Just when I was starting to trust ALPA a little bit…

As I posted about just yesterday, United sent out an email to some of their frequent flyers encouraging them to approach pilots in airports. Being the natural skeptic I am I questioned how the unions would feel about this, and not surprisingly they responded. How they responded, though, is beyond disgusting in my opinion. Here’s their press release. Please read it. Read the whole thing. Every filthy last word of it.

Let’s look at some of this together:

“Now when you see our flight crew in the concourse or at the gate area, ask them about our airline, the plane, the flight in general, or even questions regarding their own travel experiences and adventures as pilots.”

If our customers engage you, here’s a good ice-breaker: Remind them that if they can see a pilot, then that pilot is not being paid.

Please tell me you’re kidding. The union’s trying to be funny here, right? No human would ever say this to someone paying their salary, would they? (just to clarify the part above in quotes refers to what the UA email said)

This program is yet another example of United, without consultation or consideration, asking its pilots to extend goodwill for free.

Extend goodwill for free? Are you fa’riggin’ kidding me? One time I asked someone on the street for directions. I guess I was being completely and utterly out of line in asking a total stranger for goodwill, eh? I see where they’re coming from, but I think goodwill is a very poor choice of words.

And remember, if you decide to autograph a fleet card as suggested by the company, Glenn is spelled with two n’s.

Good thing I have 24 segments on United in the next week. Thanks to Captain Flanagan for giving me a box of these trading cards. I will ask the pilots on my flight (nicely) to sign the cards and engage in conversation if they have time. Let’s see if any of this comes up. God, I hope not!

So what are the pilots going to tell us, according to this?

Yes, it will be a long flight, but the video is inoperative. You can listen to Channel 9 though.

Wow, awesome! If we get Channel 9 instead of video I’m a happy camper. Do I see the union actually encouraging positive behavior?

I could go through just about every comment and make a sarcastic, snarky remark, but that’s really not my intent. I have a serious problem with this though. I understand the frustration of the pilots to a large extent, and you could say for the most part I’m on the side of the employees. I understand their conflict with management. At the same time having this as a press release from an organization that claims to be “the voice of the professional pilot” is very sad.

That being said, we (loyal customers that treat employees with respect) are NOT the enemies. The fact that they’ve chosen to get us involved is absolutely disgusting as far as I’m concerned, and reflects very poorly on the union. Now let me for a moment assume the best of the union in thinking that they didn’t mean to get us involved and won’t say that kind of stuff to us. Well, I just can’t picture it. Some pilots take the union line as gospel. Just look at the little Hats On/Hats Off game they play. It’s about as mature as something played in an elementary school, yet 95% of pilots comply.

Like I said I’m flying 24 segments on United between Saturday and the Saturday after that. On every flight (assuming the pilots have time) I’ll ask them to sign my trading card, which I would have done regardless of whether or not this fiasco came up, and I’m curious to see whether I get any smart comments. I’ll be very nice and my intent isn’t to be hostile (like I said I like collecting pilot signatures anyway), but if any pilot decides to say “you know I’m not getting paid right now?” United isn’t exactly in the most secure financial situation as it is, so the last thing they need is more people hating their company. Of course I’m irrationally loyal.

Now I guess my attitude here might be taking everything just a little bit too literally. I can see how ALPA is trying to be humorous, and in a way it’s funny, kind of playing to issues we can all relate to. At the same time I don’t think it’s the union’s job to be a comedy club, but I sure hope that’s their intent.

Filed Under: Unions, United
  1. Their sample sarcastic responses to children were particularly lovely. I’m glad that every conversation that my plane-loving daughter has had with a UA pilot has been a lot nicer than that. Then again, at 4 1/2, she’s apparently a little more mature than the authors of the press release.

  2. Is the Union website for real? They live in their own bubble – WOW. I guess it is all a part of negotiations. The crazier you start, the more you end up with. Wow those guys are brainwashed zombies.

  3. I don’t think the union expects its pilots to make these remarks. The were however extremely funny.

    ALPA has its web site, and most of us have Dilbert. What’s the diff?

  4. The difference, in my opinion, is that Dilbert is supposed to be satirical humor, it’s a comic strip. The union, on the other hand, claims to be the voice of the professional pilot. How am I supposed to know when they’re kidding or not? Sometimes I chuckle when I read their releases regarding the merger where they basically say “No merger is happening unless we approve of it.” I find that funny too, so I guess they were kidding?

    Anyway, thanks for the comment and thanks for reading.:)

  5. Hi, I came across your blog and this article. Just thought I would share my opinion. I heard about the “hats-off” campaign but not the trading cards…as a pilot myself (not for UA) I shared this article with some colleagues and we found it quite comical! Personally, under all the sarcastic humor, I think they are making valid points. Employees have made concessions, given up pensions, etc etc..the majority of the folks on the front lines are frustrated and who can blame them? And yet – during these days of great industry uncertainty, to see the company leaders taking on stock options and bonuses just adds another nail to the coffin to those making sacrifices. So beneath all of the satire, do I believe there is an underlying message? Yes. Did they deliver it in the best way? Perhaps not for some…but I feel it is safe to say the majority of travelers are not going to search for, find, or read union statements, nor could care what they have to say.
    I think if I found “trading cards” in my mailbox upon showing up for work one day, and was told you have to give them out to anyone who asks to make us look good (and assuming I was unhappy with my job no matter how much I love to fly)…I would probably laugh! Not because I don’t like what I do, or hate it when someone asks me a question, or feel “pilots are only supposed to fly the plane and that’s it” (and trust me, there are people out there who think like that), but because I do not see how this enhances goodwill (except for all you aviation nerds out there!) Seems like a cop-out excuse to put on financial documents and a waste of paper to me…oh, and wait – aren’t we trying to cut company expenditures during this “most challenging of times?” I have an idea – lets charge $10 for a trading card, $20 for an autographed card, and $50 for a flight deck tour upon arrival…just add it as another fee along with checked bags :o)

  6. Matt,

    First of all, thanks for checking out my blog, I appreciate it.

    Very well said. I appreciate your reasoned, logical approach. Ultimately I think your conclusion is spot on, and at the end of the day I guess I just didn’t think it was ALPA’s place to be comedian, but you do a good job of explaining the reasoning, so I appreciate it.

    At the end of the day there are two types of people when it comes to working, those that’ll do their best regardless of what they’re paid and how bad working conditions are, and then there are those that will do exactly what they’re paid for (or for that matter how they’re treated), and nothing more.

    I fall more into the first group and have always been taught that if you’re going to do something, do it right. At the same time I understand and respect those that fall into the second group. Without a doubt I’d be frustrated if I were a pilot with UA, but I definitely wouldn’t let it out on the passengers as some UA pilots do.

    Thanks again for your thoughts. 🙂

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