February 1, 2006
Statement by Captain Mark Bathurst, Chairman, Master Executive Council United Chapter, Air Line Pilots Association, Regarding United Airline’s Exit from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
“A little over three years ago, many doubted we’d be standing here today discussing United’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. We were considered down for the count. The leadership, dedication and professionalism of the pilots of United Airlines prevented that from happening.
“Today, February 1, 2006, marks a turning point in the history of United Airlines and the careers of each and every United pilot and employee.
“From the ashes of September 11, 2001 through the industry upheaval that followed, few gave United and its employees much of a chance to survive. United, they said, had lost touch with a changing industry: it was mired in labor disputes, stuck with a costly hub and spoke network, unable to manage its revenues or operations, and incapable of adapting to change or recognizing opportunity. To its critics, United was old, rusty and destined to fail. We were a “legacy” airline, and our legacy, it seemed, was going to end badly.
“In the years following September 11, 2001, United suffered through an unparalleled reduction in travel demand, two rejections by the federal loan guarantee program, SARS, the Iraq war, two rounds of unprecedented revisions to its labor contracts, the potential repossession of its fleet, and an inconceivable increase in fuel costs.
“Yet I stand before you today as a pilot, and a representative of the 6,600 active pilots of the world’s premier airline franchise. United emerges from Chapter 11 with the strongest route structure, the lowest per seat mile cost of any network airline, the finest global alliance, the deepest asset base, the strongest balance sheet, and the most dedicated group of employees.
“How did United Airlines move from the threshold of the scrap heap of failed airlines to the front of the pack? We did it the old fashioned way: through hard work, and because the employees made enormous sacrifices. Through two rounds of painful contract revisions, our pilots’ pay was cut by more than 40%, our work hours increased by more than 20%, our benefits were slashed, and our defined pension plan was dismembered. At every critical step of this journey, the pilots shouldered the greatest cuts in order to save the airline.
“The indisputable fact is that the resolve of the employees of United Airlines is the major reason the airline exited bankruptcy, and the pilots we represent are a huge part of that group. Our safety record speaks for itself. It is impeccable. Through times of uncertainty, stress, and personal challenges, we have stepped forward and performed flawlessly. Pilots have lost homes, been forced to commute to distant domiciles, and have less time with their families than ever before. Our professionalism and dedication to this airline’s future command respect, recognition, and, at some point in the not too distant future, relief.
“For the pilots, United’s exit from bankruptcy is a beginning; not an end. We have provided the management of United Airlines with every tool it claims it needs to succeed in today’s airline industry. Management must now execute its business plan, to accept nothing less than excellence in every aspect of our airline, and institutionalize a culture of continuous improvement, mutual respect, and accountability from the CEO’s office to the airplane cockpit. With bankruptcy behind us, there are no more excuses, no room for error, and no second chances.
“No one has invested more, nor has higher expectations for the future, than our pilot group. United has fundamentally remade itself into that which it says it has to be to compete. In a U.S. economy that has clouds looming on the horizon, and in a competitive environment where the bottom is not yet established, United has the business plan and the route structure to seize the opportunity to excel. Our pilots will be active participants, to ensure that United Airlines is the successful airline we know it can be.
“This is our time to fly. United is the first global carrier to emerge from the aftershock of September 11th. We have emerged stronger then ever, with clear and substantial advantages over our industry peers. We made a business decision regarding United’s future. The pilot group has invested too much to have it squandered.”
|Dave Kelly||Captain Steve Derebey||Captain Herb Hunter|