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Hello 2012. Cooperate now, willya?

January 2, 2012

So here we are.  New year.  New slate.  All that new stuff.

It’s still trouble not carrying all that crap that follows one from day to day.  There’s no security checkpoint or Magniot line to hold back all that we’d rather not take with us into this pristine new year.  It’s all what’s in our heads, I guess.

Which leads me to my topic du jour.  My career.

I’d say I was in a holding pattern with the whole thing, but that’s way too cliche.  If I were to use it, I’d entertain my pilot friends out there by saying I’m well past my EFC and have cut deeply into my hold fuel.  Trouble is, weather at all those cozy alternates right now are pretty much zero/zero in fog or heavy thunderstorms, locusts or bubonic plague.  Just not a good place to point the nose of my ship, as it were.  So here I sit at 12,000 feet in the hold stack, certainly not alone waiting for the Worlds Largest Airline to recall my sorry ass.  No, I’ve got plenty of company.

Sorry.  I said I wouldn’t use the old “holding pattern” cliche.  I did anyway.  It does fit, though.  Old cliches and stereotypes are real timesavers!

All told, I’ve been on furlough going on 9 years now.

I received an email from the union that “represents” me (and my interests, supposedly) on New Years Eve.  It was from the president of said unit who was concluding her 2 year elected term of office.  She summed up the most recent raw deal passed on to us pilots.  (Recall that United pilots and Continental pilots still work independent of each other.  Although the airlines have FAA approval to operate as one, actually this is far from what is presently happening.)  Without getting into mind numbing detail, the letter stated one pilot group (Continental pilots) got profit sharing for 2011 because, apparently, their union president complained about it.

Now, United pilots already have profit sharing as part of their total (measly, pathetic) compensation contract.  But when the union president for the United pilots heard about the Continental pilots getting something effectively for nothing, she wanted to get something for us, too.  Fair is fair, right?  Problem is, senior management at United Continental Holdings said “no” like your parents might have said when you asked for 50 cents extra allowance.  End of discussion.

Now the pilot groups of both subsidiary companies (UAL and CAL) are quite bitterly divided over how this grimy, increasingly tasteless pie is being divided.  There were some inklings of animosity between the two groups before, but it’s certainly evident now.

How does this affect me?  Well, as far as I can tell the only thing that will actually change anything in my present furlough situation is simply for all those old guys who benefitted greatly from the change in mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65 four years ago to finally start retiring.  And unless United starts parking airplanes in the desert again (don’t say it too loud or they probably will do so just for hearing it) that’s the only positive movement up the seniority list I will see.  And even that is pretty slow for the next few years.

Best scenario?  A joint collective bargaining agreement (JCBA) that spells out staffing issues via a “scope” section.  Something that is “manpower positive”, ie. more pilots needed.  But I don’t expect this in 2012.

More realistic scenario?  Due to retirements as mentioned above, simple attrition will cause my recall somewhere in 2013 or 2014.  Did I mention I’ve been on furlough for 9 years?

I could go on and on about this topic, but it’s late.  I really love being an airline pilot.  I wanted to be since as early as I could remember, 5 or so.  It’s a great job.  But one shitty career.  I still want my job back.

Suffice to say that yet again I am a pawn in one gigantic chess game in the confounding airline industry.  Everything is tied to my seniority number.  Given to me when I was hired 12 years ago.  Can’t change that.  But I guess I can change the way I feel about it.

Maybe I can leave this crap in 2011.  Oops.  Too late.

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