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Tue, Jan 04, 2005

Aero-Views: US Airways Sick-Out Hurt Employees Worst

What Were They Thinking?

By ANN Senior Editor Pete Combs

An open letter to the baggage handlers and flight attendants of US Airways:

Dear Aviation Professionals of US Airways,

What the hell were you thinking? I'm talking specifically to those baggage handlers and flight attendants who sicked out Christmas weekend, snarling the entire air traffic system and leaving holiday travelers stuck without their bags for days. Merry Freakin' Christmas.

When American Airlines chief Donald Carty won millions in concessions from his union employees back in 2002, only to have his double-secret, bullet-proof pension plan outed to the national media, we stood with the employees. Shame on Carty, we said.

When United pulled the plug on its employee pension plans, ANN was there, reporting the controversy on a blow-by-blow basis. 

When Northwest did the same, we clearly sided with the employees.

But when you decided to stage a sick out -- and you know that's exactly what it was -- on one of the busiest weekends of the year, well, in our minds, that dog just won't hunt. You shot yourselves in the collective butt -- and for what?

Did you honestly think your passengers would understand? How would you like it if you were stuck in a terminal for hours on end, standing in line after line to report your baggage missing, then going to the hotel or Grandma's house with only the clothes on your back? How would you have liked it when little Suzy and little Johnny had nothing under the tree because you were in Charlotte and your luggage -- with their gifts inside -- ended up in Washington?

Again, what were you thinking?

Nobody likes what's happening to US Airways and nobody likes what's happening to the people who work for that troubled airline. Nobody likes the idea of another round of concessions and nobody likes the fact that your pensions have gone the way of the dodo.

But nobody likes the cheap shot you dealt your passengers, your company and yourselves on Christmas Day. We can certainly understand the frustration you feel, but your sick-out was unprofessional and poorly thought out.

The US Department of Transportation is now conducting an "expedited" investigation into your actions. The government wants to talk with employees, managers and passengers to find out what happened. The company has now threatened to fire you if you're found out. If US Airways goes under, don't for a minute think other airlines will line up to hire you -- they're in only a little better position than you are.

We're sorry for the troubles you face. You didn't ask for your company to go bankrupt -- twice -- and you certainly didn't ask to have your salary cut -- again. But after a sick-out that could cost you your jobs and force your airline to go under, we find it increasingly difficult to sympathize with your plight.



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