PBS Frontline’s “Flying Cheap” Underscores Safety Cost of Airline Industry’s Economic Structure
February 11, 2010 - “Flying Cheap,” which aired Tuesday night on the PBS television news documentary Frontline, focused sharply on issues involving safety in some parts of the industry’s regional segment, about which ALPA has voiced concerns for some time.
The Frontline public affairs program, which included excerpts from an interview with ALPA president Capt. John Prater, posed the question “Is the aviation system being stretched beyond its capacity to deliver service that’s both cheap and safe?” The one-hour show illustrated many of the challenges facing these airlines, including the extreme cost pressures inherent in fee-for-departure operations that have fueled a race to the bottom in which airlines that seek to invest in safety and training suffer an economic disadvantage in the marketplace.
For years, ALPA has called for enhanced pilot training and mentoring regulations to level the playing field and take safety off the table as an area to cut costs. ALPA worked side by side with the members of Congress to draft legislation aimed at improving pilot certification, training, and flight- and duty-time limits and minimum rest requirements.
Last summer, ALPA participated fully in the FAA’s Call to Action on Airline Safety and Pilot Training, with nearly 70 ALPA pilots taking part in at least one of the 12 events nationwide. ALPA continues to deliver on its commitment to assist the industry in recognizing and addressing the serious safety issues discussed during these meetings. In addition to the continued efforts to promote ALPA’s Code of Ethics, adopted by the union more than half a century ago, the union has undertaken greater outreach to educational institutions through its new Professional Development Group. The Group was created by ALPA’s Executive Board in October 2009 to help ensure that all pilots maintain the highest standards of professional conduct. Moreover, ALPA’s safety structure continues to work closely with the FAA on new regulatory language for pilot training, qualifications, and flight-time and duty-time and minimum rest requirements.
“Pilots should not be disciplined for calling in fatigued or for reporting safety issues,” said Prater following the Frontline show. “ALPA pilots know that their union will back them when they put the safety of their passengers and crews first. However, we are seeking commitments from companies to work meaningfully with their pilots to solve these problems before it gets to that point. We hope this Frontline program will encourage more airline managements to work together with ALPA pilots as partners in what must be a tireless commitment to enhancing safety.”