Posts Tagged ‘Flight Attendants’

What defines “safety”?

As you know by now, I work for a major airline, and I have done so for over 13 years.

While I have enjoyed my career there, I have felt an “undertow” of change in the industry that has become increasingly disturbing to me and many like myself who take pride in what we do and truly do have concern for the traveling public.

As an airline employee, I am a SAFETY PROFESSIONAL first and foremost.  And I take that duty very seriously.  I know that 99.9% of the people I work with also take that duty with an almost religious fervor that is tough to find in any other industry except maybe the medical profession.  We are responsible for millions of lives everyday–and all we are trying to do is to get the public from Point A to B in a safe, comfortable condition.

The recent focus on airline safety is not only disturbing to the general public.  We, as the airlines FRONT LINE employees are truly concerned at how the “suits” at the top of the ivory tower have whittled away our ability to always have that focus as our number one priority, and it seems that more and more “whistleblowers” are stepping forward to try to put a dent in the public’s perception that those who manage the airlines truly have the public’s safety in their sites.

While the major carriers can boast about on-time arrivals and safety being #1, a large dark shadow has increasingly loomed behind them that they tend to turn a blind eye to: the regional carriers that masquerade as being part of that major carrier, but in reality is run but a smaller, separate company that may not have the same integrity or motivation as the majors do.  And all because the regional carriers are making huge money at the expense of it’s own employees.

Don’t get me wrong.  The airlines WANT you to believe that airline employees make BIG money.  That myth has to end!  What job do YOU know of that requires you to work (on average) 12-16 hour days, with as little as 8 hours of rest in-between, and of all that time you are on duty, you are only paid for 30-40% of it?  Most pilots and flight attendants are only actually paid for the actual flight time (that is, from the moment the brakes are released at departure to the time they are set at arrival).  All that time before flights (including during boarding, where we are actually interacting with AND serving passengers), in-between flight segments waiting for aircraft, including time waiting for mechanical issues to be resolved, as well as the time we spend away from home, waiting for hotel vans to and from the airport while away from home — NONE of that is PAID time!

The airlines will argue that pilots and flight attendants really ARE paid during all that time (via a “per diem” stipend) but that usually amounts to $0.90-$2.50/hour when away from our home-base but that is strictly dependent on each workgroups’ Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and since most of these airlines have recently had the ability to have these CBA’s altered due to bankruptcy or near-bankruptcy threats, most airline employees have either had NO cost of living increases (COLA) in years, or have actually LOST income over time.  At my own airline, we are currently paid at 1991 pay levels…that’s almost 20 year-old wages without an increase (and soical security beneficiaries have gotten routine COLAs 15 times since 1991!).

PBS’s Frontline series is airing a special investigation program on this ever-increasing problem.  I have posted a preview of this program here for you to view.  Tell me what you think and please feel free to respond to my poll below…

Please go to: FRONTLINE

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