While not directly relevant to customers, negotiations between airline work groups and management can be fascinating.
Negotiations can often get pretty tense, and at some point one party just has to call the other’s bluffs. For example, a few years back British Airways was having huge issues with their flight attendant union, at which point Willie Walsh, the CEO, made a threat. He basically said that if they weren’t willing to compromise more then he’d never hire another flight attendant under their contract.
They didn’t believe him, but he followed through with it, which is how “mixed fleet” crews started. They’re paid substantially less, have shorter layovers, stay at worse hotels, and in many cases are a fraction of the age of their more “traditional” colleagues. Heck, there are some 21 year old British Airways mixed fleet customer service managers out there.
Which brings me to Sun Country. While I haven’t ever flown with them (I actually forgot they still existed until I read the below article), management and their pilots are going through a fascinating negotiation process regarding pilot pay.
Via MPR News:
The chair of Sun Country Airlines’ board is threatening to ground its planes in the midst of the company’s pay dispute with its pilots union.
A letter from Marty Davis to the union said the company’s management has “begun the process of downsizing the airline, for what will need to be its ultimate shut-down.”
The company declined to comment. The pilots union dismissed the letter as a bargaining tactic.
“We are disappointed Mr. Davis has chosen to respond to us with the threat of a shutdown,” Capt. Brian Roseen, the pilots union’s chairman, said in a news release Thursday.
What makes Sun Country especially unique is that:
- Sun Country is privately owned, so we don’t have all the details of their financials; that being said, federal records indicate that they’ve been profitable since 2009
- Sun Country only operates 19 planes, and all of them are leased; so given their lack of assets, it would be easy enough for them to shut down
That being said, it seems rather ludicrous to threaten to shut down an airline over pilot pay issues when oil prices are as low as they are, and US airlines are reporting record profitability.
Their pilots do seem to have a case, though, arguing that they haven’t received a pay raise in five years, and that no other “sizable airlines” pays pilots less to fly 737s. Based on the Sun Country pilot pay rates published at airlinepilotcentral.com, that really doesn’t surprise me. Then again, I’m not really sure Sun Country could be considered a “sizable airline.” 😉
This seems like a pretty dirty and bad-faith negotiation tactic on the part of management. Threatening to shut down a profitable airline when the US airline industry is experiencing record profitability seems harsh. Not only that, but it certainly doesn’t instill any confidence in consumers considering booking a ticket on Sun Country.
I’m very curious to see what becomes of this…
What do you make of Sun Country’s scare tactic with their pilots?