Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I Don't Think So

From a Top Ten List of Most Overpayed Jobs in the U.S. :

9) Pilots for major airlines

While American and United pilots recently took pay cuts, senior captains earn as much as $250,000 a year at Delta, and their counterparts at other major airlines still earn about $150,000 to $215,000 - several times pilot pay at regional carriers - for a job that technology has made almost fully automated.

By comparison, senior pilots make up to 40 percent less at low-fare carriers like Jet Blue and Southwest, though some enjoy favorable perks like stock options. That helps explain why their employers are profitable while several of the majors are still teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

The pilot's unions are the most powerful in the industry. They demand premium pay as if still in the glory days of long-gone Pan Am and TWA, rather than the cutthroat, deregulated market of under-$200 coast-to-coast roundtrips. Because we entrust our lives to them, consumers accept the excessive sums paid them, when it's airplane mechanics who really hold our fate in their hands.

I don't think so, buddy. A friend of mine - who's technically been working for American for over two years now - finally got his dream job flying for American two years ago. After going through training, he was assigned to a "puddle jumper" (a two engined prop plane that holds about as many people as a sardine can), and now makes about as much money as a guy working two jobs at McDonalds. To fly a plane.

These "overpaid" pilots also typically have to maintain a room dubbed the "crash pad" in another city, sometimes in another country, where they will sleep in a bed that another pilot slept in the night before in an undecorated apartment overnight while they wait to pilot their plane on its return trip home. So, in effect, they're paying for two apartments, even if the second one is dirt cheap (and in a crappy neighborhood, usually).

This kind of "overpaid" life goes on for years (sometimes twenty to thirty), only slightly improving as they move up the corporate ladder into bigger and better planes, until they've eventually worked their way up the corporate totem pole and get to make the "bloated" salary of $200,000 to fly the big jets across the pond to Europe. This guy should try flying a plane for twelve hours a day, and then having to land successfully afterwards, day after day after day. I wonder what he'd say that was worth?

And who in the hell said flying a plane was automated? Sure, once they get it up to the altitude they want to fly at, you can turn on the autopilot, but I'd like to see this guy just once try and land a plane correctly. Even just in a simulator. After he crashed the 777 every single time he'd have some respect for the guy who's worked his whole life for the right to carry the lives of 200 plus people safely to their destination. I don't think it's too much to ask that these guys get paid well.

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