Airlines Profiteering From Tragedy

I am a flight attendant and as I mourn the loss of my colleagues and all the others killed in the September 11 attacks, I look toward the future with great concern.

Some of the changes that are to come do not worry me--I have no disagreement with the beefing up of airport security. It may take longer to report to work, but that is a small price to pay if it helps prevent would-be hijackers from getting on planes.

But the airlines have begun actions that are simply opportunist, seeking to take advantage of the horror visited upon the United States. Most medium and large airlines are now threatening layoffs and demanding concessions from the unions. At the same time that the airlines point to hardship because of the reduced number of planes being allowed to fly and because of the public fear of flying, those at the top continue to pay themselves absurd salaries.



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At my employer, US Airways, the two top executives are both compensated $12 million annually, more than at any other airline, even though US Airways is only the sixth largest. The executives have not offered to waive their salaries and benefits, but have instead come to our union, the Association of Flight Attendants, and others, trying to use this downturn in air travel to get the same concessions they said they wanted before the disaster occurred. On September 17 they announced 11,500 layoffs.

At the same time, the airlines are requesting billions of dollars in aid and loan guarantees. If the airlines simultaneously save money through layoffs and concessions and make money from the government, where will the money go? Into the pockets of major shareholders? Into the pockets of executives?

Care should be taken that the money is not simply a give-away of tax dollars to wealthy investors or execs. It should be used to guarantee jobs, wages, and working conditions.

Joshua DeVries is a member of AFA Council 70, Philadelphia