Everyone knows by now that American Airlines is in a world of hurt, especially after the company's bankruptcy declaration last November. The persistent high cost of aviation fuel and a flying public with less money in their pockets to spend on airline tickets has been hammering the entire industry. An article published this week by CNN Money spells out just what is in store for the beleaguered workers:
American Airlines' parent is meeting with its unions this week to lay out cost cuts it wants to implement as part of its bankruptcy reorganization -- moves that could cost many of the company's 81,000 workers their jobs and a portion of their pension benefits.Doesn't it just give you a warm, fuzzy feeling all over to know that almost all airline maintenance work is now being performed by poorly paid drones God knows where? Fuck, I may never get on an airplane again.
AMR Corp. said at the time of its Nov. 29 bankruptcy filing that it was forced to file because of the need to achieve a more competitive labor structure. Most other major U.S. airlines have already cut labor costs by their own trips through bankruptcy over the last 10 years.
Among the moves that American's unions expect include having aircraft flown overseas to low-cost maintenance facilities for the extensive overhaul required for planes on a regular basis. Most U.S. airlines, including United, Continental, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, already have costly maintenance performed at overseas facilities.
AMR, which owns both American and feeder airline American Eagle, is the only major carrier to perform the work in-house at U.S. facilities.
"This is the dirty little secret of U.S. aviation. You don't know where the plane that you're flying was repaired," said Jamie Horwitz, spokesman for the Transport Workers Union. "You assume standards are high for the person who works on your fuel line, but it doesn't necessarily follow."
But please continue:
Horwitz said there are two major American-owned facilities doing the heavy maintenance work -- one in Tulsa, Okla., which has 6,500 union members, and another outside of Dallas with 2,200 union members.Oh, so THAT'S where. Yep, I'm seriously going to have to swear off flying. Or do you really think a maintenance worker living in some crowded dormitory and getting paid a buck an hour really gives a shit whether that bolt is tightly fastened or not?
Horwitz and industry experts say almost all other U.S. airlines already have outsourced regular overhaul maintenance required for aircraft to facilities in countries such as China, El Salvador and throughout South America.
But the airline off-shoring maintenance work isn't the only potential ball of suck in this deal:
He also wouldn't comment on whether the company will seek to move its pension plans, which it estimates are underfunded by $5 billion, to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a federal agency that protects the pensions of workers in private-sector retirement plans.And the taxpayer would have to pick up the tab. Beautiful, just beautiful. How fitting is it that the company is still named AMERICAN Airlines? Because they have the new American way down PAT.
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has issued numerous statements since the American bankruptcy that it would seek to keep the airline from dumping its pensions on the agency, which is already facing a deficit of its own. The agency's estimate is that the American pensions are underfunded by $10 billion.
If the company is successful in shifting its pensions to the agency, workers would likely lose promised retiree health-care benefits. Many, especially the pilots, would have their pension benefits slashed.
Addendum: a subsequent story published by MSNBC after I wrote the initial post listed the number of coming layoffs at American Airlines as up to 15,000 (although an even later update said 13,000):
American Airlines officials were meeting with their three major unions amid reports that the bankrupt airline company is making plans to eliminate up to 15,000 jobs.
Representatives of the Allied Pilots Association, Transport Workers Union, and Association of Professional Flight Attendants were meeting with company officials in Dallas, said Sam Mayer, a long-time American pilot who sits on the union's communication committee. The three unions represent about 54,000 total employees.
"Right now we have no idea what they're going to be asking for as far as pay cuts, work rules, job cuts, furloughs, etc.," Mayer said.
Bonus: Big ol' jet airliner...please don't crash due to poor maintenance