Why Airline Employees Should Be Compensated As Professionals

Thursday afternoon, US Airways flight 1549, an Airbus A320 with 150 passengers on board, took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.  Just a few minutes later, after an apparent double bird strike that disabled both of the plane’s engines, Captain Chesley Sallenberger III and his co-pilot executed a flawless emergency landing, ditching the plane in the frigid Hudson River between midtown Manhattan and New Jersey.


16crash3_190 First off, let’s give kudos to Captain Sallengerger (file photo right) and his co-pilot for bringing the plane down in one piece and avoiding the densely-populated surrounding areas.

Second, let’s recognize the superb performance of the three flight attendants, who performed their primary function – protecting the safety of the passengers – and evacuated everyone quickly and safely.

Those five crew members demonstrated why airline employees need to be fairly compensated for their work: because they are entrusted with the lives of their passengers.  99.999% of the time, everything goes smoothly.  But in that 0.001% of the time when there is an incident, their training and professionalism are critical.

15crashmap_large (Consider also the case of Air France 358, which overshot the runway in Toronto in 2005 and burst into flames.  The flight attendants evacuated all 297 in less than three minutes without any life-threatening injuries, even though the entire plane was destroyed by the subsequent fire.)

As a former airline employee, son of an airline employee, husband of a former airline employee, and friend of many, many people who have worked and continue to work in the air transport industry, please consider the following two points:

plane_kostoff1 First, the rush in the U.S. airline industry to turn everything into a low-cost operation, cutting salaries, demanding much longer work hours with much less time to rest between employee shifts, may get passengers lower price tickets in the short term.  But in the long term, this “rush to the bottom” puts the lives of passengers at risk.

Second, an important note for passengers: Even if you fly weekly, take the two minutes to stop talking and reading and pay attention to the safety demonstrations at the start of the flight.  Count the number of rows to the two nearest emergency exits and reach under your seat to confirm the life vest is there.

Even if you are a seasoned traveler and don’t feel you need the review, paying attention to the demo sets an example for other flyers who may not be as familiar with the safety of the plane.  In an emergency, this information will be critical to your survival.

I’m thankful everyone survived this crash with no major injuries.


21 thoughts on “Why Airline Employees Should Be Compensated As Professionals

  1. I didn’t hear about this until dinner tonight… It is a credit to them that they were able to get everyone to safety. Hope the pilot and co-pilot get nothing be commendations (and not a peep about the cost of getting the plane out of the water)!

  2. It is a miracle that all the passengers and the crew could get away. I am so happy that this did not result in a major tragedy. Really the employees have to be saluted for their phenomenal demonstration of effeciency.

  3. i’m so relieved that there are no injuries or deaths in this accident. i certainly applaud the pilot and his crew for a job very well done!  i have a really bad fear of flying but i don’t avoid it, even though i want to.  it must have been a really scary experience but with a very good ending.  i could see all the police cars near the water as i left the city on the commuter bus today. 

  4. I think most people think flight attendants are there to serve drinks, food and fetch the blanket. I’d rather pay a bit more to make sure they are there when we need them. It’s just amazing that no one was killed!

  5. and pls co-operate with the crew when they conducting a pre-take off or pre -landing checks….pls turn off all your beloved iPods, MP3,PSP, NDS…….etc and put your expensive LV, Prada Gucci bag either under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment(if you don’t want them to get dirty, Just Leave Them At Home),  and when being asked to fasten your seat-belt and carry your babies who’re sleeping whenever the seat belt sign is on don’t give the crew your dirty look….as Chris said…u never know when is the 0.0001%
    Have  A Safe Flight!

  6. You make some great points that I totally agree with. I also think that this incident demonstrated how important experience is in this field, and likely other fields as well. The pilot was 57 years old! Many ageist employers prefer not to hire people that old anymore. Well, they’d be missing out on someone as experienced as the pilot of this flight.

  7. this has been a hot topic of discussion this morning on my favorite radio station….what a hero!  some of the passengers didn’t even know where the emergency exit was.  now hopefully nobody starts a law suit for mental anxiety etc since everyone made it out safely.

  8. It could be a loss of thousands of lives if the plane slammed into buildings in Manhattan. Thank to the pilots, crew and the rescue workers, even the engineers at Airbus Company.

  9. Additionally, as a passenger, wear clothing and shoes that provide safe coverage. One of the passengers had on 3″ stiletto-heeled shoes. Needless to say, she ended up in the water when, trying to remove her shoes, she slipped off the wing. In all my years of flying, I’ve seen some amazingly unsafe clothes and shoes on passengers.

  10. @murisopsis – @ZSA_MD – @babydot74 – @dynamiqvision – @ElusiveWords – @YNOTswim – @Dezinerdreams – @spiritedsherry – @XXKimPossibleXX – @zacksamurai – Thanks, everyone, for the comments.  The more we hear about this story, the more of a miracle it seems to be.  A high school classmate of mine, who is a pilot of a regional airline, added the comment on Facebook that the situation of underpaying and overworking is even more of a problem with the regionals, which are picking up an increasing share of the US domestic flying.
    @jandsschultz – Yes, proper clothing (or leaving those stilettos behind during evacuation) is important.
    @agmhkg – Excellent points from a professional point of view.
    @yang1815 – Realistically, the money comes from airlines charging true costs to passengers.  If overall passenger traffic contracts, so be it.  But trying to turn a profit by underpaying and overworking your employees – especially those who hold the customers’ lives in their hands – is a recipe for disaster.  There are many ways to lower costs and greater efficiencies are of course called for – but not at the expense of safety.

  11. I read this on front-page the Malaysia’s newspaper few day back.  Credits to the brave Captain, co-pilot, FAs & CCs for acted very collected and professional during the crisis.  They saved people life, it’s a miracle.

  12. @yang1815 – Salaries for pilots and flight attendants have been reduced in the US by an average of about 40% or more.  Work rules have been renegotiated several times, increasing the number of hours flown each month, reducing layover time (overnights) by a few hours or, internationally, a few days. 
    Additionally, lots of the flying has been farmed out to these regional partner airlines (think “United Express”, “American Eagle”, etc.) and these use flight attendants and pilots who make even less money and work tougher schedules.
    I’m not in the position to be able to say that they are underpayed and overworked, but looking at the direction that the airline industry has gone in the past decade, they are working much harder and being compensated much less.  How much is too much?  I don’t know, but I’m not sure I want to offer up the safety of passengers as collateral to the answer to that question.
    Anyhow, sorry for getting on the soap box about this.  There are so many people I know who work in, or have worked in, the industry.  Watching it go down the tubes, largely on the back of the employees, frustrates me.

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