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Letter to United

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Letter to United

Old 10th Oct 2005, 00:58
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Letter to United

Here's another letter I thought might be interesting:
Subj: Pilot to Tilton...United Airline's Leader...

Subject: Retired Pilot's letter to Mr. Tilton

Letter to Tilton,


Mr. Tilton -

For the longest time I've been wondering, "How can Glenn Tilton look at himself in the mirror every morning?" as I view the cruel, heartless actions you've taken against retirees and employees. We met last December when I welcomed you aboard the B-777 I was flying from Denver to Chicago. On one level I had been hoping you would turn out to be a real bastard - that would explain everything - but you are obviously a very intelligent, charismatic, and outwardly pleasant person.

Recently all my questions were answered. You see, I came upon the book The Sociopath Next Door, by Dr. Martha Stout, and everything snapped into sharp focus. A sociopath is someone who has no conscience, who is incapable of feeling empathy or sorrow. It's not a truly evil trait, it's simply a genetic disorder, like being color-blind. An alarming number of people (1 in 25) are sociopaths. You are one of them. You, sir, are a sociopath. The reason you can do unconscionable things is you have no conscience. And when I realized that, I stopped being angry at you.

Now I see it wasn't personal, just business, when you destroyed the pensions of the retirees; pensions that had been bought and paid for, while still accepting your own bonuses and outrageous salary. I see how you could not even comprehend my suggestion, sent to you in two separate e-mails (which you refused to acknowledge or answer) that you forego your salary and work for $1 per year. It sure would have galvanized the entire employee group into pulling on the same end of the rope. And by the way, it wouldn't have been such a bad idea from a financial perspective. After working for free, your 2007 memoir Rising: the True Story of How Glenn Tilton Rescued United would have netted you a hefty seven-figure advance that would have eclipsed your current United salary. Too bad for you, Glenn. By now the whole world has already seen what you're really made of.

You had your chance to really be a historic leader, and instead you will simply be a footnote in the case studies that will examine United Airlines, such as the one I am researching for the Doctor of Business Administration degree I am currently pursuing. The working title is Rolling in their Graves: How the Legacy Of Pat Patterson and Eddie Carlson Was Destroyed by Greed and Incompetence at United Airlines.

While you appear to be an adequate manager, you're a failure as a leader, because you are unable to inspire people to want to follow you. United Airlines was once truly great, where the company really cared about the employees. Now, it's simply a place where the employees come to work. They know they're not valued; they're considered a liability.

During the 27 years I worked at United, I've had some difficult times: I went unpaid during a strike, was furloughed, took more than a 25 percent pay cut for the ill-fated ESOP, watched my pay decrease by more than 50 percent during my last three years, and grieved the loss of friends and coworkers. Through all of those difficult times United was a family. We supported each other during the tough times. We pulled together. With you as the father figure, United is now truly a dysfunctional family.

But at least you've kept your salary, your bonuses and your retirement. United has picked up the tab for your penthouse apartment, a total amount that would equal the entire mortgage on the home of the average retiree. Yes, I know it was promised to you in your contract. But wait: my pension was promised to me in my contract.

The sad thing - I'm sorry, I just used a term you can't comprehend - is that you lack the trait that makes us humans, well, human. No longer angry, I truly feel sorry for you. I still wish this letter would hurt your feelings, but I know that's not possible.

With all DUE respect,

George E. Nolly B-777 Captain, retired
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 03:55
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We had a documentary run on telly recently on the subject of corporations and their ethos. They used the United Nations mental health checklist and ran it over your "normal" company and came up with the following,
1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours

2. Incapacity to experience guilt

3. Reckless disregard for the safety of others

4. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others

5. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships

6. Deceitfulness: Repeated lying and conning others for profit

Diagnosis: Psychopath
Having worked for a multi national I have to say its spot on.
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 04:44
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Somewhat ironically, George Nolly wrote an article in the 1970's that inspired many of us seeking an airline career.

It was about his success with his United interview. The title was "The Road to Victory: My First Airline Interview":


This latest literary work is a pretty typical rant to the CEO from a disgruntled former employee of a OGA (Once Great Airline). I've been there, done that <g>...
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 10:02
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I had trained with UAL in the mid 90's in terms of an intern whilst studying at ERAU in DAB. I was truly impressed with the organization and training I had received there. As a foreign student I wouldn’t have been able to actually find employment with United or any other US carrier. I also wanted to go back home. But given the choice UAL would have been my preference. I sure hope they'll get back out of chapter 11 soon.

Although I have not worked in the US, I would assume that management between Europe and the US is very similar as it would be around the world. As such we find bean counters on the carpet floors of our industry. In their realms, aviation is just another industry, comparable to the automotive or IT industry. Its all interchangeable – or so they believe. Very seldom we find folks running organizations like UAL that have actually grown from within. Folks that started as FO or line engineer actually understanding from within how it all works together and after 20 or 30 years making it to CEO.

Another problem, I feel, has been the deregulation of our industry. I know that would be a pretty un-American thing to say but as a result we find ourselves devouring each other. Undercutting prices on routs which are of little significance in the first place only to please the share holder. In order to acquire even more, sometimes way beyond that what is healthy for a company, we employ those bean counters to run the show for us – we surrendered our own profession to people who don’t know what aviation is!

They then will tell you that they are in the hot seat. They have to increase share holder value, SRM, fleet, routs etc. to a given set of predefined values. All of which is accomplished at and on the cost of employees, and material. If they don’t meet these expectations they will be fired, whilst getting a golden handshake of course. Employees get sacked or a reduction or salary, the share holder sells his paper and the company is virtually out of business.

Sad, but that’s the way it is. Aviation wont ever be what it once was. Its just another business.
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 10:15
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And what else than a sociopath is a retired captain, having earned millions of $ during his career, much more than his ground staff and above the industry average, getting mio's in his retirement plan, and now complaining about someone who tries to save this dinosaur company?

Of course he looses lots of money, but maybe somewhen during his (active) career it should have gone through his mind that it's not possible to sustain an organization like that.

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Old 10th Oct 2005, 10:39
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Dani, that's a fairly feeble response. His job wasn't to manage the company but to fly a plane, for which he was paid the going rate at the time. His t&C included a pension plan on which he planned his retirement, just as most of us do. Had he gone to his employer and said that he would work for half so that the company had a long term future it would probably have been spent on management bonuses for achieving such great cost savings!

I can certainly understand his bitterness at having the rug pulled out from under his feet and he is just as entitled to feel that bitterness as the guy who was loading his plane with bags...
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 11:17
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What some senior fleet Capt. of renowned airline i.e. Delta, United, Swissair or Lufthansa makes is or may have been a bit too much, I agree. But no company has gone out of business because they paid too high of a salary. It is and always has been the arrogance of the management believing that growth ad-infinitum is the only way (I don’t have to show you this example on the Swissair case do I?). Pride will have a fall! And it is always the management that is not falling far and will always land softly. As Snoopy said, I certainly also appreciate Capt. Nollys position.
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 11:30
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Not psychopath - Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 11:50
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Good 'ole Capt'n George sounds just like a typical ALPA guy, cry'n the blues.
Oh, boo hoo..
Maybe, instead of relying on the company for his retirement (always dicey) perhaps he should have saved just a little for same.
'Ole Capt'n George sure knows how the REAL world operates now.

Not making excuses for Tilton...just the way it is.
Younger guys/gals forwarned.
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 15:44
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And here is the discription of a Delta Airlines uniform placed for sale on eBay. It didn't stay up very long, but the text is making the rounds.


AUTHENTIC Delta Air Lines Captain Pilot Uniform

This uniform was worn by a dedicated Delta Pilot for many years. Now retired and robbed of part, or all, of promised pension, uniform is now offered for sale to supplement income.

Suit is worn and empty but filled with memories and honor. Suit has been across many miles and many experiences. Suit was once filled with pride and service getting thousands of passengers to their destination safely. Suit has been through rain, snow, ice, and wind without a single tear or scratch. Suit once controlled multi-million dollar assets, flown throughout the world, with billions of dollars of liability to the company. Suit has never cost company one (1) cent in accident or injury.

Although the suit is worn and has been discarded by the company, it can be yours. Suit is clean but used. Coat may be soiled from hydraulic fluid or grease as plane was inspected. Shirt may be soiled from mad dashes through the airport in a rush to the next plane in an effort to get back on schedule. Tie may have stains from fast food meals that were hurriedly eaten while at the controls. Tie comes with you choice of pins, Air Line Pilots Association, Air Force, or Airplane. Pants may show signs of wear from may hours spent strapped into a seat, hip shows some signs of wear from firearm used to protect you and your passengers from harm. Shoes are shiny but worn. Suit comes with choice of Old Delta or New Delta emblems. Many prefer the Old Delta.

Suit is thought by many to have APHRODISIAC qualities, although this cannot be confirmed or denied.

BEWARE putting on this suit can have adverse effects on you life. It can cause you to miss your childrens birth. It can cause you to miss holiday reunions, family times, and weekends. You may miss your Daughters prom and your Sons graduation. Your family may think Christmas is not always on December 25th. Your wife will have to learn to be a single parent when you are gone for days. The suit can cause you to miss entire nights of sleep or get up at 3 AM to meet your next schedule. Your neighbors may be jealous of you and think you do not deserve to wear the uniform or be compensated for your work.

Originally suit required a four year college degree and an internship of 5-10 years in the military, and another 10-15 years for the fourth stripe. Suit comes with a promise of a pension if you provide years of dedication and service. THE PROMISE MAY BE AS EMPTY AS THE SUIT. Now it can be had for the highest bid. Good Luck bidding.
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 16:14
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The pension benefit is nothing more than delayed compensation that the employee has already earned and worked for. Just because inept management by the top boys or inept stewarship by the fund managers causes a complete meltdown does not mean the employee has not already earned that money. Contracts are two way streets, both parties agree to them. When the top "boys" completely screw up, only the employee and shareholders are hurt, never the ones causing the problem. It seems their massive paychecks and bonuses along with guaranteed pensions in BK or out always seem to get paid.
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 18:23
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The sad stories of all these retired or nearly retired airline employees seeing their pensions evaporate is almost unreal. What surprises me most is the link between these chapter 11 airlines and the pension funds of their employees. In the company I fly for, both the employee and the company deposit a pension fund contribution on a monthly basis. The pension fund that is created this way is managed independently by a major financial organization. A dedicated group of democratically elected pilots and the secretary of the pension fund have a limited say in how the pension fund is managed. This is usually done in a conservative manner and the financial organization actually guarantees a pension pay out at the end of a 31 year career of 70% of your median income, adjusted for inflation. The financial organization is fully re-insured should any problems arise there. Despite their contributions, the employer - by law - can never exert any influence over the funds. Once a contribution is made it is out of their reach.
What exactly has gone wrong in the US?
Are laws or pension plans being adjusted as a result of the present short falls?
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 19:44
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I've seen impassioned letters like this one written over the years to what we laughingly referred to as our CEOs. Now that we are in the process of loosing a sizeable part of our pensions, I've seen a number of new editions.

All these letters have an understandable element of truth: the CEOs will NEVER be in a postion to be accountable. That's just the way it is and no one should spend any valuable adrenalin on it. They aren't going to listen or care anyway.

The one thing of value said here is that the junior birdmen had better take heed. If they don't pick up on what history is teaching them, they aren't smart enough to be flying an airplane for a living.

YOU...HAVE...BEEN...WARNED !! All life-altering, personal financial errors from this point forward are YOURS.
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 21:15
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sevenfoursharer, it sounds like you work for an honest and reputable company. All pilots or airline employees for that matter that I have talked with would love to have the set up you describe. Get your money out of the hands of the MBA trash that will certainly squander it on their own ego's. As I said earlier a pension is nothing more than delayed compensation for work already performed. That compensation should be in honest hands in conservative investments that the current crop of airline "boys" (some like to call them ceo's) cannot touch.
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Old 10th Oct 2005, 23:07
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This is not an attempt to improve on the excellent reamrks posted by most of you. But to supplement, and rock the boat: Many elements of the US Congress and many leaders in the White House, for decades, have had nearly total disregard for the working people of this country, giving corporations carte blanche, i.e. "let the free market operate...". To them, flightcrews only serve a function as very over-paid, semi-skilled labor. Let's perhaps reflect back upon what that ignoramous Senator John McCain (Arizona) claimed about airline pilots. I respect his guts and mental/physical stamina for attacking fiercely- defended enemy targets and then somehow surviving the tortuous Hanoi Hilton, but as for his remarks a few years ago about an industry of which he has little comprehension, he appeared to perfectly fit the common US airline corporate mold of "let's sneer, publicly criticize, somehow lie and deceive, steal from those pilots (aw, anybody can fly those planes...training, experience, whatever dude...), so that we can fatten our already over-bloated permanent pensions, which are guaranteed, no matter whether we set a bold example, show strong leadership, or not [Arbeit macht frei]" . Never mind the fact that at many airlines relatively few have the opportunity to be widebody Captains at the highest salaries)...but this was part of the mantra "US free market", so often touted in our history books and present media. Maybe civilian pilots should expect nothing from the GOP. Except for some moderates, many are in the pockets of corporate lobby groups. PAC money? And they have recently lost lots of pilots who voted GOP for years.

If you don't have an upper mgmt. title by your name, then many (but not quite all) in the US airline industry consider your contracted retirement to be a spoil for the creditors or corporate goons (how over-priced are the jackals [attorneys] who administer the Chapter 11?; United has reportedly paid about $10,000,000 per month) when the company is in Chapter 11. See what can happen to your contracted retirement if a company is liquidated

But this makes one GIANT assumption.

That your upper mgmt, as stated before, was bound by a contract and FULLY funded the pensions-as another Ppruner stated. But the government did not require them to be fully funded, even a major fraction, and now, ironically, they can not be, in order to help the major airlines survive. And the airlines pay enormous amounts in government taxes and security fees. If your ticket costs $200, $50 can consist of federal government secrity fees and other taxes. The US Congress seems to have allowed banks, finance and credit card companies to create, over about six years, these wonderful new Chapter 11 laws, which make it much more difficult for an airline, or anyone else, to survive this process after October 17, thereby forcing many Chap. 11 filings before that date. Check out how many personal bankruptcies have been declared compared to this time last year! Let the US taxpayers bail out the PBGC. Among the three people who manage the PBGC, two of them ALSO run the ATSB-which loans airlines money at low rates. Is that a conflict of interest?

Incidentally, the US regional and many jet cargo airlines (i.e. 727, B-747...) airlines have no fund for you, none at all. You save out of those modest salaries-First Officers at the US minimum wage. Their company negotiators refuse to settle if any retirement contributions are to be put in by anybody except the employee/staff .

The western European countries often tax the heck out of staff and everyone else, but some allow a more secure retirement: but at least some governments take an ethical view (rarely found in the US government) of their dedicated career civilian employees.

Last edited by Ignition Override; 11th Oct 2005 at 21:41.
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Old 11th Oct 2005, 08:38
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...and here's another twist on the sad things going on just now regardless of who's to blame...
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Old 11th Oct 2005, 09:45
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The CEO's share-dumping sounds like insider trading to me. Anyone know if this is being investigated? Would be nice to get the money back and put it in the pension fund, where it belongs!!
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Old 11th Oct 2005, 10:16
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Nice to know someone's prepared to write a letter which is all problem and no solution.
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Old 11th Oct 2005, 10:18
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"Then you can work up to 65 (or later) without being worried, crying for lost revenues etc..."

......except that the Italians, among others in Europe, won't allow skippers over the age of 60 in their airspace. How archaic is that idea? People are hell bent on the idea that a 'united Europe' is somehow a good thing. 4rse, is what it is!
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Old 11th Oct 2005, 10:30
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Though I agree with most everything said here, I also think it's fair to say that greed spilled over into the ranks of employees incl. pilots in the late 90's. I remember one pilot group after another threatening strike to obtain ever increasing pay deals, each one demanding to be "industry leading".
And then there was the supposed quote from the MEC at UAL (they had part ownership and a seat on the board, remember?), something about "we aren't going to kill the golden goose, just wring its neck untill every last egg..."
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