July 17, 2009


(The Joys Of Travel)

When the deregulation of the Commercial Airline industry came into full bloom by 1983 (the bill was signed into law in 1978), everything was bordering on chaos. Granted, the major airlines had something of a monopoly for years and abuse was rife. But the pendulum swung the other way and cost cutting measures, layoffs and threatened bankruptcies of airlines like Continental created an uneasy and in many ways, an unsafe environment for air travel. There was talk about considering the airlines a public utility. But as was evidenced by the breakup of AT&T (which was considered a public utility) that alternative wasn't viable either. The trouble was, things were getting worse and no one was willing to offer an alternative. Strangely, they still aren't.

As a reaction to the worsening conditions, The Airline Pilots Union went on strike against Continental Airlines (one of many during the 80's).

The strike was the subject of a "Face The Nation" episode from October 2, 1983 featuring Leslie Stahl and a panel consisting of Sen. Mark Andrews (R-North Dakota), Dan McKinnon (Civil Aeoronautics Board), Phil Bakes (CEO, Continental airlines) and Capt. Henry Duffy (Airline Pilots Association).

Bakes: “It’s interesting that unions will charge us with union busting and not being fair to the employees – the one group of our employees who’s not a member of a union, which are our agents and number over 50 percent of our employees were allowed to vote on the pay cuts that we’ve instituted. Ninety percent of them voted for it. But yet the unionized employees were never allowed to vote. Now they’re voting with their feet and so are the consumers.”

Duffy: "What makes it a union busting maneuver is that, his employees had come to him and told him that they would do whatever was necessary to make that company profitable before they filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Instead, they chose the course of action of going Chapter 11 in order to do away with the union contracts and seniority and all of that’s been done in these emergency work rules that they published, and that tells us what they’re up to.”

Although it didn't dissolve into name-calling, it did cast light on just what a serious mess the Commercial Airline industry had become.

One which we're still living through today.

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