Saturday, June 25, 2005


One of the challenges for airlines is to hire people who are mature, responsible, intelligent, make good decisions, and who chose aviation as a career. Why would anyone with any brains decide to be a professional pilot? The answer seems to be a combination of hooked on flying, and arrogant enough to believe that everything will go his way, so that the career will work out. And then the airline has the problem of a bunch of arrogant pilots.

Several years ago Air Canada took over the faltering Canadian Airlines International and merged the two companies. The seniority lists were merged too, discounting the years of service of ex-CAI pilots. The original Air Canada pilots say, "if we hadn't rescued you, you'd hav no job at all, and would have had to start from the bottom of the seniority list." The ex-CAI pilots say, "We've put in as many years as you have and are part of the new merged company, why shouldn't we have the same credit for time served?" The acrimony is so great that the rift between the two factions will not be closed until, and may outlive the day that the last pre-merger pilot takes his retirement.

The Boeing cancellation was the result of a playpen fight between "Original Air Canada" and ex-CAI. They couldn't agree on how to get paid for the new shiny toys, so they tossed them out the window so neither of them gets them. No wonder I couldn't find any sane reason to cancel the order. One spokesman was calling the other faction "hijackers." The company is trying to call the union back for another vote.

Oddly, someone claimed that because OAC pilots outnumber ex-CAI pilots eight-to-one on the bottom one-third of the seniority list that proves OAC pilots were unfairly treated with respect to seniority merging. That made me blink. It proves nothing. OAC pilots outnumber CAI pilots at the company as a whole. At the time of the merger, Canadian was laying off, not hiring, so had very few low seniority pilots. Low seniority ex-CAI pilots have also likely had a greater rate of attrition, going to Canadian North, and other companies that have become defacto ex-CAI havens.

Even when I know the reasons, I can't identify with either faction. I remember sitting on the balcony of an ex-CAI pilot's home, and listening to him explain the hardships the seniority list merging had visited upon him. I was taking a midday break from a flying job that paid $300 in a good week, and nothing in a week of rain. I just nodded and made sympathetic noises while I sipped my lemonade and watched his horses try to get into his swimming pool.


Aviatrix said...

Yeah, it just makes labour relations painful.

Aviatrix said...

Gotta admit, Andy, that would open up the job market considerably. But all the same, I think I'll stick to my, "let them retire and sit by their swimming pools" strategy.