Southwest vs US Question #1

Oliver Twist

Aug 20, 2002
Raleigh, NC
I have been curious and thought I''d give it a try here. I want to know how the new pilot contract at SW compares to the new contract of US pilots.
My point in this is simple. SW seems to be the new big and bad kid on the block and coming after US and all the rest. Are their pilots more productive (do the fly more hours?)? Lower paid? Fewer benefits? Or, is it something else??
We are not trying to model ourselves after SW I know. But since they make so much money compared to the rest of the industry''s huge losses, there has to be similarities in some areas- job function for one. Pilots fly planes, regardless of whom they work for, the work is the same.
As I said earlier, I ask this question because there ARE many similarities between US and SW. Are their employees more productive? Lower paid? What is it? I''m not asking about the company as a whole- we have different philosophies in doing business. Just the one single group in this thread.
If this thread provides good response with real answers and not rhetoric, perhaps we can compare other groups as well. I do know that the Rampers already are paid substantially higher rates at top out vs. US Rampers. Their CS/RES folks are paid a bit lower than CWA’ers (they are beginning new contract talks for the inside folks and REZ).
I for one want to know what the answer is. Is it our wages in general, our business model, or something else?
Thanks in advance for NOT flaming this thread. I just want to know the facts.
Oliver, I don't work for Southwest, but from my observations at my local airport (MCI) Here's what I noticed - LUV can operate a flight from MCI-MDW and back again during the time that a U flight from PIT is sitting at the gate at MCI between flights. Airplanes in the air make money - airplanes at a gate don't.

MCI is a "transfer city" for a lot of LUV flights. Watching them operate, you see a constant stream of incoming and departing LUV flights. You don't see a mass of arrivals then nothing, then a mass of departures. It's a constant, steady stream, almost seems like for every LUV plane touching down, there's another one taxiing out for takeoff. That means that their planes are in the air (thus pilots are being more "productive") more often than the other guys. I've noticed pretty much the same thing when watching them at DAL.
SW has always operated as a lean machine - from day one. They've never expanded too quickly, but instead strategically moved into cities with great opportunities. Having just one aircraft type has been a HUGE money saver, along with the no frills services and operating a point-point route network rather than putting all the eggs into a few concentrated hub cities. All of these factors combined have enabled them to keep their operating costs quite low. So, what to do with all that extra cash then? Pay the workers. The ones who have made the airline the low cost, highly productive business it evolved into.

By comparison, U has always been plagued with high maintenance costs due to the number of types of equipment. Over the years, management has made some bad decisions that have, among other things, cornered them into a primarily East coast operation, which has driven up costs due to flying the relatively short distances on equipment that's oversized. All this adds up to very high labor costs. On paper, then, it would appear that labor represents the highest operating cost, so they're the first place management looks to save money.
Possible answer to part of your question is (why nobody ever say's this????)They are not a very senior company!!!!!Think about ALL the majors....(U,UA,AA,NW,DL,)WE ARE ALL TOP far as senior employees.....Top benifits...Their turn is coming very fast since most or all of the current employees start staying around to get to the next level....question????
Of all 40000 U employees....How many have less the 5 years?????(maybe 2000)..... Offer early out's...The company can hire Two newby's for what it cost to have 1 senior agent....Then the cost would start to go down... [:)]
Thanks for the posts KC and PHL, but the question remains. Are SW's pilots more productive? Are their wages substantialy different than US's when comparing the same aircraft types?

What we need is someone familiar with the SW pilots pay/productivity as well as a person with the US perspective.

And I do agree that planes sitting on the ground don't make money. Ours seem to sit far longer than SW's do. I do feel that the traditional hub system is badly broken and needs a major refit. That question is another thread all together.
And of all their employees how many have 30 years????compare that number to AA..U..UA..NW..DL...Who have 25+ years....
Yup, lots of old lazy farts sitting around complaining about how things suck. Saying, "that aint my job," ha,ha,ha. As KC said, we have been around for over 30 years and while we do have lots of senior people we also have lots of junior people. But what makes WN a success isn't something you can just copy. It goes deeper than having senior or junior people. It goes beyond coming out of bankruptcy thinking just having lower costs will make you a great airline. Look at CAL, they have done it twice and they still are losing money, but they are a good company to me. I wish you guys luck at U, I really do.
I agree wholeheartedly and have brought this up on the old boards - lets get rid of the old timers who are set in their ways and want what they have always had. Maybe it is time to put some of them out to pasture. Bring back the furloughees who are at the bottom of the pay scale and have the enthusiam to try new things to make this company work again. Another thing that has never been able to be explained to me - how come when all the furloughes were given out people with chronic OJI (only work for a couple of weeks and go back out) and people who everyone knows will never return from OJI are still "working" re-have jobs- but not furloughed all because of seniority. I know at my former station there a about a half dozen still employed but out. This not only puts someone else out of work but also increases the stress on the people who are still working by forcing them to work short all of the time. Can't some of them be put on furlough and bring back people to work? It helps both the unemployed and employed IMHO. Any thoughts without flaming please?
WN has a couple of rampers to park the flight, unload and load, clean and pushback. U takes 1 cleaner and 1 mechanic to park the plane, 4 rampers to unload/load, 2 cleaners to clean and 3 gate agents to work customer service and 1 mechanic and 1 cleaner to pushback.
Piedmont did too. Thats my point.
It is a spirit of working together that USAir/Airways has never had. Its been empire building all the time. Dave's right, "salary doesn't make a difference. There are high cost carriers with lots of labor troubles and low cost carriers with no problems...". Its time to decide if you want to work here or not, if not- hit the bricks and let the rest of us get on with it.
Excellent point! I might also add that the aircraft SW flies is not as old as ours either. very soon all of the aircraft will age at the same time requiring alot of heavy maintenance for SW at the same time. They will then experience growing pains.

Hmmm, they're still flying 20 something 737-200's. Do those age differently? And they've bought planes in the past - hence the "young" age of their fleet. And their planes are "aging" in the air (where they make money) versus on the ground at a gate.
Excellent point! I might also add that the aircraft SW flies is not as old as ours either. very soon all of the aircraft will age at the same time requiring alot of heavy maintenance for SW at the same time. They will then experience growing pains.
I have a few questions Do things work diferently in different stations? When I was at US we all worked together - many times I have cleaned the a/c to get a quick turnaround and have also helped load bags a couple of times when ramp was short. NO it was not my job and NO I was not asked to do it by an supervisor but when I could see my co-workers needing help and being able to be spared from the gate - WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM? I have never had a complaint from either co-worker (mostly a huge Thank You) or from a supervisor. Is this unusual for US stations? Wish I were still there to help out now too.
I agree.........unfortunately, cross utilization is not part of U's work ethic. There is a different union group with different work rules for every job function of this airline. You cannot pay top salaries to 8 different work groups to turn one airplane, i.e. gate/ramp/utility/maintenance/pilot/flight attendent/dispatchers, and expect to make money with fare levels where they are today. Even when people were flying, it would be difficult,especially when one work group, for example, will grieve another ones actions for attempting a "quick turn", such as pick up trash on an airplane, or run a gate checked bag down to the ramp. Not a way to work together, if you ask me. That is why no one can compare our cost structure with WN. Apples and oranges.

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