The Cost of Flying Cheap

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Gillette, Feb 7, 2010.

  1. Gillette

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    When you choose to hurtle yourself through the air at 30,000 feet in a tin can how much do you know about the person responsible for getting it there in one piece?

    FRONTLINE: Coming Soon - Flying Cheap | PBS

    Long hours and little pay, the Captains uniform may look glamorous but the truth is there are pressures and stresses even beyond those expected involving the flight itself.

    Has the pursuit of profit squeezed pilots too tight?
    Are these companies compromising safety?

    Anyone else know of a case of pilot pushing?
     
  2. Onslow

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    It's not just the profits of the airline industry. Most are willing to make cuts at the expense of otheres.


    I know when that sexy Sullenberger man landed in the Hudson River it was later mentioned that the top pay is not that great and that the most skilled pilots are becoming fewer and fewer.

    I don't like to give a lot of thought to what may be happening in the head of a pilot. They are like many other transportation workers like a train or bus driver who is responsible for the lives of many others. My understanding is that train drivers {I can't remember their official title} also have the added stress of knowing they can't brake fast enough to keep from hitting that person laying on the track 200 feet ahead when they come around a bend in the route.

    We put our life on the line all the time whether in the air or on the ground. Think about the stress and lack of sleep a lot of drivers are under and you'll never drive or walk any street again. Young people training to be doctors are often on long shifts of a good 24 hours or more and then many have a drive home! How comforting is that?


    I'll keep taking the risk of planes flying overhead or flying in a plane. when it's my time, it's my time.
     
  3. midlifebear

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    I've given this subject a lot of thought. Although all airlines around the world are guilty, I tend to believe US airlines are more guilty than most.

    I'm a frequent long-haul flier, sitting in business or "clase primera" for 10 to 12 hours from take off to landing. I include this information not to brag, but to note that at my age I tend to freeze up and stay in the same position for several hours after a flight of more than 5 hours. Age is a bitch. On long-hauls the planes are outfitted with sleeping quarters for both the cockpit personnel and the attendants. Granted, it's usually just a fold down bed with a curtain at the front or back of the plane, but they do afford pilots time for catching a few hours of sleep.

    There is also a BIG difference between flying a domestic US carrier and an International carrier. I've got enough Delta Sky Miles to ignore the constantly changing fly miles rules. However, I'll fly Delta LAST if there is no LAN Chile, British Airways, Gull, or Aeromexico/Mexicana flights available.

    As for the USA's treatment of medical students, interns, and those doing residencies -- well, it's much different for medical students in most EU countries, Mexico, and South America. In many cases the academic bar is higher (this told to me by my Argentina-trained urologist in Buenos Aires who did a three-year stint at a Mayo clinic in Minnesota before he spent an additional four years of post doctoral at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris). All physicians work long hours, but the USA has a medical training system inherited and modeled after the needs of fixing up broken meat for the Civil and subsequent foreign wars. In short, a heart surgeon in Johannesburg, South Africa (home of the first heart transplant), will probably have had more sleep than the chest cracker working for Humana or Kaiser Permanente.

    But back to feeling secure about who is in the cock pit of a passenger plane. The airlines I mentioned earlier have not followed the cost-cutting measures that Delta/Northwest have implemented; specifically, cutting the cock pit crew down to two, making the co-pilot also play navigator or gopher.

    And if anyone recalls, even though the Air France/British Airways Concorde service was never a money maker, it was finally put out of service because a USA Continental Airline lost a small piece of "ad hoc" repair metal from near its cowling. The "fine" job of the Continental mechanics fell off on the tarmac where it punctured the tire of a Concorde taking off and sending a plane load of Germans to their death.

    Aerolineas Argenntina is famous for having the "oldest" fleet of jets of any world airline. However, the company bought its long-haul equipment new back in the 1970s and inherited "new" equipment when Southern Winds, a private venture underwritten by the Argentine government, went belly up after it was discovered the heads of Southern Winds had been using the airline to move loads of cocaine. Over time, those new Southern Winds jets had their livery colors painted to match the Aerolineas Argentina fleet. Despite flying 747s that were new in 1970, Argentina's signature airline has one of the best air safety records in the world. But the government of Argentina recognizes that the airline will probably never be profitable. However, they'd rather have a safe airline than a profitable one. Too bad they can't have both. However, it is reassuring to see their 747s visible from the road to Ezeize Airport and watch the Boeing-trained air craft mechanics keeping them in perfect working order.

    When I'm in the USA, if the choice is flying United, Delta, or American Arilines . . . I increase my risk of death and dismemberment by simply driving to where I would normally fly.
     
    #3 midlifebear, Feb 7, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2010
  4. D_Andreas Sukov

    D_Andreas Sukov Account Disabled

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    I hope you get the sort of flak my "Anti-american" posts get.....


    I used to be a real good flyer. I used to fly quite abit as a child. Usually only around Europe, Spain mostly, but also to Australia and America. Now days, im pretty bad. Ill get on a plane, then shit myself for hours. I think too much, and this isnt something i want to think about.

    Thankfully my desire to travel beats my fear of flying.
     
  5. nudeyorker

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    I will definitely watch the program. I have always had reservations about flying on regional carriers as I consider the small aircraft to be a toy airplane and the crew to be in training to get the needed hours to qualify for the major airline companies.
    Despite the fact that I have been involved in two airline catastrophes I have felt safe when flying on a larger aircraft until the recent terrorism activities and pilots who show up for work legally intoxicated.
     
  6. Drifterwood

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    Boeing's current safety record isn't filling me with much confidence either.
     
  7. midlifebear

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    My dear Lemon Pie: I'm used to the flak from those who are convinced 'Mericuh is the enchanted land. But it most often comes from folks who have never been more than 20 miles from their homes.

    When I left Wells last year to catch several connecting flights to Mexico, time was short and I had to take a 1 hour 20 minute flight from Elko, Nevada to Salt Lick City before I could get out of the country. SkyWest is the only option, a puddle-jumping arm of Delta. It's the only way out of Elko and most other towns of 100,000 to 250,000 within 300 miles of SLC unless you own your own aircraft (many do). And SkyWest is heavily invested in Braziia's Embraer turbo props. They're noisy little buggers.

    We left in a snow storm heading east to Zion. We never made it out clouds, even though the Embraers are pressurized and can easily fly at 30,000 feet without so much as a burp. And it's rare in such a short 20-seat plane to notice any yaw. But there was plenty of it, combined with the sound of hail pelting the exterior of the plane.

    Twenty minutes after take off the copilot announced we needed to "prepare to land." But he didn't say where. Once on the ground he welcomed us to Salt Lake City. The storm we took off in (and in which our flight should have been grounded) pushed the Embraer to Salt Lake with a major tailwind. The copilot informed everyone that actual flying speed of the plane combined with the tail wind pushed us an an average of 585 miles an hour to SLC. We all applauded. Those overhang wing little turbo props aren't engineered to safely fly at speeds beyond 500 mph (I forget the actual knots). They are, after all, prop planes and not WWII fighters.

    We had arrived in SLC a full 60 minutes before our scheduled landing. And as we slowly shuffled off of the plane I loudly announced that I personally wanted to congratulate the pilot who had wrestled that flight through the air and safely got us back on the ground. The flight attendant pulled back the little curtain (no door) separating us from the flight crew. A handsome guy in his mid 30s stayed seated in one of the cockpit seats. He waved at us as we scrambled past and said "Thanks!" then down the plane's stairs into gale force winds and more hail. The pilot tried to smile, but he was white as a sheet as a flight attendant placed another moistened towel over his forehead. The copilot wasn't much better

    There was every reason in the world to have grounded our flight, but SkyWest and Delta "management" doesn't care. It's only when we get stuck in plane on the tarmac when --- or if -- an airline ever cancels a flight for safety reasons due to weather. And even then they leave paying passengers to sit for up to 9 hours as the local airport authority and the airlines argue about who is responsible for what. The pilots are at the mercy of management regardless of experience.
     
  8. D_Andreas Sukov

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    I once flew from Gatwick to Perth with Qantas. As we neared Perth we have to fly through a Cyclone. Cyclone Sam. We actually didnt get that much turbalance thanks to the fact we could fly over most of it.

    I once took a monarch flight to Malaga, and as we were about to hit the floor, we took off again. We flew for about 30 minutes before an explanation. In post 9/11 society, let alone any time, that is scary shit. Turns out a private plane was taking off as we landed. It was a cheap flight, but that pilot saved us from certain death.
     
  9. D_Tully Tunnelrat

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    The second tier versions of all American airlines are the worst, i.e American Eagle, etc. I have a friend who is a pilot for them, although he is qualified to fly 747s, etc. He was a junior pilot for the main company but was laid off in a first round of cutbacks from major/international routes, and was out of work for a year.

    Now as a regional pilot, he is subjected to long hours, and low pay, however he is one of the best small engine pilots I have ever flown with, and we've landed at some major, busy airports. So, not all second tier pilots are inept, many are at the mercy of poorly run, greedy airlines.

    Don't even ask some of the attendants on these airlines what they make, it's embarrassing. I met one who made $12Kp/a, and her home base is Washington DC. She literally had a shared bed rental with two other attendants, as they rotated through town.

    The US is still suffering from the post Reagan deregulation of the airline industry, and the de-unionization of the air traffic controllers. The US used to have the best air traffic system in the world, but it is now sadly lacking. Unfortunately, some of the smaller regional euro carriers have been following our "if it's cheaper, it must be better, and more democratic model." I have not had in-flight incidents on Ryan, or some of the others, but the delays, poor service, and substandard terminals are all run the same way as here.
     
  10. vince

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    I flew one a discount carrier in the States in December and it was really good. On JetBlue the seats are comfy and you get very generous legroom, the staff was friendly, the plane was new and clean. It was way better than any other domestic line, although I hear Southwest is very good too. I don't know how good JetBlue's pilots are, but from what I could see it looked like a well run organization so I suspect they are up to standard.

    Midlife you mentioned British Airways. Ha. It's my last choice for long haul. It use to be good ten years ago. Now.. meh. I too have lots of flyer miles and normally can bump up to biz and even then BA is kinda shitty. Their fleet needs a good scubbing and a hosing out.
     
  11. thirteenbyseven

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    It's going to be interesting how Frontline slants this story tonight. For the non- U.S. posters, The Cost of Flying Cheap largely deals with the regional airline industry fall-out in the aftermath of Colgan flight 3407. Colgan Air Flight 3407 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    To me, this is a case of "what's changed" in the regional airline industry over the last fifteen years? From May of 1992 through December of 1995 I flew for an American Eagle affiliate (American Eagle actually formed a few years after I left) and the same working conditions existed then as now. My entry level pay was under a thousand dollars a month, virtually all trip bids were tantamount to slave labor (the company on occasion fudged paper work to make 16 hour days look legal for FAR Part 121) and over a 12 month period there were always wholesale turnovers in the seniority list. When I left with a class date with a major carrier I was a mid-level Captain in a Saab 340B thirty-four passenger turboprop.

    The pilots that comprised our company were no different than with most any other. There were flights that went out with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the cockpit and there were flight crews paired together where it was a wonder they could find their way from LAX to Palm Springs (KPSP.)

    Back then everyone optimistically fooled themselves into believing they could transition from flying for American Eagle into a new-hire class date with American. Very few accomplished that dream. Allied (the pilots union for American) had extremely ambivalent feelings about flying-for-cheap regional pilots and in fact is the reason for scope clauses in labor contracts with major carriers. That's why all flying above 50 to 70 seat regional jets is performed by mainline pilots. If the airlines had there way all domestic flying with exception of the transcontinental routes would be with $40,000/ year Captains flying jungle jets.

    I'm recording the broadcast.
     
  12. D_Portelay Porquesword

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    Flying from California into Canada via American airlines the first two times was horrible.
    I cannot elaborate on the over all condition of the pilot but the staff were friendly enough. The leg room was the absolute worst, my knees hurt for two days.

    This last time I flew Air Canada into Toronto. I met the pilot boarding the plane, he was alert, polite and present. The staff was nice as well. No complaints there and next time it is Air Canada for me all the way.
     
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