United Airlines Seems Determined to Piss Off Employees; O’Leary Tees Off on News


Take one major airline.

Have that major airline use bankruptcy as an excuse to destroy its employee pension plans.

Have same airline continue to enjoy some of the most adversarial management/employee relations in the industry.

Add just one more objectionable move on the part of said airline’s management to the almost-boiling pot.


Back off and watch as the pot boils over.

Today that is exactly what has happened, as United Airlines’ pilots are reacting to the news that the airline plans to link-up with Irish airline Aer Lingus to offer flights between the U.S. and Madrid. Say what?


Starting next year, both airlines will market the flights and each airline will have their own flight numbers on the route.

But United Airlines’ employees will have nothing to do with the actual operation of the flights.

No, Aer Lingus will fly the planes with their crews. And provide the planes. United will handle the marketing for the flights.

According to a report in Bloomberg, “Aer Lingus and UAL will review the partnership after two years and may turn it into a ‘full-blown joint venture,’ with the Irish carrier owning 51%.”

Not surprising that the United pilots are not happy about this news. Looking at the details of the deal this looks like nothing more than a glorified wet lease.

Meanwhile, United Airlines continues to sit on a stagnant-to-declining fleet, and continues to announce furloughs for its own pilots and flight attendants.

In a message from the Chairman of the airline’s ALPA MEC, Steve Wallach told the troops,

“The day after reporting one of its worst quarterly financial results in history and after furloughing an additional 254 pilots (bringing the total to 606 pilots), United Airlines announced today that it has entered into what it calls an “innovative” partnership with Aer Lingus”….He then added, “Aer Lingus has advised the Irish press that this joint venture will operate an Aer Lingus aircraft with neither United nor Aer Lingus employees, under a separate operating certificate and under newly established wages and working conditions. Obviously, this partnership will be accomplished at the expense of United’s and Aer Lingus’ own pilots and other employees. This development, where United attempts to establish an airline operation without the use of United aircraft or employees, is nothing less than the outsourcing of jobs to an international company, and clearly demonstrates that this management continues to make business decisions without regard to its pilots and other employees…..The United pilots are exploring every option to put an end to the company’s blatant disregard and lack of loyalty to the United Airlines brand.”

By the way, we all should have known that Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary wouldn’t sit around and be quiet on this development. As most of you know, Ryanair is in the middle of yet another hostile takeover run at Aer Lingus.

Today Ryanair issued a statement in which O’Leary said, “

Aer Lingus and United Airways share many similar traits. They both used to be big in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but sadly today they are just shadows of their former glory. Both have recently announced losses, job cuts and pay cuts. After months of trawling around looking for partners, it is a sad reflection on Aer Lingus that the best they could come up with is one of the weakest and biggest loss makers in the U.S. airline industry. Given the scale of United’s losses there is no guarantee that they will even be around in March 2010 to operate this “partnership”.

“It is hard to think of any transatlantic airline losing any sleep at the thought of being faced with the combined weakness of Aer Lingus and United Airlines on the Madrid-Washington route. Today’s announcement shows just how desperate Aer Lingus is to find a partner, any partner it can, even if the flights don’t start until March 2010. This so called “partnership” with another “loser” like United shows that Aer Lingus has no independent strategy, and no prospect of remaining independent.”

That’s what I like about Mr. O’Leary. He’s never afraid to tell us what he really thinks.