USAPA: Real Men of Genius


Okay, so how many of you saw that ad in yesterday’s USAToday that was placed by the union leadership of USAPA? You know, the union that represents the US Airways East pilots at US Airways?

I say that because I have yet to talk to an America West pilot who has paid USAPA dues. While USAPA claims to have 5800 members, I think the number is probably closer to 3000 or less.

Yes, USAPA. The same union that was voted in, after the US Airways East pilots refused to go along with an ALPA arbitrator’s award decision in the union seniority process to unite the two separate (at the time) ALPA memberships.

Yesterday, the brain trust of this organization, and I use that term loosely, decided to run a full page ad in USAToday, accusing management at US Airways of “pressuring pilots to reduce fuel levels for your flight in order to save money.”

The ad then continued,

“We ask that you remember this: although we consider US Airways to have embarked on a program of intimidation to pressure your Captain to reduce fuel loads, US Airways Captains are committed to maintaining their right to exercise their “Captain’s Authority,” granted by the Federal Aviation Administration, to ensure a fuel load that will safely fly you to your destination with all the reserves necessary to handle any contingencies related to the flight.”


Those of us who know and work in this industry know what this is. It’s a very sad attempt by grown men who should have better things to do with their time to get media attention by crying “Safety, Safety.”

Thankfully, no major media outlets paid much attention to the effort — because, frankly, they also knew it was a bunch of crap.

However — then there is Larry King. And CNN.

Last night, US Airways’ CEO Doug Parker and ATA President Jim May were scheduled to be on King’s show to discuss the issue of rising fuel costs, the industry’s cost problems, whatever.

But what the show turned into was a discussion of how unsafe US Airways was — because of this “problem.” Not only that, but Parker, because of commitments in Washington, was unable to be on the show. The show’s producers apparently thought it was okay to bash the supposed “unsafe” practices of the airline without having the courtesy of having a representative of the airline on the show at all.

As one reader noted in a letter he sent to CNN today,

Yesterday I tuned into your show with the hopes of seeing the CEO of US Airways speak to the crushing negative effects the run up of oil is having on the airlines, the economy, and my career. What I saw was something all together different.

Instead of the scheduled speakers I witnessed a disjointed, subjective, discussion over a “news” story that was generated by an ad placed by the leaders of the new rookie union at US AIRWAYS (USAPA). This ad was nothing more than an ill guided attempt by the fledgling union’s leaders to flex their muscle during contract negotiations.

The core issue here is not about how much fuel a pilot can carry, safety or “Captains Authority” but rather a dispute between the company and a segment of the pilots this new Union represents. (It should be noted that not one of the 1800 former ALPA represented pilots of America West have elected to join this new union.)

As a Captain for America West and post merge the New US Airways, I have never had the company question the amount of extra fuel I choose to carry on any flight segment. Many of those segments routinely carry me and my passengers over the longest over water route in the world and as such I am very cognizant of the need for adequate fuel reserves for any contingency.

I was appalled by this new “Union’s” attempt to bring safety into question when it is clear, based on the data collected, that this was a deliberate attempt by the pilots in question to carry and burn more fuel in an effort to influence the company to acquiesce to their contractual wishes.

As a one time Executive Vice President of The Air Line Pilots Association I have seen and participated in my fair share of labor disputes but I have never witnessed nor would I condone using a bogus “safety” issue to apply leverage to a company.”

As I said in a recent issue of PlaneBusiness Banter — as we see a number of airlines link-up, or merge, and as it becomes more and more clear that the union problems involving the pilots at US Airways apparently had a major chilling effect on the airline’s potential merger with United Airlines — these guys at USAPA are only going to have themselves to blame if the airline finds itself without a dance partner going forward.

But this latest stunt, I have to say, takes the prize.

The boys at USAPA are real men of genius.

As a result, they are more than deserving of a PlaneBuzz Buzz Bomb Award.