Southwest vs US Question #1

Barky88 is right on. We underuse our airframes as well as our PILOTS. I don't have all the numbers nor can I speak for the Southwest contract the pilots have. But as a former U 737 Captain (downgraded as of yesterday!), I do know that I was SEVERELY underused in that position.

The U unions got a great contract for underutilization purposes. The contract I worked under at U gave/gives tremendous flexability to the blockholders and kept an overabundance of pilots on reserve that were simply not used. The blockholders had a great life in that they could drop trips at will let the massive number of reserves go into a feeding frenzy trying to break their guarantee (which most did not) (I broke reserve guarantee 3 times on reserve in the last 42 months as a captain).
The more pilots we have on the payroll, the more income the union has in dues, and the more "security" the union thinks it is getting for its constituancy. The "bigger is better" mentality is simply wrong. More pilots on the payroll is not the way to grow. It is a way to cost the company more and decrease its ability to succeed. What U needs is more productivity from its pilots by allowing them to fly more. I know that is probaly considered blasphemy from some of the pilots out there but that is how I feel.

My "top of the head" suggestions are
1. Allow blockholders to drop only a portion of their assigned block trips or make them touch trips that they do drop. This will even out the reserve usage and remove some of the reserve demand.
2. Pay premium incentive pay for holidays. This entices money hungry blockholder pilots (no disrespect) to work those holidays and in the long run costs the company less money than keeping more pilots on the payroll.
3. Automate the trip trade/drop system. Only allow a trip drop if you can find someone else to fly it (blockholders and reserves). This can be done online or by an automated phone system.
4. (this is a biggie>>>) DON'T RESTRICT RESERVE PILOTS FROM FLYING ON DAYS OFF as is currently the case. This only has the effect of cutting the available pilots the company has to draw from thus requiring more pilots on staff.

Once again these are only my instant suggestions. There are more but typing at 6 words per minute this letter has taken me most of the morning (lol)

Sorry if I got off the thread a little. Bottom line is that the pay scales of Southwest and USAirways pilots are probably somewhat equitable as far as top seniority blockholders are concerned. The problem is the utilization of the rest of the U pilot contingency, namely the reserves. I feel that U has WAAAYYYY more pilots than it needs to fly the number of flights it does. Southwest is simply more efficient in that respect.
Barky88 and clear2land,

Thank you very much for adding illumination, rather than heat,to the discussion.

Two things occur to me.

Every group has tales of gross under-utilization and inefficiency. In my Class II station, the IAM/CWA contracts specifically allow cross-utilization. Management NEVER uses it. I've seen overtime paid out in one department, rather than utilize a free open-time agent from out of department. Insane! I think this is why the $6 mil drives us nuts; why give it to folks making these kinds of decisions?

Some guy won a Nobel a few years back with the notion of tranparent transactions. The more we see and understand of one another's situation, the less finger pointing and ill-will we'll have. And wouldn't it be fun to deprive management of their favorite weapon - divide and conquer?

Again, many thanks, guys.
OT's simple question is not so simple to answer.

SWA hourly rates are dependent on profitability raises on 03 and 05, which will be a function of SWA'a operating margin.

A 12 year Captain is maxxed out for longevity purposes. Captains and FOs receive a proportion of that pay that is fairly close to industry standards.

New hourly rates. (SWA pilots get paid by the trip. 1 trip = 1.13 hours).

Sep 02 $152/hr
Sep 03 $158-164
Sep 04 $180-186
Sep 05 $186-199
Sep 06 $197-199

Average SWA pilot gets paid 105 trips/month, which includes training and vacation. This means he gets paid 118 hours/mo, though he flies about 80. (84 ave is max or one would exceed the 1000 hour annual FAR cap).

Current contract awarded 3-10000 options at a $12.85 strike price. Some options are 'catchup' options for those who were shorted under the current contract. New options begin vesting in 04.

No DB plan.

401 is 15% + 7.3% match. New Age 50 catchup provisions allowed.

Small retirement medical until Medicare.

New rigs that will marginally improve pay/productivity of lines.

Please explain the concept of a trip. If a flight is blocked for 2:26, is that flight worth 2 trips, regardless of how long the actual flight takes?

How are you able to accumulate 118 pay hours/month, yet only fly 80 hours?

The "trip' has historical origins. One trip was defined as flying 247NM = HOU-DAL. Lamar Muse did not want any slow-poking to build block time. Hence the SWA culture of flying/taxiing faster than others. Hence the 10 minute turn. One doesn't get paid (except per diem) for sitting around.

But, one trip became the minimum. HOUS-AUS=one trip, but it's only 25 minutes.

Minimum pay (rigs, which go up to 6.5 in Jan 03) is 5 trips per day.

Pulled up an old 'pairing' (a 1,2,3, or4 day trip to which one is assigned):

4 day. Pays 28.7 trips. Scheduled for 24.15 block hours. Flew 22.6 block hours.

Day 1) 6:35 hours/7.5 trips
Day 2) 7:45/8.9
Day 3) 6:10/7.3
Day 4) 3:45/5 (5 is a rig minimum)

So I got paid for 28.7 x 1.13 = 32.4 hours, though I only blocked 22.6.

On reserve, one is guarateed 6 trips/day = 6.78 hours.

Training pays 5 trips/day = 5.65 hours, though one does not fly.

Vacation pays a min of 26.5 trips, though most can stretch a week of vacation to 32+.

It's very complicated. I didn't mention charter or JA pay rules.

Thank you for your excellent response. Permit me to query more. Oliver, understanding this LUV contract will allow a much more intelligent discussion of the issue you have raised.

Is a "trip" calculated by mileage then? Say for example, a 2470 mile flight from BWI to LAX would be worth 10 trips?

Your contract identifies pay rates by trip? So the hourly rate you are showing us in the previous post is simply a conversion, using 1.13(thats 1 decimal 13, not 1 hr 13 min)?

Do you have monthly maximums dictated by contract or are your monthly maximums dictated strictly by compliance to F.A.R. 's? In other words, can you fly as much as you like per month, on top of training, vacation?

Why is it that, in your previous example for a 4-day trip, the trip time always exceeded the block time, if a trip is equal to 1.13 hours? Is it the short segments(less than 247 miles) or the mileage based calculation?

Do reserve pilots get a guaranteed 6 trips for every "day on duty"? Are they guaranteed a montly minimum number of trips, even if they don't fly?

Thank you again.
If I may, I would like to thank those of you who have posted information on this thread that relates to the original question. To say it has been enlightening is an understatement of huge proportions.

While I don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of SW's and US's contract language, one thing seems glaringly apparent to me. SW's pilots are far more productive than US's. The question is why?

If I have a grasp on the information provided here, by our own admission, our pilots were paid considerably more the SW's pilots as a group in all respects prior to the new agreement. They were paid more and flew less. But does this infer that it was the pilots goal to do this, or as one stated above, the fault lies with the union itself and the collection of dues?

Barky88 refers to poor utilization of the pilot group while Clear2 land says “The U unions got a great contract for underutilization purposes.” Further stating that the senior pilots are living the good life at the expense of the junior and reserve pilots due to the contract provisions.

I particularly find this quote from Clear2land very telling. “The more pilots we have on the payroll, the more income the union has in dues, and the more "security" the union thinks it is getting for its constituency. The "bigger is better" mentality is simply wrong. More pilots on the payroll is not the way to grow. It is a way to cost the company more and decrease its ability to succeed. What U needs is more productivity from its pilots by allowing them to fly more.”

Rhino has been a great help in explaining the “trip” concept to us as well. While I don’t fully understand it all, one thing is becoming quite clear to me. It appears that as far as the US ALPA leadership is concerned, what is good for the union itself is best. Excessive numbers of Pilots with arcane and unproductive work rules leading to higher costs, lower productivity, a huge cost disadvantage compared to our rivals, and most importantly, more union dues. More dues makes a stronger union seems to be their mantra.

If that premise is correct, the damage to all of us is beyond measure. We have for decades now been saddled with unproductive contracts that put all of us at a great disadvantage. By bringing our costs inline, one can only imagine the true wealth that could be created by our company for all to share. With true profits that we are capable of, how many productive Pilots, Mechanics, CS and Rampers and all the others needed could we then have? We have such a strong customer base and a strong presence in our markets where a majority of the traveling public lives. It seems a shame that we can’t find it within ourselves to look past our own failures.

I do not seek to place blame on any group. But I do seek to understand what is causing this. Is it SW’s attacks on our turf or is it our own fault through our contracts and our management’s agreements to those contracts? Inefficiency is our greatest enemy, NOT SW!

I for one DO NOT want to be like SW. It’s not the airline style I like. Is there a place for both of us? Yes! I do however want to be competitive with the SW’s of this world and offer a competitive product at a reasonable cost with a reasonable profit to ourselves and our company.

My question has been answered and I thank you for that. Lets hope that answer makes us all more productive, and profitable for our company and our families. Why else should we work if not for that?
a320, I don't think it's a crew planning issue, it's a business model issue.

A hub-and-spoke operation involves ground time that point-to-point models don't have.

Point-to-point flights have 25-30 minutes ground time.

I think this is the main reason AA is 'de-hubbing' as an effort to reduce the amount of down time--waiting at the gate or queing for taxi.
Barky, a trip for pay (TFP) is based on mileage. Anything less than 243 NM is one trip. Add 1/10 for every 40NM beyond that. The formula was contractually agreed to. With the acquisition of 700s, pilots get the same TFP for less flight time (.78 v .74 cruise Mach). SWA is scheduling longer flights, which pay better per hour. The 1.13 conversion is based on an agreed to formula used in determining the effects of rigs.

Pilots on reserve are guaranteed a minimum of 6 TFP x # of days on reserve. 15 days reserve = 90 TFP min. If a pilot flies more than 90 TFP during his reserve days, he is paid the TFP actually flown. Reserve utilization is relatively high--one flies 70-80% of the time depending on seat and base.

Deadheads are counted the same as if one was 'working' the flight.

Pilot manning is 11.4 pilots/aircraft in order to achieve lines that average 13-13.5 workdays month. Lines of flying pay 87-100 trips/month. Pilots may fly up to FAR limits 30/7, 100/month, 1000/yr. The average line-holder flies about 900 hours/year.

A SWA pilot's W-2 is similar to the big carrier narrow-body pilots. That does not include stock options, the value of which varies widely due to the inequitable method used to allocate them in 94. The current ICO has some options that partially address this inequity as well as additional options that are more equitably distributed and begin vesting in Sep 04.

I think you may be missing one of the most important points. SWA only has 737s. Up until now, all pilots were qualified in 200/300/500/700 variants. (With 25 200s left, the FAA is now requiring 200 currency, so only HOU/DAL pilots will be 200 qual).

What this means is that the SWA model of one type is inherently more prodictive than other models. We need fewer pilots on reserve. We have fewer pilots in the training programs. E.g., when a NWA 747 Captain retires, it generates 9 training events as pilots' bids to change seats/aircraft ripple through the system.

When a SWA pilot retires it generates one upgrade and one new hire. Further, SWA training is much shorter, as all pilots are type-rated. SWA Capatin upgrade is three weeks-- one week of ground school, one week of sims, and a three day trip with a check airman, the last day including an FAA certification.

The efficiency of the one aircraft model can't be understated. It outweighs additional efficiencies gained by workplace culture--rampers catch and push airplanes, FAs clean between flights, no heavy maintenance etc. Taken in sum these efficiencies provide a competetive advantage over any carrier who does not have a similar business model.

It's why most at SWA view JB as our long-term competition. Traditional hub-and-spoke carriers simply cannot compete with SWA/JB. SWA/JB can set a price where they are profitable, but the others lose money, no matter how motivated or skilled their workforces may be.

SWA pilots don't make as much during their career--no A fund, no heavy aircraft--as other carriers'. But we don't have to endure furloughs or worry about going out of business. There's value in that.
"Pilot manning is 11.4 pilots/aircraft in order to achieve lines that average 13-13.5 workdays month."

U pilot planning is 12 pilots/total aircraft,
13 pilots/active aircraft averaging 15-19 workdays per month.
Efficiency is a function of crew planning not our working agreement. We can be scheduled to fly 8 hrs/day but planning does not schedule that way. At the old Piedmont we averaged 13 days/month and flew 85 hrs of hard time, then came that cool northern efficiency...

You are absolutely correct about one fleet type. The training float for U is 300 pilots,I am told. As a brief explanation to others, training float would be defined as the number of pilots that are not flying the line due to upgrade/downgrade/transition/equipment change. It is exascerbated by the huge downsizing, just like it ballooned when we were growing with new airbuses. Not only does it steal line pilots, but it requires more pilots to be used as instructors. I would guess LUV has a float of about 50 pilots due to the one fleet type and the consistency of its hiring and training. Can you give us an accurate number, Rhino?

It is clear to me that the new LUV contract is very, very, good and that LUV pilots will be making significantly more than the U pilot, particularly 2004 and after.


The working agreement most certainly does have an impact on productivity and efficiency. It is not the only thing, but it is a factor. To prove it to you, let me ask you just two questions:
If the USairways pilot was free to fly as much as he wanted and there was ample flying time for all to have, and if it was scheduled efficiently, how much extra would the U pilot fly?
If the Usairways pilot was free to sell back all the vacation he could, how much would he sell?
The answer to those questions is that he would be as productive as he could be(within the FAR's) just like the LUV pilot.

The manning formulas are a function of the flexibility built into our contract(read bid sheet), among other things. Lets look at the manning.
LUV: 4124 pilots, 367 airplanes for a ratio of 11.2 pilots per aircraft
U: 4241 pilots , 280 airplanes for a ration of 15.1 pilots per aircraft.

Lets be sure we are comparing apples with apples, So, the U figure includes: 250 longterm disability, 300 supervisor pilots, and 300 training float. Therefore if you subtract those out, yes, you get the ratio of 12.1 pilots per airplane that A320av8r refers to.

The question to Rhino is " Does the pilot figure of 4124 advertised in LUV press releases, include all pilots on the senority list, like training float, LT disablilty and supervisorS?"
I'm guessing it does.
The fact is, U still cannot compete against SWA or JB, even after its current restructuring. I do not remember what the cost per seat mile is predicted to be after all-is-said-and-done, but I do remember it is still well above SWA's. The hub and spoke carriers will die a slow and painful death as the SWAs and Jet Blues continue enter the hub and spoke carriers' markets and pick away their market shares. It is simply another evolution in the airline industry. The market demands cheap seats and that is what it will get!
Yes, the seniority list includes management, mil & med leaves.

As far as training 'floats' at SWA. 50 is a good guess on average. It was twice that in 2001. It's virtually zero now through the end of the year, since our manning is adequate for 380 aircraft, which will be the net at year end.

Also, until last year, SWA only had one pilot assigned full time to the training center. Now it's three as SWA has decided to invest more resources in order to improve the quality of training.

Check airman only give a small % of sims. Captains get a PC once a year, FO's every other year. PTs are given by ground instructors annually to pilots and on the even years to FOs. Often the check airman are DAL-based and do the sims on theri days off.

This is will change sometime next year when we go to a 9-month training cycle.