Some friends of mine will not agree with this statement, but trust me when I say that major airline pilots have had it pretty good. While the starting wages aren’t so great, and you’ve either gotta slug it through the military or regional airline ranks at paltry pay, once you hit the big leagues and survive first year pay, you pretty much used to have it made.

I knew guys that worked 10 or 12 days a month and made over 150 grand a year. I won’t even talk about schedule manipulation, sick calls and whatever else I’ve seen done to maximize time off while still getting paid.

Unquestionably, things had gotten out of hand. The market, with the bludgeon of a few bankruptcy courts has really swung things around on the compensation and scheduling side of things…maybe even a little too far, but that’s for the market to decide, not me.

These generous wage agreements were accompanied be equally generous pension promises. And here’s where things get tricky. One could argue all day on either side of things about whether airline pilots were getting paid too much for too little work. But one thing that I can’t come to terms with is the mass terminations of pension plans that have been happening in the airline industry for all employees, not just pilots. I’m sorry, but somebody needs to have their head handed to them for allowing things to get so out of whack with poor accounting
that these plans wind up so underfunded that they can’t possibly be made whole. I’m especially sorry for pilots who are forced by the government to retire at age 60, but can’t collect full benefits from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) because they didn’t work to what the government considers to be the normal retirement age of 65.

Freezing benefits at current levels is one thing. Terminating the plan and dumping it on the taxpayers is something else entirely. Like I said, somebody needs their head handed to them on this one.