United MEC Holds Press Conference

January 7, 2010 - Capt. Wendy Morse, United MEC Chairman, released the following statement today during a UAL MEC press conference.

I am excited about the opportunities before us. I am joined in this new term by Vice Chairman, Captain Garry Kravit, a 747 Captain, also a pilot with United for 25 years, and Secretary-Treasurer, Captain Joseph Genovese, an Airbus Captain and a pilot with United for 19 years. There are challenges confronting us that face our industry and specifically the United pilots. Much needs to be done to recognize and compensate United pilots for the contributions that we have made, and continue to make, to our airline and the extraordinary service that we provide to our customers.

Throughout our history, but particularly since 9/11, despite experiencing two rounds of concessions resulting in difficult working conditions and schedules, losing both our pensions and half our pay, United pilots have remained focused on the job at hand: safely flying our customers to their destinations around the world.

This pilot group’s professionalism and expertise contributes to one of the best safety records in the world. In fact, United Airlines has not had a passenger fatality due to pilot error in over 30 years. United pilots are simply as good as it gets among the world’s airline pilots. Unfortunately, we are not treated in a manner that recognizes our continuing efforts on behalf of our customers and our company.

We are encouraged that the new President of United Airlines, John Tague, agrees with us that our airline is a service business. United’s success depends on delivering a product that our customers value. We are heartened to see a “focus” on improving United’s Department of Transportation performance metrics, such as on-time arrivals. As all great service organizations understand, you have to compensate and respect your service providers accordingly in order to produce an effective product. Our management bases their own pay on comparisons with that of executives from America’s most successful corporations, yet they seem unwilling to compensate their pilots based on our unsurpassed performance. This simply cannot continue.

It is also unacceptable for United Airlines to continue downsizing if we are to be a successful enterprise in the future. United’s current tactic of shrinking to profitability has repeatedly proven to be disastrous.

Let’s think about this. I could name a whole list of airlines that have tried this. It does not work. You simply cannot shrink to profitability.

Is it any wonder that some of the carriers that feed United Airlines have market caps that rival United’s. And, at a time when United management should be focused like a laser on improving our operation, they continue to be distracted with ill-advised initiatives such as their announced joint venture and alter-ego operation with Aer Lingus.

United Airlines, not United Express, will need domestic lift in the 71-120 seat range soon as the economy continues to recover. We are not interested in any further relaxation of the “scope of flying” protections in our contract. Such concessions were agreed to during the bankruptcy primarily due to the company’s insistence that they were essential to remain competitive. This rationale has proven false. The airlines that have outsourced the least are now much stronger than those, such as United, that have outsourced the most.

It was encouraging recently when United announced their wide-body airline purchase. However, wide-body aircraft orders slated for delivery six to nine years down the road offers some promise. But what about now?

United management has traditionally hired extremely qualified pilots. The pool of talent within this group is very deep. United has hired the cream of the crop from both the military and civilian aviation worlds. United pilots have the trust and respect of the flying public and rightfully so. However, to then allow this experience to go unused due to massive layoffs and to simultaneously farm out more and more of the flying that these United pilots could, and should be doing, is not in the proud tradition of United Airlines.

Since I was hired at United Airlines 25 years ago there have been seven CEOs. Only one left the company better than he found it. All took from the company and enriched themselves. Obviously, the pilots of United Airlines have a much greater interest in the long-term success of our airline. We stand ready to redouble our efforts and call on the company to do the same at the bargaining table. We need to conclude contract negotiations so that we can all focus our energy into making United Airlines great again.

Captain Morse is a Boeing 777 Captain based in Chicago. A 24-year veteran of United Airlines, Captain Morse has served the pilots of United Airlines in many capacities with ALPA. She served as Vice Chairman for two terms (2004-2007), Negotiating Committee Chairman (2003) and Negotiating Committee Member (2008-2009, 1999-2001). Captain Morse is a graduate of Memphis State University with a degree in Commercial Aviation. A native of Arlington, Mass., Captain Morse and her husband, Jay, have three sons, John, William and Ryan.

ALPA Contact:
Dave Kelly