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Capt Anonymous: Race to the Bottom

by Captain Anonymous
Guest Column

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Note from Darren: I'm happy to welcome "Captain Anonymous" to the pages of cfidarren.com.  The Captain is a pilot for a major airline which is considered by many to be the largest in the US.  He holds the position of Captain in a widebody jet, just a few years from retiring, and is now getting things off his chest.  He is considered a very senior pilot at his airline and holds a schedule which has him traveling approximately 11 days per month.  The rest of the month, he spends thinking about the things he now writes here.  A little warning... he can come off as a little opinionated and abrasive.  I would expect nothing less from a true gentleman who's been flying for 36 years.  I am not responsible for his opinions and they may not represent my values or opinions. Welcome Cap'n.

March, 2007

We're headed down the road to disaster in the domestic airline industry.  In our race to the bottom we are peeling away all the safety layers that keep your bottom safe in the sky.  In fact we've been extremely lucky.  We've got a bunch of consumers in this society who are idiots.  They look for the lowest fare in their race to the bottom without any regard to safety records.  Ever notice that airlines don't advertise a feedback rating?  If there was an ebay style ranking on these folks, you'd probably never fly again.

Notice I won't dare mention Flight Attendants because I married a Japanese girl 23 years younger than me.  She's a breath of fresh air compared to the psycho girls we have here.  I'm on my third marriage, I have high blood pressure, and yes Viagra is an FAA approved drug.  Ok folks, listen up as I brief you for this month.

In our efforts to give you the very best ticket fares, we've gotten rid of anyone with experience.  We've fired pilots and hired them back at 1/2 their original salary.  We've either threatened or declared bankruptcy so that we can break the unions and destroy retirement pensions.  Who cares, the pilot's pension is now the government's problem.  That means you taxpayers will now cover the pension for pilots at Delta who lost everything.  What a bunch of suckers you are.

We now have gate agents who can't close the door to the aircraft.  Why? They've only been on the job 2 months and instead of the month long training program, they now go through 5 days of training. 

We've got mechanics who look at a maintenance write-up and can't even check the basics.  Why?  Well they were working on Cessnas for 3 months before we hired them.  You tell them about a problem they should know is near the engines and they come into the cockpit with WD40.  "Hey Seniorito, the thrust reversers are outside hanging on the side of the engine cowling."

Well that's not as bad as the blue man who brings the poopy truck.  I watched one of our little airplanes coming in with a chunk of blue ice attached to the toilet drain.  Why?  Blue man didn't close the toilet drain at the last stop.  You know the engines on the MD are at the back of the aircraft.  When that blue ice breaks off the side of the aircraft its going to go straight through the engine.  Guess what's going to happen.  And I promise you this... its going to happen at the most critical moment.  At least maintenance will have some extra replacement parts for the rest of the fleet.

Speaking of the MD aircraft, we had a pilot several years back who was so fatigued that after her sixth leg that day, she made a declaration in the cockpit voice recorder just before landing.  She said, "If we die, its because I'm so fatigued. I have been awake since 4am, we have been flying all over the place on short hops all day, everything is rushed, and customers are angry.  While I only got 7 hours of flying, it took me 13 hours today to get it and its now 9pm."  Very typical considering the new work rules these folks are now dealing with.  More work for not much pay.  And did you know that pilots are paid only when the wheels leave the ground.  We got you safety onto the runway for free.  Isn't that comforting.

We've got Bosnian baggage smashers who dont even speak english.  Don't bother writing FRAGILE on your package.  To them it means "Sporting Goods."  Why did we hire them?  Because the original baggage handlers unionized and then demanded a living wage.  How stupid of them.  And when you complain about your broken stuff to the baggage claim handlers, their response is "Show us the receipts for everything that was broken." And be ready to communicate with them in Spanish.

We've got this airline with little brown and red 737s at our hub whose pilots were obviously told to taxi around the airport at 50 knots.  I guess that saves them money.  How safe do you think that is?  Well we've been having a lot of near misses with them and sooner or later their little winglets are going to touch my ship and it'll be 'on'.  Everyone already thinks these cowboys are reckless, but that's ok, everyone luvs a cowboy.  At least they do a good job shoving you folks into the plane in about 10 minutes.

We now have foreign contract workers who are there to push us back from the gate.  They are supposed to push, then give us the signal that we're all clear to start the engines and head out to the runway.  So one day, the tug driver decides to clean his fingernails while the other one waves us to the runway.  Well guess what happened?  We killed the tug driver because he was still attached to the plane.  We tipped the tug over top of him as the plane started to taxi. That 8,000lb tug landed right on top of him.  I would imagine the airline paid off quite a bit on that one.  I guess they'll learn to follow the proper procedure.  At other airlines I have heard of airconditioner hose sucked through engines costing hundred of thousands of dollars because they put it too close to the footprint of the aircraft.

My airline is actively getting rid of folks with the proper experience in favor of hiring people without any experience. Why? Because they will work for 1/3 of the salary.  Ok airline management, get a clue.  These lower paid workers are costing you more!  Just pay people properly and hold them to higher standards of years past.  It doesn't matter.  If you complain to management they tell you they hear you but that everything seems to be ok.

Until the airline industry starts killing more passengers, no one cares.  Perhaps we need to repeal the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act which started this RACE TO THE BOTTOM. 

And you passengers:  Those tickets you're buying are too cheap for us to do this stuff safely.  Our profit margins are razor thin and we're barely making it.  If an airline that's just scraping by, lots of stuff you can't see get cut.  That includes all those safety programs which add layers of protection for our passengers.   All the airline personnel you'll meet are ticked off, overworked, and almost at the edge. A good tip for you... don't cause any trouble because we'll give your name to the feds and you'll be on the "extra screening list" for the rest of your life.

Well that's it for this month... lets spool up these engines and get the hell out of here.

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