots. This whole fraternity-hazing mentality of the bottom people getting abused with work hours and pay and justifying it with the "well I paid my dues and now they have to pay theirs" attitude is just selfish and wrong. What about guys in my husband's situation who already "paid their dues"? How many times do they have to keep paying their dues because of bad luck/timing? The salaries are not justified. People are applying/going to airlines, because they love to fly and need a job. And I bet you will find a lot of passion and heart among the pilots there, since they were willing to work there even though the pay was not what it should be, because they love the job.


Runblondie26 said...

"Its not sad at all. If you look at the resumes stacked on Colgan's desk you'll understand that the regional salaries are justified."
Wonder where this person works...that's an easy thing to say when you're at the top. Funny how people forget where they came from and stop being humble.

Too bad Michael Moore made the documentary, or it would hold more validity with the public. I'm sure there will be a bunch of other junk in the film that completely discredits the valid information.

Regional pilot pay and QOL is a story that needs to be told.

The Friendly Skies said...

I'm totally posting this way late but girl... I KNOW! I totally agree with you. I had NO idea before becoming a Flight Attendant what pilots make first year at regionals. It's disgusting. Really, it is.

These guys and girls come out of aviation programs with tons of debt. They fly planes and have peoples lives in their hands every day. They take off and land more times that major airline pilots do (which is the most critical phase of flight) and they have longer work days, shorter overnights and less days off than more senior guys.

That would piss me off too and my boyfriend isn't furloughed! (He is at the same regional as I am though!) He is a hard worker and a good pilot. I gladly trust him with my life. It is all about timing in this industry which is a shame. Some real good pilots get screwed in the mix of it all.

It will turn around soon though. 2014 something like 9000 US pilots are up for retirement. The doors will open for the major carriers and the tides will turn. At least they wont be on food stamps anymore!

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