August 9, 2004
United ALPA Statement on Pilot Pension Plans
Captain Mark Bathurst, Chairman of the United Pilots Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association, released the following statement regarding pilot pensions at United:
A number of news media outlets have reported that United Airlines will seek to terminate all employee pension plans, including the pilot pension plan, as part of its program to exit bankruptcy. The pilots of United Airlines have the following message for the Company, the media and the financial markets: we will use every resource at our command and every legal means available to prevent the Company from destroying the pilot pension program.
We recognize United’s continuing need to reduce operating costs, given the current dramatic rise in the price of fuel. However, the Company’s 9,000 pilots have already made huge concessions to provide United with over $6 billion in financial relief over the next five years. Over the last 18 months, the average pilot has forfeited 45% of his or her pay and 20% of his or her pension benefits, as well as endured a 15% increase in work hours. We made these enormous financial and lifestyle sacrifices to help the airline move toward profitability and to protect our pensions. We will not further sacrifice our futures – and our families’ futures – as well.
The facts are now clear: United’s labor costs are now among the lowest in the network airline industry, but its non-labor operating expenses remain among the highest. Outside of labor and fuel costs, American Airlines enjoys a full 25% operating cost advantage over United. United’s maintenance and airport operations are substantially less efficient than its industry peers; its aircraft leases remain well above market; its relationship with United Express carriers is unprofitable and unstable; and United fails to manage revenue as well as American, Continental or Northwest. Any corporate management team can attack employee pensions. That is the "simple" way to generate a large sum of cash. We are asking this management team for two things: accountability, and to begin steps toward executing a solid, rational, and achievable business plan that does not attempt to solve its problems on the backs of its employees.
United’s pilots have acquiesced to massive pay cuts and much longer working hours: huge concessions that made it possible for this great airline to remain viable throughout an extraordinarily difficult period. Terminating pilot pensions has the potential to destroy the career of every United pilot, and potentially plunge labor relations at United into years of hostility and chaos, . We will do everything in our power to avoid that scenario. The pilots of United Airlines will fight for our pensions every bit as hard as we have fought to ensure that United emerges from bankruptcy as the best airline in the world.
Capt. Steven Derebey – 815-341-4629
Capt. Herb Hunter – 954-818-7577