Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Flight Deck Forums > Rumours & News
Reload this Page >

No one wants to be a Captain.

Rumours & News Reporting Points that may affect our jobs or lives as professional pilots. Also, items that may be of interest to professional pilots.

No one wants to be a Captain.

Old 30th Jul 2023, 10:56
  #41 (permalink)  

Supercharged PPRuNer
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Doon the watter, a million miles from the sandpit.
Posts: 1,184
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Not long after passing my I.R., a trainer gave me one of the best bits of advice i’ve ever received. “Once you’ve got enough hours and experience, options start to open up. Then it becomes a game to find the job that pays the most money, for the best lifestyle and the least amount of work.” That’s this career in a nutshell.

I’d like to be a captain, but not at any cost. And whilst I never started out expecting to be a career F.O., the lifestyle hit in moving from RHS long haul to (extremely junior) LHS short haul would be completely unsustainable. For me, quality of life trumps pay or number of stripes, although I’m lucky to be at an outfit where F.O.s are treated like grown-ups and ‘being the boss’ or ‘setting the tone for the day’ aren’t really an issue. The vast majority of colleagues on my fleet feel the same way, and are holding out for LH command or staying put until they retire.

If my employer can’t get enough volunteers for junior commands, that’s an indictment on them, and eventually they will be forced to up the offer; either with cash or lifestyle improvements. Sadly, I can’t see it happening anytime soon…
G SXTY is offline  
Old 30th Jul 2023, 17:34
  #42 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 1999
Location: England
Age: 77
Posts: 1,212
Received 57 Likes on 33 Posts
In the late 1970s in BA the proportion of young captains was steadily increasing and we junior copilots could see our commands disappearing over the horizon. A few of us took the plunge and signed on with a respected charter airline. Two bonuses were more handling (one leg in two rather than one in three or worse) and a more useful type rating (B737).

The calculated career strategy adjustment (aka gamble) paid off - within 3 years the fleet size had doubled and we had worked our way into the coveted front left seat.

The workload was seasonal - busy summers and quieter winters but - as in most airlines in those times - the overall workload was less than for our modern counterparts and we had more time off. And less managerial interference - more freedom to run the show as you wanted.

Discorde is offline  
Old 30th Jul 2023, 20:44
  #43 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Planet Earth
Posts: 2,099
Likes: 0
Received 11 Likes on 10 Posts
Originally Posted by megan
One of the things I never understood about the seniority system, how those at the top lap up the cream and those at the bottom have to eat dirt, it's not a company imposed system, it's those at the top of the list looking after themselves. Not taking a captaincy is nothing new, friend in the '80's became senior 727 FO at a base and turned down any advancement because of life style in a city he enjoyed, a move would have meant taking up a captaincy on a F-27 and beginning the progression through DC-9 then 727, all based anywhere in the country.

Those at the top had to start at the bottom, no one gets a short cut, some may move up faster than others due to better economic times or other reasons but it’s still a gamble and the seniority system is still the fairest one possible
stilton is offline  
Old 30th Jul 2023, 21:30
  #44 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 3,432
Likes: 0
Received 29 Likes on 18 Posts
Originally Posted by megan
One of the things I never understood about the seniority system, how those at the top lap up the cream and those at the bottom have to eat dirt, it's not a company imposed system, it's those at the top of the list looking after themselves.
Those "...at the top of the list..." didn't have the power to create the seniority system; they merely operate within that system. It was created by broader forces at work beyond the reach and influence of any demographic.

How else would you propose to distribute the flying ? A system where no one has any choice or control over his monthly fate ? Pawns every minute of every month at the whim of management ? Depend on the management drones to be "fair" to all concerned ?

The seniority system puts order in the game.

Regardless of the profession or job, someone has to follow the circus elephants with a bucket and shovel. Given a bit of time, they will pass that bucket and shovel to someone else. It all evens out in the end.
bafanguy is offline  
Old 30th Jul 2023, 23:38
  #45 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 2,541
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
I don't think anyone's upset about the seniority system. Seniority is a currency, and people shop where they can get the most bang for their buck.

The choice here is between the flashy sportscar that you need to work extra to pay for, or the sensible sedan that leaves you with extra money to pursue other interests.
Check Airman is offline  
Old 31st Jul 2023, 04:16
  #46 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: SFO
Age: 45
Posts: 71
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I keep seeing money as a reason to upgrade to Captain; but at US airlines you can make significantly more as mid to senior FO. This is primarily due to certain caveats in pilot contracts. A junior reserve 777 Captain will earn less than a senior 777 FO. It makes no sense as the Captain has much more responsibility; but current contracts at US legacies allow for it. This is one of the primary reasons we are seeing FOs not take upgrades.
JuniorMan is offline  
Old 31st Jul 2023, 09:39
  #47 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Germany
Posts: 1,035
Likes: 0
Received 8 Likes on 3 Posts
There has always been more than an element of luck in how quick/whether and under what conditions you upgrade. The BA/BOAC young captains who timed it right in the sixties had a great run but many ended up being forced to retire earlier than they would have liked. Those that joined a few years later were at the bottom of the seniority ladder for a very long time, but some at least ended up being able to retire later and with much more pension than originally expected. I am surprised that Blind Pugh has not contributed to the thread because as one of the generation that joined in that second wave he has posted quite a lot of anecdotes that suggest that all was not quite as rosy back then as some would like to remember. A lot of US pilots saw their pension plans destroyed by the financial turmoil following deregulation. Now the pendulum has swung the other way and the major US carriers at least are offering telephone number salaries. But as for the future I am sure things will level out and some of the anomalies, like the one JuniorMan has identified will be rectified. The only certainty is that we pilots will find something to complain about.
lederhosen is offline  
Old 31st Jul 2023, 09:54
  #48 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: UK
Posts: 2,598
Received 215 Likes on 123 Posts
Originally Posted by megan
One of the things I never understood about the seniority system, how those at the top lap up the cream and those at the bottom have to eat dirt, it's not a company imposed system, it's those at the top of the list looking after themselves. Not taking a captaincy is nothing new, friend in the '80's became senior 727 FO at a base and turned down any advancement because of life style in a city he enjoyed, a move would have meant taking up a captaincy on a F-27 and beginning the progression through DC-9 then 727, all based anywhere in the country.
Seems that in some professions, e.g. aviation and medicine, those "at the top" don't give a sh*t about those at the bottom and are reluctant to get involved in any sort of action to change the conditions of the juniors; whereas in television broadcasting, for example, they tend to care more about the juniors.
Uplinker is online now  
Old 31st Jul 2023, 11:56
  #49 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Vance, Belgium
Age: 62
Posts: 285
Likes: 0
Received 26 Likes on 11 Posts
That's because the difference between a happy young face and a grumpy old face is more visible in the television industry.
Luc Lion is offline  
Old 31st Jul 2023, 19:50
  #50 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Kipling's Twain
Age: 72
Posts: 324
Received 61 Likes on 14 Posts
Discode at #42, I was there at BA in the late '70s as a co-pilot and could see 15 years of Belfast shuttles ahead of me.

BEA in those days had a roster system, so it did not matter how senior in rank you were, you got Barcelona/Hamburg four sectors days or night Belfasts, irrespective of your time in the airline. I spent two years in BOAC '77 to '79 where they had bidline, where the advantages of seniority was extreme. The most senior at each rank had a brilliant well remunerated life, full choice of roster and tax free meal allowances which allowed you to live on half of them and spend the rest back home. The bottom of the fleet got standby months and callouts for unpopular destinations that had been dropped to the open time board and had to be crewed.

Turning back a command for lifestyle choices, which was not even a phrase back then, would get threats from management that you would not be offered a command again. Hollow threats as it turned out, but unpleasant all the same. The offer of a command to go from an SFO position on a worldwide fleet to a a Captain on a fleet that did weeks of standby then Cairo turnarounds left you out of pocket and with a woeful home life. But still the pressure of "we might not ask you again."

So the point of the above is that it was all dependant on the Bidline. The UK name for the American system of seniority which gives everything to the seniors and a poor second to the rest. BA tried splitting the roster into three to get more equality, but it was half hearted and did not work.

So I left, and went to an airline that had full roster. The most senior did the rough trips the same as the junior. All fleets (there were three) were paid the same. When you were senior enough to be offered command, you took it as there was no loss of pay or time off or base, just the position of running your own flight deck and more salary. Some senior guys resented it and suggested systems of choice, but we all took the job as if it were a military squadron. Indeed one of our directors declared that he was determined to break our squadron mentality of pilot camaraderie, of mutual trust and support, as HR could not manage us in the way their MBA HR lectures had taught them.

I support fully the choices of senior first officers in airlines rejecting command for their own reasons. The systems under which they work have only themselves to blame for allowing such iniquities to exist where to be "promoted" gives you less money, an awful base and an aircraft from the 1970s.

anxiao is offline  
Old 1st Aug 2023, 09:01
  #51 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Nowhere
Posts: 677
Received 7 Likes on 5 Posts
Rotating seniority / bid groups sound like a great alternative to me - 4 groups, every three months your group is one place more senior than it was last month, and three months of the year even the most senior have to do weekends, rough trips etc. Maintain seniority within the group so worst case senior pilot is 1/4 off the bottom.
Busdriver01 is offline  
Old 1st Aug 2023, 19:06
  #52 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Dark Side of the Moon
Posts: 1,495
Received 282 Likes on 101 Posts
Originally Posted by Busdriver01
Rotating seniority / bid groups sound like a great alternative to me - 4 groups, every three months your group is one place more senior than it was last month, and three months of the year even the most senior have to do weekends, rough trips etc. Maintain seniority within the group so worst case senior pilot is 1/4 off the bottom.
Good luck getting the Senior Pilots voting for that.
Ollie Onion is offline  
Old 1st Aug 2023, 21:31
  #53 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 3,432
Likes: 0
Received 29 Likes on 18 Posts
Originally Posted by Ollie Onion
Good luck getting the Senior Pilots voting for that.
Under this scenario, does anyone get to vote ?

This program would be the total abandonment of seniority as it's understood. Might as well just remove the word from the lexicon and turn your fate over to management to make everyone equally and repeatedly miserable.
bafanguy is offline  
Old 2nd Aug 2023, 15:04
  #54 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Marlow (mostly)
Posts: 375
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
Probably too long, won't be read, but a few thoughts

Interesting discussion for us oldsters who have seen several different types of system in practice. I’m not sure whether anyone will want to read this but someone might find it useful when pushing their representatives about contracts!

Full disclosure: I was one of the very lucky BA Hamsters, with essentially free professional training straight out of secondary school, I was assigned to BEA at age 20, and got a command (turboprop freighters, mostly nights) at 29 as a result of the wave of ex-military Captain retirements before BEA and BOAC were functionally merged in the 80s. Someone my age who joined only 3 years later (because he went for a university degree first) had to wait many years more. I stayed in the SH (old BEA) system until 1990, at which point I could choose to enjoy the better aspects of LH operations while avoiding most of the crap lifestyle elements. (There were other reasons but not relevant here.) I also had a minor management position for a while.

So I used the system to best advantage for myself: I know I was VERY FORTUNATE, but I was able to make the most of the system I had signed up for. The downside was mandatory retirement at 55, but as that had been a known factor since signing on it did not give me personally any cause for complaint, I was happy to go and do something else. I also worked for nearly all that time in IFALPA, so spent a lot of time with a very wide range of pilots from all over the world. As a result I learned much more about career systems at hta time than the vast majority of pilots are able to do just from personal experience. So from that background a few things might be relevant here.

For example, what’s a “career” path? In the C20th and with the legacy carriers, I have little doubt that a LHS carried much higher status, as well as GENERALLY more money, outside the USA, with virtuaqlly no-one ever going from Left to Right seat voluntarily. That may not be so today. The whole profession seems to carry less status as well.

Why is seniority-based bidding the “least bad” system to use in determining career trajectory? There are arguments that career advancement should be based on “merit”, as is (allegedly) the case in many other professions when deciding on a business employee's progress. The problem with that is, who determines relative merit or suitability? If it’s a “management decision”, in most large business there are internal criteria for saying A is better/more suitable than B, to (try to!) limit managers’ personal biases.

The big difference is that airline pilots are as far as I know the ONLY group of employees whose individual professional skills are repeatedly tested throughout their career, to satisfy an EXTERNALLY imposed uniform standard. Every pilot has to demonstrate their ability to do the job to the same specific criteria every year, or lose their licence – and hence employment – independently of what the employer thinks of them. The most objective way to say one person is likely to be more suitable than another for a job that both want, is to say that all other things being equal (and broadly speaking the annual renewals result in that), the one with the most experience is likely to be “better qualified”. In general terms length of service within the business is going to reflect more experience which should at least in theory reflect a higher level of competence. So despite its flaws, this shows up in seniority systems which have been adopted and are continually modified with varying degrees of success to suit changing environments.

What’s important to the individual? No two pilots are the same, even at exactly the same point in their career. Then this also changes throughout your life - what’s important at 25 is not the same at 35, 45, 55, or even 65. It’s impossible to cater for personal variations with a fixed system in which they are regarded as identical “units”.

Money vs other benefits and productivity. In the ‘60s and ‘70s BAW (BEA/BOAC) pilots’ pay could not be freely negotiated, as like many legacy carriers, these airlines were government owned. To paraphrase a story told to me by the late Laurie Taylor, when he was BALPA’s Chairman he was told by a very senior government official that the salary of the BOAC board members was set by his department. The BOAC Board Chairman would never be paid more than he was, and no way was any pilot going to paid more than BOAC’s Chairman, so BALPA could forget about matching US salaries for the 747 which had been massively raised by putting the 747 into the “formula pay” equation. The bottom line of that dispute was that BA pilots remained relatively low paid in global terms: but got generally much better working conditions (including pension provisions) while being rather less productive than their US counterparts. So trade-offs are possible. (At one time I think it was AeroMexico pilots who had very little money but lots of “benefits in kind” – in 1976 they hosted an IFALPA Conference in the luxury resort hotel their association owned on the beach in Acapulco!)

Lifestyle and choices. In the early 70s BA’s components airlines had manually rostered scheduling for pilots and cabin crew alike with little to no individual control. Philosophically, rostering means the company owns the staff, uses individuals as it sees fit and at its discretion gives individuals back bits of their lives it can’t use. Managements are very reluctant to give up this right to micro-manage everyone. In fact, it doesn’t matter at all to the company who does what bit of work, as long as it gets done – but managements are very reluctant to recognise this. But the pilots then moved to a bid/seniority based system while cabin crew stayed the same. Rostering systems may actually need quite a lot more people, because when individuals don’t feel they have control of their lives, they may well take it back anyway, typically by calling in sick*. (See below!)

Who is screwing you around? People can generally see that they can’t have everything their own way all the time, and so there will be occasions when they don’t get what they want. In my experience they will be much more willing to accept this if the blockage is caused by someone “on the same side” rather than imposed by the employer – especially if they have the same ability on a different occasion. It's much more acceptable to find you didn’t get to do what you wanted because a colleague who also wanted it did, rather than because “the company” gave it to someone who maybe didn't even want it anyway.

Fairness and equality: Again in my experience people are much more concerned that things be seen to be FAIR rather than EQUAL. Because individuals don’t matter to large organisations turning out a product like hundreds of flights, rostering systems tend to be based on maximising equality of outcome, e.g. all pilots flying the same (and maximum) amount, even if some would be happy to accept lower pay or unpopular patterns in exchange for more personal control.

Finally, the details of what can be bid for need to carefully considered by both management and pilot reps. Basically management are only interested in minimising cost, both short and long. Short term is immediate headcount, long term includes manpower planning - retirement waves, training cost and all that. A lot depends on the fleet mix and route structure – is there much variety and not much potential change? So there’s definitely no one size fits all system.

But the objective should be that everyone has the maximum possible freedom of choice to do exactly what they want; Everyone should have equal rights in the medium term (i.e. years, not months or decades). Everyone is different and has needs and wishes that will change over time. Fairness of opportunity is more important than equality of outcome. You will (in my opinion) always need a “seniority” system in an airline because you will always have differentiate between otherwise identically qualified pilots. You’ll never get a perfect system. But it does seem that the current systems in the US major US carriers at least are not getting the balance.

Glad I'm out of it anyway!!

Steve

*I recall a conversation with a BA longhaul stewardess who just told her fleet manager she was getting married in 6 months’ time, and asked if she could book some leave? “We’ll have to see nearer the time and can’t guarantee it” was the answer. She was fine with that - she knew there’d be “a nasty stomach bug going around” on the relevant date. BA’s cabin crew management actually accepted that there would be lots more “social sickness” at Christmas and Wimbledon weeks for example. But because they could not predict exactly which individuals would call it and on what flights, they just had to employ many more people to cover the extra standbys, and because they insisted on mixing standby blocks with flying lines when a standby was called out it disrupted that individual’s subsequent trips so another standby had to called for that, and so on down the line.

Since real sickness is due to for example local minor epidemics such as colds and flu, food poisoning down route, pressurisation related issues and so on there was no reason for it to affect cabin crew differently to pilots. Crew members generally tended to be younger and healthier than the general population, but still had statistically higher sickness rates. But after the pilots changed to a bid system the sickness rate went down, and at the time I looked at it (on behalf of a company medical chief) the cabin crew had something like 5 times as much sickness as the pilots. They had to carry a much bigger relative headcount to deal with the short term instability their own system created, with the attendant cost overhead. However, their management couldn’t accept the idea of giving power (and responsibility) back to mere employees to remove what this self-induced “social" sickness.
I have no idea what happens today. though I have my suspicions.




slast is offline  
Old 2nd Aug 2023, 15:35
  #55 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: UK
Posts: 2,598
Received 215 Likes on 123 Posts
Originally Posted by Luc Lion
That's because the difference between a happy young face and a grumpy old face is more visible in the television industry.
Sorry, I should have been more specific; I meant those behind the camera, i. e. the techs, not the "talent" in front of the camera. I don't know about actor's or presenter's Ts & Cs.
Uplinker is online now  
Old 2nd Aug 2023, 19:34
  #56 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Between a rock and a hard place
Posts: 1,281
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
slast,

Nice post, well put! My employer uses PBS (Preferential Bidding System). We do complain about it of course (we're pilots) but historically I have been assigned fair rosters. I don't know in detail its inner workings. I believe you're somewhat dependent on all other colleagues' bids as the computer runs a series of iterations trying to maximize the amount of points you have assigned to your different bids. The employer is in possession of a control knob where it can set a cap on fulfillment to prevent inefficient rosters.

I have heard terms such as BidLine, TripTrade etc. Are they the same? What do US carriers use? How do they work? Are all trips published and can be bidden, then assigned according to seniority? Hence why you can expect a lot of reserve as a new Captain because none wants it?
172_driver is offline  
Old 3rd Aug 2023, 09:30
  #57 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: by the seaside
Age: 74
Posts: 604
Received 30 Likes on 21 Posts
my tuppence worth

I couldn't wait to be a captain although I turned down a DEC on a 146 a few years before it happened. Being a captain was in many ways far easier than a co-pilot as one had to fit in with the skipper's abilities without flying better nor being too subservient. I've been b@llocked both for not interfering, interfering, or doing it too late. Sitting on your hands watching a guy mess it up especially on my first look see rotation on the VC10 which resulted in the demise of a pax isn't easy. BUT..after I got my command dynamics changed as a MC spoke to me and said you can't be one of the gang, the youngsters look up to you and you have to accept that roll. It doesn't help the jealousy of some ground staff who think that a foreigner is taking there place. I also worked the system and could afford 2 months off unpaid leave to go sailing with the family or just stay at home. Being older and having much older children than my contemporaries meant I had a month off every school summer holidays, christmas at home or with my family on a long range rotation. The money wasn't important as I was paid more than I needed.
MHO is for family life the FR guys have a good deal, Sometimes I only had eight days off at home a month which reflected harshly on my family; its very common that pilots children have mental health issues and it doesn't help when so called mates look up your roster and try and get a leg over your crumpet.
I did a couple of flights with the then British Aerobatic gliding champion, who had set a couple of world paragliding records with his twin brother who died of aerotoxic syndrome; he was able to be the top of the FO list on the 787 (no bleed air aircon) and run a successful aerobatic team as well as doing cream trips to fly in the Andes...don't blame him although I only got into adrenaline junkie after I prematurely lost my license and my kids went to uni or work.
I regret the long term health problems that the career gave me but that's the luck of the draw and have had opportunities that very few can dream of and used them to the best of my abilities.
blind pew is offline  
Old 3rd Aug 2023, 11:17
  #58 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Asia
Posts: 1,582
Received 87 Likes on 53 Posts
Originally Posted by Busdriver01
Rotating seniority / bid groups sound like a great alternative to me - 4 groups, every three months your group is one place more senior than it was last month, and three months of the year even the most senior have to do weekends, rough trips etc. Maintain seniority within the group so worst case senior pilot is 1/4 off the bottom.
Emirates do this with three bid groups rotating on a monthly basis, everyone gets their share of the good and the bad.


The downside was mandatory retirement at 55, but as that had been a known factor since signing on it did not give me personally any cause for complaint, I was happy to go and do something else.
At which stage you could go to Gulf Air or Air Lanka on the L1011, or SQ on the B747 and fly for another 5-10 years while drawing a BA pension. Later on the expanding LCCs were very happy to have highly experienced DECs and trainers join them, balancing out the 200hr F/Os and 3000hr Captains.
krismiler is offline  
Old 3rd Aug 2023, 12:08
  #59 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Nowhere
Posts: 677
Received 7 Likes on 5 Posts
Originally Posted by Ollie Onion
Good luck getting the Senior Pilots voting for that.
I'm fully aware that they wont vote for it and that it's a non-starter. But i do think that the current system where those at the top get *everything* they want and those at the bottom nothing, is unsustainable and almost immoral. We all signed up to be a pilot, we all knew that involved weekends/nights. Everyone at the bottom expects to do this. Those at the top should be doing their fair share (less, but still some) too. Their social lives/time off is not more valuable than someone junior.
Busdriver01 is offline  
Old 3rd Aug 2023, 14:48
  #60 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Marlow (mostly)
Posts: 375
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
Originally Posted by krismiler
At which stage you could go to Gulf Air or Air Lanka on the L1011, or SQ on the B747 and fly for another 5-10 years while drawing a BA pension. Later on the expanding LCCs were very happy to have highly experienced DECs and trainers join them, balancing out the 200hr F/Os and 3000hr Captains.
A friend a couple of years older than me did just that, went to SQ. Before leaving it seems he had persuaded his wife to regard it as "five lost years, after which they would be set up for life". To maximise the financial benefits he'd also changed his domicile (to Cyprus I think?) for tax reasons. Bumped into him a few years later in SIN, where he would come to the most popular BA crew pub. He said it was a miserable existence, the working atmosphere was much worse than BA, had lost contact with many friends in the UK and with a dying parent couldn't return without exceeding UK days and losing the tax perk. He also died relatively young so didn't really collect the planned golden benefits. So while you are quite right; as I said it didn't appeal to me one bit. But each to their own!
slast is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.