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Friday, May 4, 2012

Pilots Say Flying United Airlines Isn't That Safe

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2012 at 3:10 PM

click to enlarge United makes this flight seem safe
  • United makes this flight seem safe

A flock of United Airlines pilots will stand post at the doors of San Francisco International Airport this weekend, but not to greet frequent flyers or to help you with your carry-on. They will be there to rail on the airlines, like every other frustrated flyer.

Pilots have been in contract negotiations with United Airlines' management team for more than two years, and they are currently working under a nine-year-old bankruptcy contract, which isn't making them happy, according to Lisa Cohen, a spokesperson for the Unfriendly Skies organization. The pilots aren't just worried about their huge pay cuts, or the risk of losing their jobs to United's foreign partnerships, they are also worried about your safety (and theirs) while in the air.

You see, the pilots are also planning to use this day of protest to warn passengers about United's shoddy safety training practices. That's not comforting.

Since 2000, United's 12,000 rigorously trained pilots are strained by the 50 percent cut in staffing. The Unfriendly Skies organization claims 66 percent of United's domestic flights are currently outsourced to regional carriers whose safety requirements might not be up to par. 

Now might be a good time to remind readers that one of United's partners, Colgan Air, is the carrier that crashed in Buffalo, New York in 2009, killing 50 people. "Inadequate training and fatigue" were listed as factors to that accident.

If safety concerns aren't enough, there's a lot more to complain about when it comes to United Airlines (starting with the over-priced Internet access and they don't serve Philz Coffee like Virgin Airlines does). Like the fact that local United Airlines' jobs have declined from 30,000 to 10,000 in the last decade, according to Unfriendly Skies.

Unfriendly Skies points blame to United's partnerships with more than a dozen foreign airlines, including Air Canada, Air China, Singapore Airlines, and EGYPTAIR. The organization also suspects United's next partner will be the Middle Eastern business, Gulf Airlines.

"Labor laws allow these airlines [to] hire and let go of flight attendants at will," says Unfriendly Skies' website. "Pilots have no protections for long term employment with very few benefits."

So will United Airlines return to rigorous safety training and lifelong benefits for its pilots? Or will those pilots be forced to stand outside SFO, passing out leaflets, convincing potential passengers that United Airlines just isn't safe to fly.

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Erin Browner


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