View Full Version : COMAIR knock-on effect

28th Apr 2001, 20:54
From a colleague stateside:

Comair announced today that the duration of the strike by its pilot group has forced it to move forward with layoffs of its valued employees. Approximately 2,000 positions will be affected in all departments, based on current operational demands.

The last day of work for affected employees will be May 13, 2001. During the layoff, pay, health and travel benefits will be suspended. Supervisors and managers began notifying affected employees today. Presently, there are approximately 4,000 non-striking employees. Half of those individuals will be affected by these layoffs.

"These pilots think they are Gods." said one disgruntled employee who had continued working in Comair's administrative department. "They are driven by pure greed and arrogance and have no concern for anyone else."

"Unfortunately, with no revenue coming in for 33 days now, the economic reality has set in and we are forced to take these regrettable, but necessary steps," said Randy Rademacher, president of Comair. "We have been able to pay our people in full with benefits for seven weeks. That's unprecedented for a company of our size, but we simply could not sustain it any longer."

Comair will make state employment representatives available to all affected employees. Comair employees will be called back to work as an operational need for their position again exists.

"I want to extend my sincere thanks to Comair employees for their years of service to this airline, in particular their hard work and support during this situation," Rademacher said. "The people our employees have touched through recent community service projects are raving about their hard work. We already know how great all of our people are, and when this is all over we hope to see each and every one of them again as we rebuild our airline together."

Comair pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association have been on strike since March 26, 2001. All Comair flights are now canceled through 9:00 a.m. Sunday, May 27, 2001.

28th Apr 2001, 21:41
Yep, this one might not have a happy ending...

The layoffs were not unexpected, in fact they normally start within days, not weeks after the start of a strike. Looks like Delta is serious about shrinking Comair and folding its assets into other carriers. Of course, the union will say "don't worry boys, they're just bluffing!". The scope language in Delta's new TA with the pilots will limit Comair's expansion and ASA is poised to take up the slack from a Comair shutdown.

ALPA is giving job seminars (Kit Darby et al.) for the Comair pilots, many will just move on. However, others will be left out on the street with families to feed if this isn't settled soon.

This reminds me of the Eastern strike years ago. It was the world's biggest party at first, hospitality suites in MIA with free booze and flight attendants dispensing favors. Delta pilots on the sidelines urging the strikers to "hold the line" as they benefited from the abandoned routes.

Reality started to set in when that second paycheck didn't come...


Saturday, April 28, 2001
Comair lays off 2000

Half of nonpilot work force let go as strike takes toll

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ERLANGER — The 33-day Comair pilots strike hit the company's headquarters hard Friday when the airline said it would lay off 2,000 employees, three-quarters of them in Greater Cincinnati.

Losing almost $4 million a day and with no end to the strike in sight, the airline told most ticket agents, flight attendants and some office workers that they would be laid off May 13.

The layoff is half of Comair's nonpilot work force, and observers took it as a sign that talks with the pilots' union are not going well even as negotiations continued into Friday evening in Washington, D.C.

“One reading would be that they really don't think this is going to be settled anytime soon, and what they've been doing is just too expensive,” said David Walsh, a Miami University business professor and airline labor expert.

Even if the strike were settled immediately, it would take weeks to get the airline up and running, spokeswoman Meghan Glynn said. The laid-off workers would be recalled after Comair is at full strength, she said.

Comair has canceled all flights until May 26.

“Based on the prolonged nature of the strike, these are steps that we had to take today,” she said in a somber announcement at Comair's headquarters.

Brenda Ryan of Newport, a ramp worker at Comair for 18 months, was doing volunteer work at The Beach Waterpark Friday afternoon when she got the news that she had been laid off.

She said Comair had been “very fair” in keeping the nonpilot employees as long as it did.

“I have two part-time jobs, so I didn't come home today saying, "Oh my God, what am I going to do?'” Ms. Ryan said. “But a lot of people are.”

Local customers already have felt the impact of the strike by Comair's 1,400 pilots since March 26. But many of those travelers made other arrangements, and the blow to the local economy will multiply when the Comair employees lose their salaries and slow spending at local stores, restaurants and entertainment venues.

“This is bad news, really bad news,” said Tom Zinn, staff economist for the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “This does not bode well for things, particularly since the economy has been slowing.”

Earlier this month, Comair eliminated 200 pilot positions and took 17 planes out of its fleet because of the cost of the pilots' strike.

Comair had kept nonstriking employees on full salary and benefits through 33 days of the pilots' strike, but Friday cut its staff “to ensure our financial viability for the future,” Ms. Glynn said.

“What they (employees) really asked is, "Can you give us some assurance, at least give us some notice?'” she said. “That's what we're doing with today's announcement.”

She would not say how much the company would save by cutting the 2,000 jobs.

Ray Neidl, an airline analyst at ING Barings, estimated that the layoffs could save more than $1 million a week. Tat would cut losses to Delta Air Lines, Comair's parent, to under $27 million a week.

“The pilots are asking something that in my opinion is not grantable,” he said.

Many of Comair's maintenance workers, as well as employees of its Aviation Academy, are not affected by the layoffs. Most but not all of the customer-service workers and flight attendants are being laid off.

Comair and its 600-member flight attendants union have been negotiating a contract for two years.

Susan Zurborg, a Comair ticket agent from Independence, said she took a voluntary leave after the pilots went on strike, and had not gotten notice Friday that she had been permanently laid off.

She said the company was “doing what it has to do.”

“The company's been nothing but wonderful with the gate agents,” she said. “This is a very sad day. I've spent a lot of time and sweat there, and met a lot of great people.”

Many employees left Comair's headquarters soon after the announcement, some visibly upset.

Airport spokesman Ted Bushelman said the feelings were understandable.

“It's always bad when your friends and neighbors are laid off,” he said. “It always hurts. That's about all you can say. They (Comair) have to do what they have to do.”

Ms. Glynn also would not comment on the negotiations with pilots. But Max Roberts, a Comair pilot and spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, said the company could have avoided Friday's layoffs by concentrating on an agreement over the last three years.

Scott Foose, vice president of the Regional Airline Association, said the Comair strike is a test of how regional airlines across the country can maintain financial viability.

“With their cash flow cut off by the strike, there's only so much they can do,” Mr. Foose said. “I think the pilots have overestimated the ability of the airlines to pay out the salaries and benefits they're asking for.

“It's in everybody's interest that we pay attention to what Comair is doing.”

Ms. Ryan, the Comair ramp worker, said she didn't know every detail of the company's latest offer to pilots.

“But from the things that I've seen, I think it's a fair offer,” she said.

[This message has been edited by Airbubba (edited 28 April 2001).]

29th Apr 2001, 15:24
More on the plan to fold Comair into the other Delta Connection commuters...

"...Mr. Siebenburgen said there is no plan to roll Comair's operations over to other Delta Connection carriers, and that other airlines are clamoring for the planes..."

Yeah, right, then a little later he says:

"...Mr. Siebenburgen said those planned additional planes could go to another Delta Connection carrier, which could fly the routes intended for Comair..."

Looks like some possible green card opportunities for international "replacement pilots" if ALPA lets down its guard:

"...Still, there are other alternatives, including providing the planes to an international company, which could supply the pilots, Mr. Siebenburgen said..."


Sunday, April 29, 2001
Options bleak for Comair

Airline forms contingency plans as losses mount from walkout

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Selling more planes. Cutting more pilot positions. Losing routes to sister carriers. And the gradual dismantling of Greater Cincinnati's only locally based airline, which until Friday had 2,600 local nonpilot employees.

All of these are possibilities facing Comair if the pilots strike — now in day 35 — continues, says the man who used to run Comair and now leads the network connecting Comair and other regional carriers to parent company Delta Air Lines.

“Comair may be a very different company in the future,” said David Siebenburgen, president and chief executive officer of Delta Connection Inc., Delta's network of feeder airlines. “If pilots don't fly airplanes, by definition, you don't have an airline.

“We still have a tremendous capability for being a great airline, but we are building our contingency plans for all the things that may happen in the future.”

Mr. Siebenburgen, who was Comair president until Delta announced it was buying the Erlanger-based carrier in the fall of 1999, was interviewed by the Enquirer in Salt Lake City during Delta's annual meeting. He spoke before Friday's announcement that Comair was laying off 2,000 nonpilot employees, including 1,500 who were based locally.

The other Delta Connection carriers he oversees are SkyWest, AC Jet and Atlantic Southeast, where the current pilots contract expires in September 2002.

Comair's 1,350 pilots — most of them based in the Tristate — walked March 26 after talks broke down over work rules such as length of day, retirement benefits, job protection and pay.

Talks restarted last week for the first time since the strike began and continued through Saturday. But if no progress is made, several options will exist for Comair, Delta Connection and Delta, Mr. Siebenburgen said.

He would not offer any specific time frames, but said none of the options is good for Comair. And even if an agreement is reached, the company would take a year or longer to recover its current growth rate.

Paul Lackie, spokesman for Comair's branch of the Air Line Pilots Association, acknowledged that parent Delta, as well as Comair, has alternatives that go all the way up to closing the airline entirely.

“But so do the pilots, and our alternatives are career-enhancing while Delta's alternatives seem to be self-destructive,” Mr. Lackie said. “It's Comair's management that is committing suicide by focusing on shutting down rather than on achieving a contract.”

Mr. Siebenburgen said this month's return of 17 aircraft, including eight Canadair Regional Jets, could be the first in a series of fleet reductions.

“If you can't fly your planes, you've got to get rid of your planes,” he said.

The planes were returned to CRJ manufacturer Bombardier for remarketing. On Wednesday, fellow Delta Connection carrier Sky West said it was taking five of the jets while adding to its route structure in the western United States.

Mr. Siebenburgen said there is no plan to roll Comair's operations over to other Delta Connection carriers, and that other airlines are clamoring for the planes.

“Until now, there has been no such thing as a used regional jet,” Mr. Siebenburgen said. “You had to stand in line. Now, I've got other airlines calling me to say "Are there any more?'

“There are a lot of airlines, both within Delta Connection and outside, who are interested in these planes,” Mr. Siebenburgen said.

Pilots at two of the other Delta Connection carriers — AC Jet and Atlantic Southeast — are represented by the same union as Comair, and would refuse to fly the routes, considering them “struck work,” Mr. Lackie said.

Still, there are other alternatives, including providing the planes to an international company, which could supply the pilots, Mr. Siebenburgen said.

In addition, Comair had 12 planes on order over the next year until the company indefinitely suspended delivery at the same time it said it was returning the planes.

Mr. Siebenburgen said those planned additional planes could go to another Delta Connection carrier, which could fly the routes intended for Comair.

“In the meantime, while this goes on and on and on and on, it's incumbent upon the company - Comair and Delta - to do something with all aircraft, including the ones that are idled,” Mr. Siebenburgen said. “They can't sit there forever and just do nothing with them.”

And there might be a way to get Delta Connection involved in the routes not being served by an idled Comair, he said, without offering specifics.

“When you talk about all the other regional flying Comair does today and was going do in future, that need still exists,” Mr. Siebenburgen said. “And questions will be seriously asked about how that void can be filled ... and as things go forward, I've got to look at this from the Delta Connection perspective in my role with Delta Air Lines.

“Comair does not have an exclusive contract on any of the flying it does or any of the new flying it was supposed to get.”

Otherwise, another carrier will take over the booming regional market left by Comair here in Cincinnati and in Orlando, Fla., where Comair had its second-largest hub, Mr. Siebenburgen said.

“It's not reasonable to think a tremendous service void in Cincinnati and Orlando will last forever because a group of pilots say "I'm not going to fly there,'” Mr. Siebenburgen said. “That long-term hiccup would not prevail. Market forces will come together and change that.”

[This message has been edited by Airbubba (edited 29 April 2001).]

1st May 2001, 16:10
ALPA, yeah right...

I have made 2 transatlantic trips on DAL in the past month. On both of my flights to/from RSW and ATL passengers who were booked on Comair RSW/MCO and onward were being flown by Delta Pilots on Delta planes to Atlanta and then onwards...so what´s this business about Delta not flying "struck" work?

Like AirBubba, I remember the EAL Disaster of 89, and it was the DAL guys (everyone remembers Frank, but does anyone remember Hank?)who said "Hold that Line!!!".

Now the B and C Concourses in ATL are filled with DAL jets, not EAL, and for a while the 727´s out of the FRA hub in Europe still carried the EAL tail numbers, while being flown by ALPA "brothers"

I hate to say it, but like Bavis said in 90, you guys better get back to work soon cause the fat lady´s warming up backstage.

There´s going to be some winners in this one, but it isn´t going to be the Comair guys this round, and I´m sorry about that ´cause I´ve got some good friends there...

1st May 2001, 17:11

Unless I'm reading the news incorrectly, the primary focus in the Comair strike is over starting salaries which are traditionally starvation wages with many carriers.

It's amazing to me that starving first-year pilots can be that sacred.

It's equally amazing that the other trades find that acceptable when they won't tolerate such treatment themselves.

You splitter
1st May 2001, 19:09
What are you saying. That in any other trade/industry or profession those starting off start on the same wage structure as their more experienced colleagues? Everybody no matter what they do starts off on a low pay scale with huge differances in pay between them and those more senior.

Is that all this is about? Please tell me that those ground staff who have just been laid off, and who earn less those new pilots anyway, are not the ones paying the price for such a silly self centred strike!
There must be more to it than that!