Pilots from five airlines join United Airlines picket

Posted March 17, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.


United Airline pilots picket on the sidewalk outside of the United Airline headquarters at 77 W. Wacker Drive in Chicago. (José M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune)

By Julie Johnsson |
United Airlines pilots and flight attendants celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by picketing the airline’s Chicago headquarters to protest a controversial joint venture with Ireland’s Aer Lingus.

United flight crews are particularly unhappy with new service between Washington Dulles International  Airport and Madrid that United and Aer Lingus plan to launch later this month.

The Irish carrier is providing Airbus A330 aircraft for the new trans-Atlantic route, which United is marketing to its customers. It will be flown by Aer Lingus pilots who agreed to a new, discounted wage scale as well as flight attendants hired by a third-party contractor and trained at United’s operation center in Elk Grove Township.

Union leaders fear the unusual code-share arrangement, the first of its kind involving a U.S. carrier, could open the door to franchising on overseas flights. Airlines would lend their marketing clout and brands to promote flights operated by outsourced, non-union crews hired by an international partner.

“We don’t want to see companies continue to outsource good jobs,” said Captain Wendy Morse, head of United’s pilots union. “It will leave us with a shell of a country that has no wealth.”

United said the new flight created 125 U.S.-based jobs, and would be supported by unionized United ground-handling and customer service representatives at Dulles. About 75 percent of passengers on the Madrid route will connect from another United flight.

 ”This creates jobs that didn’t previously exist and would not exist without the partnership,” said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy.”This is not a flight that we could profitably operate on our own.”

Job security is a hot-button issue for pilots as contract talks and labor tensions heat up at United and other U.S. carriers.

Pilots from five airlines joined the 200-person picket line to protest job outsourcing by airlines around the world: Delta Air Lines Inc., Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL), Lufthansa, and regional U.S. airlines Mesa Air Group and Colgan Air, a unit of Pinnacle Airlines Corp.

“We’re pursuing legislation to make sure U.S. aviation doesn’t morph into an industry where carriers operate under flags of convenience,” said Greg Davidowitch, who heads United’s flight attendants union.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last week began to look at limiting the scope of cooperative arrangements between two or more U.S. carriers, or between a U.S. and a foreign carrier. HR bill 4788 raised concerns about job outsourcing at airlines.

Also in Washington, D.C., representatives from British Airways PLC flight attendants’ union, UNITE, were set to meet Wednesday with members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters airline division, which represents workers at a number of U.S. carriers. UNITE is planning a strike at the British airline over the last two weekends in March.

 ”We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at UNITE who are fighting for a fair contract at British Airways,” the Teamsters said in a statement.

Two unions at American Airlines, meanwhile, are moving closer to taking a strike vote, citing stalled federally-mediated contract talks.

With reporting from Dow Jones Newswires



  1. Outsourcing Now March 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Pilots need to wake up and deal with the real world of outsourcing. Yes, it affects their industry too. Global exchange of production and service—the wave of the future. Why pay more here when someone will do it cheaper offshore???? Capitalism rules!!

  2. Andrew March 17, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Cheaper offshore?! Look how much a first officer on a regional airline makes now, you’re lucky to break out of the TEENS! (Mesa Airgroup F/O’s start at around 15K a year I believe.) Look what outsourcing products to China has done in terms of safety recalls. Let’s go ahead and outsource for the cheapest source of labor to be responsible for over 100 lives, 40,000′ feet in the air at 600mph…. I’m not a pilot, as as a frequent traveler I want the most educated, well trained pilot out there. Just look at Capt. Sullenberger to see what true american pilots are capable of. I was a supported of United and have been a frequent flier with them for over 15 years now. That relationship is now up for review.

  3. UA Pilot March 17, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Cheap? You want cheap? Do you think the 130 passengers on the Hudson River landing wanted “cheap?” How about the 300 passengers on the 747 that blew a cargo door an hour out of Honolulu a few years ago? Do you think they wanted “cheap?” Now those 53 people who DIED in Buffalo – THEY got cheap!

  4. Voiceofreason March 18, 2010 at 12:11 a.m.

    Oh you mean the Colgan Air flight…..yeah the one piloted by union pilots (ALPA), staffed with union FAs….so how exactly does using the non-union crew, which IS cheaper, provides better service and is just as safe (FYI: Skywest, non-union airline total number of fatal accidents EVER:0, yup ZERO, NADA, ZILCH). But hey don’t let logic, reason and the facts get in the way of your union spoon fed talking points.

  5. Troy Devora June 10, 2010 at 9:58 a.m.

    Gracias por tu ayuda