View Full Version : Comair Pilots Ready to Walk the Walk...

23rd Mar 2001, 05:24
Not UK news but these guys are trying to get $100K a year as commuter pilots...

Hope it works!


Comair cancels flights in anticipation of strike

March 22, 2001
Web posted at: 4:09 PM EST (2109 GMT)

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Comair canceled approximately 10 flights Thursday in advance of a potential strike by its pilots' union and a spokeswoman predicted more would be canceled Friday.

If a strike is called Monday, the airline will cancel all flights, the company said in a statement.

Pilots for the nation's second-largest commuter airline have threatened to walk off the job Monday if they can't agree on a new contract with Comair.

Comair operates 323 daily flights to 95 cities out of its Cincinnati hub.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, where 10,000 Delta pilots are poised to strike later this spring, could also be affected, since Comair is a feeder for Delta.

Nick Miller, Comair spokesman, said a contract offer that was rejected would have made Comair's pilots the best paid among regional airlines.

He said the company offered pay increases of up to 43 percent over several years, enhanced 401k retirement benefits, better work rules and more job security. Miller said a regional jet captain making an average of $70,000 a year could make $100,000 by 2004.

The union wants its regional pilots to be compensated on the same scale as major airline pilots. The union's stance is that an airline pilot should earn the same income whether flying for a regional airline or a national one. The dispute is being closely watched by the industry.

Bush not expected to intervene
Talks began in June 1998 between Comair and its 1,400 pilots. Mediation was unsuccessful through 1999 and 2000. Talks are scheduled to take place Friday and over the weekend; a 30-day cooling-off period ends at midnight Sunday.

If no agreement is reached by then, the two sides could agree to extend the deadline of the "cooling-off" period and continue negotiations or the pilots' union could choose to call for a strike. President Bush could also convene an emergency board, a move that would block a strike.

Though Bush intervened in the Northwest mechanics dispute, Comair officials predicted he would not do so in this one.

Comair is second only to American Eagle among commuter airlines. In 1993, it became the first commuter service to use jets. The airline operates 110 small jets and eight prop planes. Comair has almost 5,500 employees.


26th Mar 2001, 08:46
With a few minutes to go before the deadline, this looks serious...


Comair cuts all flights as pilots strike looms

March 25, 2001
Web posted at: 4:48 PM EST (2148 GMT)

ERLANGER, Kentucky (CNN) -- With a pilots' strike looming and the White House reluctant to step in, commuter carrier Comair announced it would cancel all flights through Monday evening.

Comair spokeswoman Meghan Glynn said talks with federal mediators between the airline and its pilots had ceased Sunday, and the second-largest commuter carrier would cancel all flights through 6 p.m. Monday from its Cincinnati hub. With a midnight Sunday strike deadline approaching, Glynn said pilots' union negotiators have told the company it was unwilling to back off its demands.

"We remain hopeful that negotiations will resume soon, and Comair management is willing to resume negotiations with union leaders at any time," she said.

Comair is urging passengers to check the status of their flights before arriving at the airport, by doing one of the following:

Call Comair reservations at 1-800-354-9822
Go to www.comair.com (http://www.comair.com)

Union officials Sunday accused Comair of abandoning the talks. Capt. Paul Lackie, a spokesman for Comair's pilots, said the company had offered a settlement that was "completely unacceptable" and walked away from the bargaining table.

"The major issues that have been on the table for the last three years remain on the table. They're just being neglected," he said.

Comair will end up canceling about 750 flights out of its Cincinnati hub, Glynn said. It will try to accommodate passengers on Delta Air Lines or other carriers, she said.

The company urged passengers to check the status of their flights before arriving at the airport by calling Comair reservations at 1-800-354-9822 or visiting www.comair.com. (http://www.comair.com.)

Bush unlikely to intercede
The union wants its regional pilots to be compensated on the same scale as major airline pilots, and Lackie said the airline's 1,400 pilots are prepared to walk out over the issue.

"If that's what it takes, then that's what we'll have to do," he told CNN.

If no agreement is reached by midnight Sunday, the two sides could agree to extend the deadline of the "cooling-off" period and continue negotiations, or the pilots' union could choose to call for a strike.

The White House said Sunday there was little chance Bush would intercede in the dispute. Unless mediators decide that a strike by Comair would cause significant harm to a region of the country, Bush cannot act to head off a strike.

"Unless and until the National Mediation Board makes such a determination, the president's hands are tied," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. And a senior administration official told CNN the board appears unlikely to do that.

Bush did set up a presidential emergency board in the dispute between mechanics and management at Northwest Airlines, preventing a strike from taking place, but the National Mediation Board had determined a strike by the mechanics would cause significant harm to the country.

Airline industry watching Comair dispute
Comair began canceling flights last week to prevent passengers and employees from being stranded in case of a strike. Comair is a feeder for Delta, and any strike at Comair also could affect the Atlanta-based airline.

The dispute is being closely watched by the industry. Talks began in June 1998 between Comair and its 1,400 pilots. Mediation was unsuccessful through 1999 and 2000.

The union's stance is that an airline pilot should earn the same income whether flying for a regional airline or a national one.

Last week, pilots rejected a proposed contract that would have given them a company-funded retirement program, which was extended last year to Comair's other employees. It also would have increased the pay of top-scale pilots from $66,000 to $96,000.

"No one wants a contract as much as we do -- one that respects us as real airline pilots and pays us as real airline pilots," Lackie said Saturday.

Comair is second only to American Eagle among commuter airlines. In 1993, it became the first commuter service to use jets. The airline operates 110 small jets and eight prop planes. Comair has almost 5,500 employees.

26th Mar 2001, 09:23
Looks like it's official...


Comair Pilots Launch Strike, Condemn Management for
Abandoning Negotiations

WASHINGTON, D.C.---The following statement was issued today
by Captain J.C. Lawson, chairman of the Comair pilots'
Master Executive Council, a unit of the Air Line Pilots
Association (ALPA).

"As of 12:01 a.m. EST, on March 26, Comair pilots are on
strike. Following more than three years of fruitless
negotiations, management's team abandoned negotiations on
Sunday, assuring a strike. They walked away with several
hours left -- plenty of time if they would just get real --
before the strike deadline. Following the Comair pilots'
overwhelming rejection of management's settlement offer, we
returned to Washington, D.C., verified our latest proposals
from pilot surveys, and presented to management our
requirements for change. Comair management refused to
respond to those offers, and made no effort to respond all
weekend. With so much at stake, management's abandoning of
the negotiating process is outrageous.

"We have negotiated with Comair management for more than
three years to achieve a fair contract that recognizes our
real worth to this company. Comair pilots start with salary
of $15,000 per year. In addition, average salaries for our
highly trained pilots, who have numerous years of flight
experience and advanced education, are incredibly low for an
airline of this size, sophistication, and profitability. In
response to our concerns about compensation, retirement,
work rules, and job security, our management has generally
offered nothing more than numbers that sounded great but
didn't add up. They have continued to negotiate using smoke,
mirrors, and slight of hand. Unfortunately, management has
refused to address our issues at the negotiating table prior
to our strike deadline, leaving us with no choice but to
walk away from our livelihoods to get the contract that we

"Our proposals are fair and reasonable, especially for an
airline as immensely profitable and successful as Comair.
Thus far, management's proposals have fallen far short of
any pilot group in our circumstances. Nonetheless, we remain
fully committed to working with management to resolve this
situation. After all, we are professional airline pilots,
and we want to be flying, not walking the picket line."


Captain Duane Woerth, President of the Air Line Pilots
Association, said, "Unfortunately, this management's failure
to make a serious effort to reach an agreement at this late
date is all too familiar. It explains why they made no
movement at the bargaining table since their settlement
offer of March 2, 2001. It's why these negotiations have
inched along over three years, and it's why the pilots are
so unified and motivated to stand up for a real contract.
The Comair pilots have the full support of ALPA's 59, 000
pilots behind them."

Comair pilots have been in contract negotiations since June
1998 and in mediation since July 1999.

Formed in 1931, ALPA is the world's oldest and largest
pilots union, representing 59,000 airline pilots at 49
carriers in the United States and Canada. Its Web site is at

Ignition Override
26th Mar 2001, 09:56
Enough years of healthy regional airline profits, whose cash flow has been subsidized for decades by not only low-paid Captains, but especially propjet or fanjet First Officers. This applies to many multi-engine cargo aircraft operations (Fokker 27, Shorts 360s etc).

Due to the miserable pay, which must be accepted out of sheer necessity while beginning maybe the most critical step in a civilian flying career: the vital acquisition of PIC multi-engine turbine experience, pilots often are forced to live with three or four roommates in the cheapest, seedy, more dangerous areas of our cities (is this true in Britain/Europe etc?).

The majority of these First Officers are paid about one or two hundred US dollars per month (BEFORE taxes) above US minimum wage, with most regional airlines refusing any company-subsidized retirement funds (the 401K consists of pilots' before-tax contributions)!

Hang in there COMAIR pilots!

[This message has been edited by Ignition Override (edited 26 March 2001).]

Rogaine addict
26th Mar 2001, 10:23
Ignition Override: The 401K could have company contributions (My co. pays 9% the first 5 yrs, 12% for yr 5-15 and 15% yr 15 and after). Granted, this was tough to negotiate. Comair offered what it voluntarily gives to its other employees which is most likely next to nothing. I really appreciate the generous Comair pilots who regularly offer their jumpseats and I wish them the best. I'm an ALPA pilot that lives near CVG and have the next few days off as well as reserve this week, so I would be happy to walk the picket line with you if you wish.

26th Mar 2001, 14:46
To me it sounds like: Comair = Crossair! (over here in Europe). Big regional, big money, "small" aircrafts. Very small salaries (at least for the pilots http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/frown.gif, rest of staff paid in line with other airlines, even majors) Come on guys, cut the crap about aircraft size (or has that some to do with ego?)and give us some real respect and the wages that we deserve :)

Go for it guys, all the best!

... cut my wings and I'll die ...

26th Mar 2001, 15:14
Tell me your view please. Why regional drivers shoud earn less than others? All the time I was unable to understood (even being airline commercial!) why airlines making difference in salary of (let's say) 340/777 and 320/737 captains? Or another example when morning+evening flights operated on 737/320 while daytime flights on ATR72/F50 to the same destination, but captain of 737 getting much more money for the same job.
Especially considering short legs, more T/O and landings in average, less automatics on small airplanes, etc.
I appreciate airlines who paying the same salary to pilots of 200-tones and 25-tones MTOW aircraft in case both pilots have similar experience.

Rogaine addict
26th Mar 2001, 22:56
I understand that Delta Management (Owns Comair) is refusing the jumpseat to Comair brothers trying to get home. Let's all make a concerted effort to accomodate these guys in our jumpseats and not bump them when you're jumpseating during these trying times, they're already under enough stress. Indirectly they're doing all of us a favor by fighting to eliminate the great divide in pay and benifits that Delta management has been exploiting.

27th Mar 2001, 00:46
fly4fud - good observation.

27th Mar 2001, 01:01
CargoOne - Airline pay has traditionally been tied to size of aircraft, and by extension, profitability. The theory being that larger aircraft make more profit, hence higher salary. There's a good bit of truth in that, but you need to get one thing very clear in your brain ----- You get paid what you negotiate. All the bellyaching in the world about how hard you work, how what you do is the same as a major, won't get you anything by spilling your spleen in this forum. If your not in a union company, you're crazy. If you are, it's about time that you regional guys wake-up and do something about it, like maybe COMAIR pilots are now. Your brothers in the majors are willing to support, but its YOUR FIGHT. Don't ask anyone else to do it for you. Management is counting on regional pilots being fragmented due to the large amount of attrition and movement through the ranks. It's incumbent upon YOUR union leadership to LEAD. Get with it.

27th Mar 2001, 01:11
Good Luck to the Comair folks...

Thankfully I have a second job and live with my parents, or I'd have to be in a seedy little apartment in the low rent part of town too. I'll soon be upgrading into the Saab 340 at my company and I will just be about making what I was as a expat flying the Metro from the right seat.

Granted, we won't be making the same as a wide body skipper, nor should we, but we need to have a pension so that for those who retire form the regional/national airlines have something to fall back on.

My company opeartes 30 passenger turbo-props and 69 passenger regional jets, and hopefully soon 50 seat RJ's as well. It would be nice to look forward to a future where we didn't have to leave to good to another airline just so we can feed our families! I would have no problem flying for this company as long as the benifits were in line with the job we are preforming.

Our passengers assume that we, the regional pilots, are under the same contract as the majors that we are code sharing with. When I tell people at my second job that I'm a pilot, most assume that I make "big bucks", if they only knew.

We have a right to live comfortably and need to be paid for the job that we do. We are no longer flying C-402's or Beech 99's. We are flying, in some cases, more sophisticated equipment the are major partners.

The salaries of the regional pilots need to come into line with the times.

Thnaks for setting the bar a little higher Comair.

Sorry I got a little windy there, but I just had to speak my peace.

I guess Bush must not think we're very important, but just ask all the Comair passengers how important we are! Thanks alot Georgey!


27th Mar 2001, 02:52

It's almost a historic case of economic incest - paying the beginning pilots slave wages. Unfortunately, their 'big brothers' typically seem to say, "Do it to little Billy; not me."

As a result, management always has a successful wedge to drive between the pilots.

The ComAir crisis is about conditioning the new-entrants. Notice what extremes management will go to in order to achieve that tradition in the industry - no accident.

My hat's off to the ComAir pilots. Here's hoping they are not the new Wien Airlines of 1976 fame.

27th Mar 2001, 03:10
My sympathies to you at Mesaba. Paul Foley, your CEO, used to be at Atlas Air. There were high-fives among the crew force when he left.

27th Mar 2001, 17:54
It's certainly true that you only get paid for what you negotiate and not for perceived worth. As far as the airline managements are concerned a base line package is federally mandated minimum wage with working conditions determined by the FAR's. We all of course know how that plays out due to the FAA putting commerce before safety.

Congratulations to the comair pilot group for having the tenacity to make a stand. I hope they achieve what they're after yet I still think, irrespective of any contract enhancements, that the path to a successful career is found by securing employment at a major carrier rather than pinning your hopes to pie in the sky dreams of seniority list integration and future contractual gains.

[This message has been edited by XL5 (edited 27 March 2001).]

27th Mar 2001, 18:30
XL5 -

We agree, however, remember also that the commuters are often the 'last hurrah' for many appproaching the END of their career.

I have no problem with minimum wage except for the fact that while actually performing duty for the company, the pilots don't get paid until the chocks are removed. On an average, they often fall well below minimum wage.

Often the copilots find the flight attendant on board making more money. That's a fact so shameful that you'll rarely hear the pilots admit the fact, due to the embarassment.

Something needs to change.

27th Mar 2001, 19:24
Anybody crossed the picket line yet?
Any Comair flights operating?

Keep up the Good Fight.

Men, this is no drill...

27th Mar 2001, 21:52
As far as I know no one has crossed the picket line.

This is a lock out as well as a withdrawal of services. Infact you can argue that Comair locked em out first by walking from the table and cancelling all flights.

Hows Miami? :)


28th Mar 2001, 00:26
"Lockout" is a bit of a stretch Wino. It sounds, however, that Comair's Union Council has got their flak vests on and are prepare to fight this thing out. You can afford a month off of work alot more than management can. Delta's gonna get tired of not having their feeder feeding.

. . . . Steady gentlemen, keep your nerve and wait for management to crack.

28th Mar 2001, 01:04
Miami is cool Wino.
(Now flying the line and enjoy it)
Hows NY?

As for Comair on strike:
13 years ago I was also Twin Turboprop Commuter captain for a major's feeder.
My salary was $1,600.00 per month, based on 80 hours and $20.00 per hour.
Yes, we joined ALPA and we fought to get what was more in line with the job responsibility and hours.
We finally did.

My hat off to Comair for having balls to walk the walk and talk the talk.

(I bet them Eagle guys are watching this one real close... :))

Men, this is no drill...

28th Mar 2001, 01:52
>>"Lockout" is a bit of a stretch Wino.<<

I'd have to agree with Wino on this one. No flights are being operated, so no opportunity to cross the picket line, to go flying anyway.

Delta can cover much of Comair's schedule (e.g. CVG-ATL) with mainline and Express flights. Pax bookings are off anyway for several reasons so DAL has a lot of staying power in this one even with the reduction in capacity. This is being branded as a Comair strike, not a Delta Connection strike by the media so not too much collateral damage yet.

The Comair pilots attempted to force Delta ALPA to place them on the mainline seniority list last year. It didn't work. It remains to be seen how much real support there is for considering commuter pilots to be the same as airline pilots for pay purposes. Like many of us here, I've worn both uniforms (a few times) so I know the difference in status whether right or wrong. The cornerstone of ALPA's success with book rates has been pay for weight, even though I'll be the first to admit that the commuter pilot is the hardest working man in showbusiness. ALPA has a history of talking down to the commuters and freight dogs, will be interesting to see if they can overcome this in the present situation.

Also, Delta sees this strike as a prelude to a possible strike by their mainline pilots so they are ready to dig in and make a statement. As are the Comair pilots, I'm sure.

Most of these strikes end after a few days with both sides declaring victory. However, sometimes things don't go as planned as we all know.

Hope this one has a happy ending soon...

Beaver Driver
28th Mar 2001, 01:59
sounds like a lockout to me. Good luck to all of you Comair pilots.

Comair Pilots' Leader Responds to Management's Retaliatory Tactics
WASHINGTON, March 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The Chairman of the Comair pilots' unit of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) today sharply criticized Comair management's final collective bargaining position, which was presented to the union on Sunday.

Captain J.C. Lawson, Chairman of the Comair pilots' Master Executive Council said: "Unfortunately, Comair management in the last hours before the strike deadline put in place a new proposal that is detrimental to resolving this dispute. This last-minute proposal calls into serious question the company's good faith and desire to reach an agreement that is fair to all parties. Management's new proposal eliminates all work rules, job security provisions, and numerous other benefits that were in prior agreements and proposes to maintain these drastic changes for seven years.''

In the three years of negotiations for a new contract that preceded the current strike, the company had never suggested anything like this. And for good reason, because neither ALPA nor any other pilots' union could accept such a drastic and extraordinary cutback in working conditions. Plainly, this is a punitive and retaliatory tactic that can only complicate our efforts to end this dispute and get back to work."

Lawson challenged the legality of management's action, asserting that it overstepped the airline's right to impose terms for reasons of operational necessity to allow a carrier to operate during a strike. Lawson pointed out that Comair is not currently attempting to operate. Lawson charged that management's retaliatory tactics constitute a direct attack on ALPA, the Comair pilots and the bargaining process and will operate to the detriment of the flying public.

28th Mar 2001, 02:10
Don't see how COMAIR and DELTA could be on the same seniority list. They're technically different companies covered under separate union contracts. All major pilots ought to start doing what APA did with Eagle and start restricting who can operate the larger aircraft. That theoretically would put more commuter guys on the major's roster where they belong.

I wonder if COMAIR's phone bank is going strong right now with calls to pilots' families warning of dire career consequences, a la Frankie and trolls.

28th Mar 2001, 03:23
Alpa has always tied pilots salaries to productivity. As an example the American contract is done at 3 cents a mile multiplied by 3 cents a ton of gross weight per hour flown or something like that.

Airline pilot's salary took off with the advent of jets. Suddenly the pilots were twice as productive.

The turbo props were paid under asimilar scale and a b1900 driver was not terribly productive. The real travesty was when the regional jets came out the pilots opted to operate them for what was basically turboprop pay rates. Then they were really left behind.

now compare an f100 salary of 168.73 an hour for a 12 year captain American's soon to be expired contract and half that (100 seats for the F1oo and 50 for the RJ) and the fifty seat RJs should be paying about 70 dollars an hour and the 70 seater should be paying about 115 an hour.

Furthermore, AA pays newhire FO's approx 30k a year while on probation and considerably more in Year 2. So somewhere between 15 and 22.5k for first year would be fair. Of course don't forget the pension and medical...

Pay em at the same productivity rate established for the majors. Then it also doesn't matter which system you put the aircraft in...

If they gain this, they will catch up considerably to what major's pay. Furthermore, it would remove a lot of integration issues for mergers of pilot groups...


28th Mar 2001, 21:09
Comair cancels flights through morning of April 5
WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - Comair, the regional airline carrier owned by Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE :)AL - news), said on Wednesday it was canceling all flights through 9 a.m. on April 5 as its pilots spent a third day on strike.

The nation's second-largest regional airline said it would continue to cancel flights seven days in advance until it reaches an agreement with its pilots, who striking for higher wages, retirement benefits and improved work rules.

"We want to get back to the table and bring this situation to a resolution,'' Comair President Randy Rademacher said in a statement announcing the flight cancellations.

Comair's main hub is the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, and it has 800 daily departures to 95 cities, serving mostly small Midwestern markets but also Canada, the Bahamas and Mexico.

I would definately call this a lockout now!
Good luck COMAIR.


PS. Towerdog: NY is great as well!

Email this story

29th Mar 2001, 04:27
Don't see how COMAIR and DELTA could be on the same seniority list. They're technically different companies covered under separate union contracts.<<

Agree with you on that one! The Delta Connection commuters tried last year to get ALPA national to put their pilots on the Delta mainline list, saying it was really one airline.

Ironically, some of the pilots on the Delta list got there because Pan Am bought a commuter and ALPA put the pilots on the Pan Am list years ago...

29th Mar 2001, 04:31

29th Mar 2001, 05:34
point #1 Combine (major) delta and (regional) Comair seniority lists, a pipe dream.
point #2 Mgmnt proposed a contract that only 6 pilots voted for, out of over 1300. These managers should be strung up by their short hairs to allow such a thing to happen.

[This message has been edited by Brad737 (edited 29 March 2001).]

1st Apr 2001, 09:11
The problem lies with the idea that an airline moving 7.8 million pax a year with 1000 departures a day that flies from Mexico to Canada in 100+ small jets is considered in any way shape or form to be "regional."

Comair is a short haul major airline, just like American Eagle and Continental Express. They all make major airline profits, they should pay major airline wages.

1st Apr 2001, 09:54
Well said Qwntm.. ASA and Comair greatly contribute to the DL bottom line and are relatively much more profitable than mainline. Don't think all "regional" pilots want one senority list. In fact, some of us would rather remain separate, not be scoped, and be compensated fairly..

1st Apr 2001, 22:35
you knew i'd show up eventually!!

good luck to the colleagues at comair. there's nothing like taking the fall for a lock-out when all the media dogs show is you on strike!

i, too, wonder where was el president jorge when the lock-out started. . . only a matter of HOURS after he SWORE there would be no airline strikes. i guess that he either a)doesn't consider march "summer" (as in "there will be no airline strikes this summer")
b) doesn't consider comair an airline, or
c) doesn't think anybody has to worry too much about arriving at comair destinations (they're not very important like say, oh, just to grab one out of the hat, uuummmmmm, northwest destinations!!)

hold the line, comair. we are with you!

:) :) :)

2nd Apr 2001, 13:46
To my Comair brothers, stay solid, stay foucused. ...ah and could ya send me a couple ears? I'm making a necklace.It's a jungle out there.

16th Apr 2001, 18:27
Comair is not attempting to operate flights with replacement pilots nor is it furloughing ground staff after three weeks. This is pretty unusual during a strike from my experience. Delta does have deep pockets, perhaps they want to cut a mainline deal before they call Comair pilots back to the table.

Had a jumpseat rider this morning who claimed that Delta was planning to fold Comair and send the jets and employees to ASA which would then be spun off, repackaged and sold. Sounds unlikely but something is up, why would Comair continue to pay the ground troops but not be in a hurry to negotiate?


Sunday, April 15, 2001
Comair's jets idled, workers not

Airline aims to save retraining

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The 2,600 Tristate residents who work for Comair but don't fly planes are still picking up paychecks, even though the shutdown caused by the pilots is about to enter its fourth week.

Taking the daily payroll hit has earned the Erlanger-based airline a lot of employee goodwill and good public relations, to be sure.
But Comair also is saving itself a big headache if and when the strike ends.

By keeping its employees close to the vest, Comair is trying to avoid having to train a whole new set of workers in an industry that is training-intensive.

And efforts to keep employees busy range from cleaning plane galleys with toothbrushes to working for local soup kitchens to relearning how to serve drinks.

“It's very logical an airline would like to minimize the disruption when a strike is settled,” says Brian Harris, airline analyst for the Wall Street firm Salomon Smith Barney. “It's not like boom — everything is back to normal. It takes awhile to ramp up, and you want to minimize the ramp-up as much possible.”

That can only be done with a fully-trained work force. And in airlines, workers can take up to 6-8 weeks to learn jobs such as checking in customers for a flight, fueling up a jet in less than 30 minutes or repairing a jet engine's cracked flange.

“We are not only trying to manage this airline through the strike, but manage the airline to be ready for the end of the strike,” says Comair spokesman Nick Miller. “And we also want to be able to serve the customer, and the best way to do that is to have everything in place to run smoothly with fully-trained employees in place.”

Comair's 1,350 pilots walked off on March 26, citing differences over work rules, retirement benefits, job protection and pay.

Comair has vowed to keep paying full salary and benefits for its entire non-pilot staff of 4,000, which includes about 2,600 locally at the company hub and headquarters at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Officials for the Delta Air Lines subsidiary won't say how much the strike is costing them in payroll per day, but one Wall Street analyst has estimated the overall impact is as much as $2.5 million a day, meaning Comair has lost $52.5 million through today.

But Comair's non-striking employees have been keeping busy. There have been multitudes of training classes, while employees have swarmed the airlines 119-plane fleet for a deep cleaning. And Thursday, company officials announced some idled employees would be placed on loan to Tristate social service agencies.

“The reaction was overwhelming when we told the employees about the volunteer program,” says Steve Ellis, Comair's general manager for ramp and tower operations. “The employees appreciate the effort to keep them active.”

But Mr. Ellis admits that if employees were to leave due to boredom or layoffs, it would have a major impact on operations, especially since tower workers — who coordinate planes entering and leaving gates as well as other vehicles such as luggage carts — require 6-8 weeks of training before they can man a station solo.

And ramp workers, who load and unload luggage, refuel and de-ice planes and help guide planes into and out of gates, take at least 2-3 weeks.

“There definitely would be some hindrance, especially in the tower,” Mr. Ellis says.

Another group that has undergone intensive training are the 500 or so mechanics. Mechanic union official Dan Pennington says a trained mechanic is highly prized throughout the airline industry.

“I've heard discussions about people saying they could easily find work if layoffs come,” says Mr. Pennington, shop steward for Local 804 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. “It doesn't matter if it's an RJ (regional jet) or (Boeing) 727, a jet engine is still an engine and still the same components.”

Despite the efforts to keep the payroll full, relations between non-pilot employees and the company have been mixed.

The mechanics union has publicly supported the pilots as much as possible — buying picketing pilots lunch.

“We know what they're going through, and for the most part, we support them,” says Mr. Pennington, who has led the union through two, at times contentious, contract negotiations with the company. The last set of talks included informational pickets at the airport by the mechanics.

Officials from the flight attendants' union, a branch of the Teamsters, refused comment, saying they were afraid of disciplinary action if they talked.

The 700-member flight attendant union has been negotiating its first contract with the company since it was established at Comair in 1996.

With negotiations in their second year, several of those flight attendants conducted a sympathy parade in front of the airport's Terminal 3 during the first week of the pilot strike.

But many employees have lauded the airline for keeping them not only on payroll but actually busy.

“A lot of companies, if they had shut down, they would close the doors and say "see you at the end of this thing' to the employees,” says Brenda Ryan, a ramp worker from Newport.

Sherri Porter, a 7-year veteran customer service gate agent, says that she knows she could leave and get another job in no time at the airport with her skills.

“But knowing that Comair has kept us on and is doing the right thing makes me want to stay through this thing even more,” says Ms. Porter of Hebron.

Still, there are those who wonder how long the company can keep paying employees and question the financial wisdom of the move.

“In my view, it really doesn't take that much to retrain ground employees,” says Raymond Neidl, airline analyst for the Wall Street firm ING Barings. “It's a much larger hit to take on your payroll than it is to retrain people. They've got to start thinking about layoffs at some point, sooner probably more than later.”

But Comair's Mr. Miller says it's the current policy that makes sense.

“What we are developing is a creative, innovative way to keep our valued employees on board,” he says.

Rogaine addict
17th Apr 2001, 10:05
Let the head games begin:

Monday April 16, 9:29 pm Eastern Time
Comair Reduces Fleet During Strike
HEBRON, Ky. (AP) -- Comair, the country's second-largest regional airline, said it is reducing its fleet by 17 planes and eliminating 200 pilot jobs to save money as a pilots' strike moves into its fourth week.

The airline's 1,350 pilots went on strike March 26 and Comair, which also flies under the name of Delta Express and is owned by Delta Air Lines, canceled all flights.

"These steps are necessary to preserve capital, reduce costs and put Comair in a better position to maintain its competitiveness when operations resume,'' the airline said in a statement.

Industry analysts estimate Comair's losses at $2.5 million to $4 million a day since the strike began. Comair won't comment on those estimates.

"We remain committed to reaching an agreement that will enable us to take care of our customers and our employees while remaining competitive,'' said company spokeswoman Meghan Glynn.

The striking pilots are seeking higher pay, company-paid retirement, more rest between shifts and pay for non-flying hours when they are on duty.

Union leaders say Comair pilots deserve compensation similar to that offered by the major airlines because they must meet the same federal requirements.

Paul Lackie, spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, said the announcement was not unexpected. "They are adjusting to the reality of the pilot training backlog, and the closing of the Embraer base was already planned for September,'' Lackie said.

Comair had served 25,000 passengers a day with flights to 95 cities in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas.

Comair officials said they will retire the company's nine remaining Embraer-120 Brasilia aircraft, which operated throughout Florida, and eight 50-seat Canadair regional jets.

The base for Embraer-120 Brasilia flight crews in Orlando, Fla., will be closed early and at least until the strike is settled. About half the eliminated pilot positions will be there, management said, with the rest coming through dismissal of pilots in training.

Comair is also delaying indefinitely the delivery of new Canadair regional jets that were to be received this year.

17th Apr 2001, 20:33
Sincere thanks to the striking pilots.

I hope to be in a position to join a commuter one day.

This will surely help all those that follow.

--No matter who you are, at somepoint, sometime, someplace, you're gonna have to plant your feet, take a deep breath, and kick a little ass--

18th Apr 2001, 08:40
It would appear that word on the financial street (in Atlanta) is that indeed DAL is prepared to transfer aircraft to ASA, then repackage with a view to sale. Not good news for Comair pilots. The commuter salaries have been low for a long time and now with the bright shiny new equipment, salaries need to be brought up to spec. Anyone here know what salaries ALPA wants?