Desert Jets: But I see this as a way of big business to continue to call the shots and effectively reduce the demands of their employees. Many of you may not agree with these ideas, but fundamentally I think it is an issue of equity for employees and consumers.
Jim: With all respect, DJ, and I respect you a lot, this matter is not one of labor v. management. It's one of whether the market--consumers, business and leisure, being allowed to set the value of a product according to free choice, rather than propping up a pre-deregulation gravy train for management and employees.
Big business hasn't really called the shots on airline labor costs for over a generation. The cost structure and work-rule structure at most major airlines was set in the last fifteen years before deregulation, when a cozy Federal sugar daddy not the market was determining costs. Just accept another big contract and the CAB would approve fare hikes to pass the cost along to the mostly-business fliers, as Thomas Petzinger has noted in Hard Landing.
Despite the turbulent '80s and Frank Lorenzo, cost structures at the Six surviving Families are still well above what the market can reliably support. This is why high-yield business traffic plunges whenever the economy softens....$800-1500 domestic coach full fares are fine when there's money to burn (1999) but not when there isn't (2001). The Oligopoly/ Six Families airlines have still not rationalized their costs to the point where they aren't so vulnerable to booms and busts. This is where they need to learn from Southwest.
When I worked at a bank for a few years after college, I was not paid well. But I accepted that the market, not my desires, set my pay. So I left banking for something that interested me more and will pay better (academia). Airline unions need to learn the same lesson. Yes, they've done lots for safety, our union friends at this board never fail to remind us of this fact. But on the matter of costs they're woefully behind the times.
From what I've read, perpetual dependence upon PEB's was not the intent of the Railway Labor Act. Bush is trying not to use them all the time, and he saw an opportunity at Comair to try to let the collective bargaining process work. Unions are usually the most opposed to PEB's, by the way.
Bush may not have needed to rattle his saber so soon with the AA F/A's. But it probably would have needed to happen. Free market competition means work for all involved, not least for management. The airline industry's transition to a truly free market, especially for consumers and medium-and-small size communities who enjoy very uneven access to reasonable and low fares, is far from finished.
Need a new airline paint scheme? Better call Saul! (Bass that is)