View Full Version : Time to end seniority?

16th Jul 2001, 14:27
Flight International, today's editorial:
(17-23 July 2001)

{selected quotes}

..."Rigid union-backed rules governing seniority are a major disincentive for eperienced pilots to seek alternative flying jobs, because they would have to start all over again at the bottom of the ladder."...

..."...why shouldn't airline pilots be able to take their skills and experience elsewhere in the market place where they can command higher financial rewards, just as professionals in most other industry sectors are able to do without sacrificing seniority?"

Why not indeed? Could a defender of seniority please explain why it is a good practice?

16th Jul 2001, 14:37
It's funny, isn't it; the airlines pretend they hate seniority systems, using phrases like "restrictive practice". However, they well know that the system retains many of their senior, most experienced pilots. If it were a totally open system, I suspect many airlines would have to crank their training systems up a notch or two.

The Guvnor
16th Jul 2001, 15:53
Personally, I agree with the article. Seniority should be based on ability, not time served. The problem is, how best to define ability? If it's left down to, say, the FOD/Chief Pilot/Training Captains then unfortunately - but naturally - personal bias will creep in. And how does one treat someone who is a top rate aviator but is a poor team player/people person ... which would have a potential impact on CRM?

I shall watch this thread with interest!

16th Jul 2001, 16:32
The selection procedure for most western majors is such (talking from a west European perspective, at least) that it is rare to see people coming up whom are not capable of doing the job from the left seat. The training dept. and/or chief pilots should deal with the few who are not up to snuff. Safety would be adversely affected if the guy in the right seat gains by putting down the guy in the left seat. You are both there to make the flight as safe as possible. Changing the seniority system will decreases safety across the board, drive up wages, and is not good for the airline business. It might not be ideal, but it is the best of all scenarios I can think of. I ride the right seat on a 747, am 37 years old and have thirteen years seniority with a major European airline.

16th Jul 2001, 16:38
Isn´t ours the only profession that still uses seniority?

Seniority´s great fault is the absolutely necessary premise that all men are equal in ability....But the seniority system must ever persist if only because it is a protection of the weak, who are everywhere in the greatest number. Ernest Gann, Fate is the Hunter

[ 16 July 2001: Message edited by: Bigmouth ]

The Guvnor
16th Jul 2001, 17:02
Hang on, though, Otterman - you're assuming that everyone is going to be in the left hand seat! That's not the case at all - there are many people out there who are great pilots but are either incapable or just not interested in being there.

I know that a number of airlines have a "three shots and you're out" upgrade philosophy - but is this really fair? I don't think so!

16th Jul 2001, 17:07
Very true Herod. Seniority, by its very nature, keeps pilots in a company; you leave you loose!


"the FOD/Chief Pilot/Training Captains then unfortunately - but naturally - personal bias will creep in".

You don't like pilots do you! Are you saying that personal bias only rears its ugly head in the opperational division of the company or companies that you have worked for?

Seniority benefits both pilot and company. The company keeps its experienced people who in turn should be able to pass their knowledge on to the less experienced.

By the time that a pilot makes S/Capt. or S/FO the company must have a very good idea of the indeviduals strengths an weaknesses. Any good company would have sorted the wheat from the chaff by this stage.

Seniority should protect the F/O from direct entry Captains and, depending on ability, give them an idea of time to command.

For Captains it is a right of having done ones time. Why should a senior Captain not have the right for the first bids on fleet transfer, leave and flights?

No system is perfect, but until someone shows me something better I will vote for it.

[ 16 July 2001: Message edited by: Hogwash ]

16th Jul 2001, 17:16
Life isn’t fair, Guvnor. Everyone who has been conscious for more then 6 years knows this. Of course there is a lot of talent being wasted or underused, but if you travel to the second or third world things are put into perspective very quickly. The argument is that the system isn’t perfect or even ideal; it is still the best thing going for the collective pilot group, and the business of aviation.

16th Jul 2001, 17:17

"are great pilots but are either incapable"

Could you explain that one please!

16th Jul 2001, 17:23
I've said this before when this perennial topic was raised but perhaps it is worth repeating. Seniority is a relic of an era when pilots typically joined an airline and stayed for life. In those circumstances, it worked well. In the deregulated world of today it is a positive disincentive to mobility of labour - it is quite ridiculous for a highly experienced airline pilot to join a major airline at the same level as, say, a newly qualified cadet. Equally, it is wrong to destroy the morale of junior pilots by constantly bringing in others above them. My suggestion is a qualified seniority system whereby new pilots can be inserted at a point commensurate with experience but only up to a point in the list, above which the list is "frozen" so once the ex-cadets et al have crossed the line, they can be assured of normal progression opportunities. It's not perfect but, I believe, better than what we have at the moment.

16th Jul 2001, 17:33
You don´t get in the LHS because of seniority!
You don´t get there because "you´ve paid your dues".
Who ever put out this myth that you just have to hold out long enough to get into the LHS??

Seniority let´s you have a try (!!) at the LHS, by being eligible for the training and checks when it´s your turn in line.
If you´re up to it and prove yourself, you´ll be in command, if not, you won´t, even if your seniority number is 1!

The LHS is NEVER guaranteed by seniority or by being up for command training.

What´s the alternative?

An interview with psychos??
An interview with management - hopefully someone who´s not a pilot??
A ranking concerning the fuel ordered/fuel used ratio??
A ranking concerning "punctuality" of dep and arr??
A ranking concerning number of go-arounds flown??
A ranking concerning "flexibility" with roster-changes??
A ranking by the CPs you´ve flown with??

Get a life you worshippers of numbers, operating a plane well and efficiently is a little more complex!

16th Jul 2001, 17:40

I agree with some of your post but it does not protect the F/O.

Say, for example, Erates Airline is looking at a huge expansion over the next few years. The F/Os are rubbing their hands with glee, they have done their time. Then doom! Cspecific goes t*ts up. Oh-oh, all those highly experienced Cptains are now on the market, all type rated too!

Without a seniority system, and a no direct entry command rule those poor guys will sit on the right for years to come.

16th Jul 2001, 17:48
I think it`s still the best system:
-It prevents "brownnosing" your way up.
-You can disagree with your boss or even company and not suffer the career-consequenses.
-Prevents direct entry captains from blocking your way to the LHS.
-It`s transparent and fair to everyone.

16th Jul 2001, 18:38
Wonderbusdriver, don’t overrate the issue. At my airline, and I believe most. The selection criteria during the hiring process are whether you have the basic potential for command on our largest airplane. The failure rate for upgrade to command is less then 2% (this is first time around, I don’t have the numbers for second tries, there are no third kick at the can with my outfit). So at most you would want to turn this safety related system on its head for a few among a thousand. So seniority does directly relate to the LHS, saying otherwise sounds a bit silly.

16th Jul 2001, 20:16
Hogwash you say why shouldn't senior Capt's get first bids on Leave etc.

Just because a pilot has been in a company since the bigging of time he doesn't have the right to claim the best of everything. These senior Capt's are paid for there service in good old $$$'s so when it comes to leave, bidding etc there are much fairer ways of working things out. Many company's have rotational seniority's in these areas. It sure helps for a happier workforce instead of just a few happy old men.

Seniority has it's merrits but there is more to it outside the "Square". :rolleyes:

16th Jul 2001, 20:39

I agree that it may not be fair. Unless of course you are at the top of the ladder. :D

I guess the choice is up to the indevidual; when you join you know what the rules are.

16th Jul 2001, 21:05

Too true. Unfortunately gues who made the rules. "In my Day it was like that" ;)

16th Jul 2001, 21:25

I agree with your last post 100%, especially regarding it basically being a safety issue.

I´m not trying to overrate this, actually.
Just sick and tired of it being brought up time and again, like someone trying to reinvent the wheel.

Requesting vacation, days-off, trips ONLY by seniority is a load of [email protected], and a completely different subject btw.

16th Jul 2001, 21:57
Leave and rostering by seniority is the only fair way, those who have been with an outfit the longest, deserve the first crack at both..command OPPORTUNITIES should be awarded on the basis of seniority, provided all related qualifications are met...the person will then complete satisfactorily the command training, or be relegated to his/her previous position...it protects and rewards folks who have shown a little stick-to-it ivness..and prevents them from being stepped on from "heroes" and hiney-kissers from outside.....the kind of people who don't like seniority as is because it doesn't suit them...

[ 16 July 2001: Message edited by: ironbutt57 ]

16th Jul 2001, 22:40
My company doesn't hire S/O's or F/O's. They screen, interview, and HIRE Captains. Those new hires must wait for that oportunity however. I think most of you must be assuming that an airline is manned with right seaters that are there only to be rescued that that wise old sage to the left. Simply not so. And to have someone slide in line in front of you in line would have disasterous results on moral. There have been wars over merger integration issues in the past, can you just imagine the results given an ongoing integration. It would also reward those that have made poorer or "less visioned" choices in their employment history.

My two cents

[ 16 July 2001: Message edited by: Brad737 ]

16th Jul 2001, 22:51
Why not do away with staff crew altogether and hire and fire on a daily basis like most other professions these days. :eek:

17th Jul 2001, 00:47
The thing is, no other profession to my knowledge has such a system.

An analogy:
Take Terry Leahy (Tesco's CEO), very successfull businessman, worked his way up from the shop floor (literally).
Now, for the sake of argument, let's say he decided to go and work for Sainsbury's - he's hardly likely to join stacking shelves and working the checkout is he?

So, let's say I'm a hoary old skipper with 15,000 hours, having worked with company X for 20 years.
For whatever reason, I may have to change company - is it fair and reasonable that when I join a new company, I am junior to some Second Officer fresh out of training school with 200 hours?

Surely the greatest leveller in aviation is EXPERIENCE. We have a natural seniority inbuilt - hours flown. Isn't this fairer than an arbitary date of joining?

17th Jul 2001, 00:49
This argument is a bit like socialism. The young student believes in equal shares for all, down with capitalism. Twenty years later, when he has a good job, nice house, nice car etc., it's all a different story. Would I be right in assuming most of those arguing against seniority are the more junior pilots?

17th Jul 2001, 01:08
Some pilots have written eloquently on the benefits of promotion according to "merit" or "ability". Unfortunately in practice the assessment of merit seems to come down to their preparedness to go into discretion, accept aircraft with "grey area" technical defects and generally clean the management shoes.

17th Jul 2001, 09:12
The proplem is that once a person gets into a good airline, a major carrier, they tend to stay there. Movement is by "Dead Mens Shoes".

If this same carrier was to accept direct entry commands the F/Os would sit for a hell of a long time in the right seat.

Maybe the solution to this would be to promote F/Os, depending on ability and hours, to command whether they were required for the position or not. Flights would then be rostered with two Captains flying leg for leg, left seat right seat.

Ignition Override
17th Jul 2001, 09:47
Interesting topic. There are pluses and minuses to seniority pros and cons.

As stated here already, without seniority, boot-licking and accepting any airplane, no matter which system component/flight instruments are inop (a 747 crew at People's Express at Newark was fired over this, for rejecting a plane with at least one HSI or two ADIs inop-were they not?) could vault you over your peers. In the US, former Britt Airways and Connie Kallita... don't use seniority. Never mind the face-to-face confrontations with certain owners over serious system malfunctions on anything from Lears to DC-8s.

Notso Fantastic
17th Jul 2001, 14:11
Holy Smoke.....seniority.....and there is the Guvnor sounding off again! The saddest individual in the world! Get a life man....this is the Professional Pilots Network....you are NOT a professional pilot, presumably just a highly frustrated imaginary one! There is a life out there....go find it you sad man! What is seniority to you?

17th Jul 2001, 15:54
I think seniority could be likened to Winston Churchill’s comments on the Westminster parliamentary system. I can’t remember his exact words, but they went along the lines of “The Westminster parliamentary system is unfair, undemocratic, hopelessly overcomplicated and iniquitous in the extreme. It is open to corruption, gerrymandering and any number of other malpractices. For all these shortcomings, it remains by far the best and most fair system of Government anyone’s come up with to date.”

People keen to throw out seniority, (something that many airlines have today only after a protracted and bitter fight by pilot groups in the past), should understand clearly all the ramifications of any so-called ‘merit-based’ system brought in to replace it. Seniority has many shortcomings and few would disagree that it has limited scope in a start up airline. However, in established airlines, for all its shortcomings, it remains the only system that prevents wholesale nepotism in its many guises on the part of management. Anyone who thinks management wouldn’t take advantage of any such system has only to look to the events currently taking place in Cathay.

I’ve worked in airlines with and without a seniority system and seen the shortcomings of both systems. Anyone who decries a seniority system, has quite obviously never worked in a system that does not have seniority – unless of course he’s the GM’s nephew.

17th Jul 2001, 16:22
As someone who joined a 'good' company where the seniority system was usually fairly administered I had no gripe in waiting my turn for promotion/type progression. My more senior colleagues used to remind me that eventually I'd get to the top of the list, just like they had. All it took was patience.

Then about five years ago the new management began bending the rules, then they stretched them, then they blatantly broke them wide open. As a result, pilots who were still in short trousers when I started flying jets, were promoted over my head because it suited the companies selfish needs. It had nothing to do with ability...because it was done to a whole group of contemporaries of mine. We just happened to be on the 'wrong type' at the time and the company saw the opportunity to save money on type conversions by promoting junior F/O's from right to left seat. As a result of this outrageous abuse my carreer was damaged permanently...a freeze system operates in the company and I was forced to make bids onto types that I should have naturally been directed onto (with no resultant freeze). Also, the two years more I spent on the 'old' type was a penalisation that I get no future credit for...so I'm two years set back in my carreer development.

One other thing got broken that day. It was the faith and loyalty I had held in my company and its management. I also lost a lot of respect for my union, which let it happen, and the colleagues who took advantage of the opportunity to screw me and my contemporaries for their own personal gain. It hasn't been forgotten. I'm loyal to one thing now. Me.

The point of this whole rant is that anyone who thinks your experience level (as a measure of merit) has any real bearing on a company making crew appointments...you're naiive in the extreme. Only one thing matters, and that's money. The bottom line. If there is no restriction (i.e. no seniority system) then they'll hire, fire, and promote or upgrade solely according to fiscal necessities.

So I guess I agree with those who said seniority is a pain in the arse, but it's better than the alternative.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to get that off my chest.

17th Jul 2001, 16:41
i agree with wunderbus driver, this a boreing topic. why is it always the guys on the bottom of the ladder complaining about the seniority system :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

18th Jul 2001, 06:35
Talk about stating the obvious! Of course its the young guys moaning about the seniority system, just like its the old guys trumpeting its merits from the top of Mt.Blanc.

Zulu makes an excellent point though- hours flown. Maybe that could be expanded to involve sub-categories like hours-on-type, and even hours-with-company.

Surely that would be better than getting stuck with a crummy company, with crummy pay, with loads of experience but the only alternative is to move over and become #3507. More of a "worldwide" seniority system, with a few twists.

18th Jul 2001, 19:09
The one great advantage of seniority is that the higher one ascends the mountain, the quieter life becomes - to say nothing of the wonderful view. The lower slopes always were a crowded and noisy place to live.

"If it ain't broke - don't fix it!" :cool:

Alpine Flyer
18th Jul 2001, 20:40
There isn't much to be added to EKG on the subject. The fact that most managements would be happy to abolish seniority overnight should be warning enough that this is a system that benefits pilots.

Of course I can't sensibly jump ship (except to an upstart carrier) once I have ascended the ladder far enough to make the jump to the bottom of the list painful. But why should someone jumping ship be allowed to jump ahead of someone already employed at the other airline. If the other airline lacks sufficiently experienced copilots direct entry captains are allowed by many seniority systems. If sufficient copilots are available for upgrading, they should be given the chance.

Why should we blindly accept the dictum that "labor is mobile these days"? Being "stuck on top of the list" is also an incentive to keep ones place of work alive.

The only alternative to this would be a "global list" system, i.e. all pilots in a country (or even in Europe) being on one seniority list. They would thus form a kind of "guild" and all airlines would hire pilots from the guild. As this would require all pilots to stick together and NOT hire themselves without consent of the guild, and as the age where guilds were thought to be required by the will of god is long gone, such a scenario seems pretty unlikely, although a monopoly on the supply of trained pilots would allow for good contracts.....need to get some oxygen now before this gets out of hand.....

I have experienced how pilots (with seniority) and cabin attendants and other stuff (without seniority) are promoted at my company. These experiences leave me absolutely convinced of the merits of seniority.

As for rosters and vacation, it depends on the structure of the group. If the airline is of fairly constant size with people being hired on a regular basis, seniority is quite OK as everyone moves up the list.

If the airline is expanding rapidly you typically have lots of people hired over a short period who joined (almost) together and will retire (almost) together. As the "younger" ones will remain "younger" by a few weeks or months over their whole career seniority doesn't give them a lot of prospects. Rotating systems might be better here.

3 turn spin
18th Jul 2001, 20:59
Will somebody please tell me which UK airlines do NOT have seniority lists?

18th Jul 2001, 21:12
I think I've got this thing now. If you're with a Co. for, say, 20 years, you have a certain standing within that Co. - O.K. Now, if you decide to jump ship to another outfit you go back to the bottom of the ladder ?? you do'nt slot in at an equivalent level as with previous Co. ?? irrespective of experience, hours on type etc. ?? seems very backward to me(maybe I'm thick) Can't understand how a bunch of well educated and intelligent peole allow themselves to be 'locked in' like this, - if I've got it right that is.
Glad I stopped @ PPL, at least I'm enjoying my flying!! (awaiting the backlash..)

Harry Wragg
18th Jul 2001, 23:12
It's an archaic and silly system. Thats why every other profession uses a meritocracy. Mind you I would love to see a similar system introduced for professional footballers. I can just imagine Alex Ferguson explaining to his record signings,( Veron and Van Nistelrooy)that they must clean the players boots to start with but if they wait long enough they will eventually get a game.

Easyjet seem to do OK without a seniority based system. No complaints from anyone I know who is there.


p.s . I have only been pruning for 8 months, am I senior enough to have an opinion or do I need to do my time?

18th Jul 2001, 23:14
I hope you don't experience the backlash you're expecting. And it's too bad you stopped at a private license. It's true that I don't enjoy private flying as much anymore but I do love my job. In the airline game seniority governs all. Pay, position, vacation, schedule, basically your life. To say that this is worth defending is an understatement. A person fortunate or visioned enough to have hired on with a good company should not be penalized by a nomad without such fortune or vision. This is not a communist world, it is a capitalist one. Fortune is not spread equally amongst us all but favors those lucky or forsighted. This may be akin to the line in the supermarket. Will you let me in front of you because I'm more deserving or are in more of a hurry.

18th Jul 2001, 23:28
Carping about the seniority system is useless. It's part of the union protocol and unless unions are made illegal, it's going to stay. It's usually the guys on the outside of the system and the wannabees that complain about it. With so many workers doing the same job within the company, all subject to meeting standards of performance, a meritocracy system would be unworkable. Too many people, too many subjective evaluations by too many individuals.

From what I've seen, most major airline pilots are relatively within the same skill level. The fact that you join a company and it goes bust later on . . . like any worker, those are the breaks of the game. Or sometimes you get lucky . . . lets say you could only get hired by the finacially insovent TWA in the last 10 years and then it's assets get bought by American - instant pay raise and a job wiht a company that you probably couldn't even get an interview with to begin with. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

I propose that you Brits and Euros legislate the end of the seniority system in the UK and Europe. Let us know over here in the States how bad the experiment turned out. Easyjet can keep their system and their lousy pay. I'll stick with our system, our pay, benefits, and work rules, even if I am toward the bottom of the seniority list.

[ 18 July 2001: Message edited by: Roadtrip ]

18th Jul 2001, 23:29
ha ha ha Brad, you make me laugh.

Seniority´s great fault is the absolutely necessary premise that all men are equal in ability....But the seniority system must ever persist if only because it is a protection of the weak, who are everywhere in the greatest number. Ernest Gann, Fate is the Hunter

Perhaps you see the irony in your comments after reading this quote? Seniority ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT benefit those with above average skill, work ethic, or experience It benefits only those (as you say) who were lucky enough to get hired by a company that has managed to remain solvent for any length of time.

I sure think you would have another view if you were a high time 744 captain with an airline that went bust (or was "merged"), through no fault of your own.

Example- Airline A goes bust due to management incompetence. Airline A pilots go to bottom of list at Airline B. Former Airline A managers are hired by Airline C into high paying cushy positions with lots of benefits.

19th Jul 2001, 04:48
Jock, so glad to give you a laugh. And about Mr. Gann, he wrote books man. He flew DC-3's back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Jesus or Mahamad he ain't. Quoting his "opinions" as gospel and then resting an entire argument on it just won't work. And weak sisters are weeded out around here. Roadtrip is right. Those boys across the pond can give this a shot, then let us know how it works out.

19th Jul 2001, 14:12
During the 50's & 60's seniority was not an issue among the inderpendants captains used to move about left seat to left seat this meant on average it was 11 years to comand for most f/o's Once a captain always a captain then ruled.
Pro's & con's for both systems.
E.K.Gann hit the nail on the head as prev quoted.

The Guvnor
19th Jul 2001, 19:52
To say that seniority is a good thing because it looks after the weakest links in an organisation is surely naive.

Do you really want to be dragged down to the level of the lowest common denominator if you're (excuse the pun) a high flyer? Surely not?!?

And moreover, do you want to have to 'carry' these people - even if safety issues are involved?

Hmmmm...! :eek: :eek:

19th Jul 2001, 20:08
Seniority works for promotion that is the only reasonable way an F/O can get some experience and be capable of a shift to the LHS. What seniority should NOT be is the right to the best of everthing (trips,leave slots etc) what ALL crews should have is a rotating seniority system that is fair to all. Seniority for promotion OK not super seniority.



Harry Wragg
19th Jul 2001, 20:14
How very political, communist, capitalist, unionist. Crikey, I didn't realise the seniority system was based on the free market, I thought all that queueing was done in the Eastern Bloc. I think you are confusing capitalism with protectionism, something the US of A is very good at.

Every other profession uses the free market, some of them even have unions. The seniority system seems more at home in North Korea! Survival of the fittest, nope, survival of those at the front of Q. I guess all those dinosaurs became airline pilots!


p.s. I'm just off to play tennis, if I turn up first I should be entitled to win the tournament. May the first man win, that's what I say!

20th Jul 2001, 07:59
This is a discussion that might never end, wannabes and people unhappy with their lot in life want to end seniority. Those who have spent years with an Airline building a career like it! I don't wish to leave my job of 13 years to jump to the bottom of a new heap OR to slot in above others. I expect to stay here and take promotion when my seniority allows me to demonstrate my ability! I am happy, I may be here for the next 20 years - my choice! If you wan't my job that is fine, but you come here junior to ME!

20th Jul 2001, 08:12
Seniority in an airline has nothing to do unions. If seniority was about unions then there would be a NATIONAL seniority list like there are for autoworkers, crane operators, merchant marine, electricians etc. Seniority is a corporate thing. All of the Guvs union bashing aside, it isn't the unions that are responsible.

There are dozens of non union airlines out there. They all go to a seniority system. Its FAR cheaper for the company to reward longevity via bidding and whatnot, than to actually give decent raises.

Airlines that did away with seniority or didn't use a seniority system had way more problems as a result. The airline that I used to work for had tried it for a spell. It simply didn't work.

The other thing is that we train to a standard, this isn't fighters where the best man survives and the loser dies. They either pass or don't. How would you sort it otherwise?

Seniority protects the company from all kinds of turmoil. In its application by the airline, it disadvantages the union, by reducing the ability of ALPA to help victims of layoffs or industrial action.


21st Jul 2001, 06:57
I also think the seniority system is fine. Except there should be a way a experienced Captain for one commuter should be able to go work for another with out being paid the same as a 700 hr flight instructor. There are a lot of really Experienced regional pilots that may not want to or can't go to a major and may just simply want to move to another location of the country for what ever reason. I agree that you should still have a seniority system but a lot of commuter are saying they don't have enough qualified Captains. Well what current qualified Capt can afford to go back to CFI wages just to move. Pretty hard to justify it to your family.

21st Jul 2001, 08:55
"may not want to" is his call. "not able to" is his problem.

Magnus Picus
21st Jul 2001, 09:22
Static said it first and let me repeat it.

An airline without seniority would discourage whistle blowing, safety concious, pilots. They would have to constantly reflect on whether to speak out against new 'work pressures', for fear of hampering their chance for new opportunities within that company.

It is not in the interests of any airline to promote a First Officer who is not capable of commanding one of its aircraft, regardless of their seniority. This thread has sometimes suggested that.

There are around 5% of First Officers in the company who I work for, who will never be allowed to become a Captain, which is a meritocratic slant to our seniority based system, is it not?

Harry Wragg
22nd Jul 2001, 02:18
So the logical conclusion therefore is that in order for any organisation to be successful, profitable, and indeed safe, it has to be based around a seniority system.

With no other profession utilising this sytem I'm surprised that the world is still turning. I can see the headlines now "natural selection replaced by seniority system.......dinosaurs delighted".

In order to prevent further chaos I suggest a global seniority system, first one on the planet gets first choice on the worlds resources......

Sarcasm over, it's very simple, the more senior members of our community had to endure the seniority system, therefore so should the new boys. It's an arcane system but appeals to the conservative nature of the average pilot. Why be part of a meritocracy where skills, talent, and knowledge are rewarded when you can be an automaton on a conveyer belt. Do your time, don't stand out, be average, don't get noticed, the rewards will come to he who waits.....and I'm waiting, impatiently!


22nd Jul 2001, 02:57
The seniority system works, as long as you are within an airline that is established, financially secure and not expanding too fast. However, in Europe at least, the lack of ability to take your labour elsewhere is tantamount to restricting the right to freedom of employment.
The advantages of the seniority system are stability (bordering on rigidity), it's easily understood, and no-one is seriously at risk of losing their job unless they screw up catastrophically. It also allows the employer to only worry about making his company attractive to the most junior pilots - the only ones who work in a free labour market. His senior guys won't - can't - move out, so why should the employer give a damn what he pays them? He can keep the salary just above the level that would provoke serious industrial action (because that is the ONLY sanction available to the pilot workforce), and know that everything is hunky-dory. For him.
The disadvantages of the seniority system are that it stifles ambition, prevents free movement of labour and can legitimise some pretty unfair practices of benefit distribution.
Ideally, there should be no barriers to an individual taking his qualifications and having them fully recognised by any other potential employer. That wouldn't necessarily affect anything else, from leave to flight safety. However, the changeover from the current system is likely to be so disruptive that I just can't see it happening without international (say, EU) legislation. That may come if the current system actually breaches any labour movement laws, which it may well do (although I believe there are some exemptions for aviation).
I, for one, would appreciate the opportunity to have my considerable experience recognised by, and saleable to, the market, just as do the managers, accountants and lawyers who love the current, restrictive, system. I just don't think that anyone cares enough to change things.

22nd Jul 2001, 09:29
Progression through the ranks in a major airline is based upon seniority because all pilots have achieved the same high standards and qualifications. Otherwise they would not make the grade. Seniority is also another word for commitment - it is also a measure of loyalty to that particular employer. The more proven loyalty gets rewarded. Whats wrong with that?

If progression was to be based upon any other criteria, it would, as often does, lend itself to promotion and advancement on the basis of politics. We are all well aware of those airlines where direct entry from the military guarantees instant promotion ahead of all others.

22nd Jul 2001, 20:06
Unfortunately, in my experience, the people who most vociferously defend rigid seniority systems are those who have benefitted from them or know that they will only benefit from them versus a free market system.

Personaly I feel that, like democracy, its it the best we have got however flawed. I have seen the results, fortunately not fatal, of nepotism in this industry in a non-unionised airline.

So until we can find a better system we will have to retain this one.

This debate is a very important topic that must be aired periodically to allow us to consider the options, I am sure that there is a better system and only through these discussions will we find it.

[ 22 July 2001: Message edited by: whizzjet ]

23rd Jul 2001, 18:06
Well the seniority system is far from perfect but the alternative would be horrendous and wide open to abuse.