Friday, 28 January 2011

Sympathy for the Devil

I'm feeling a little conflicted. I have spent this week doing things I wouldn't normally approve of, but I haven't really had a choice.

First of all I flew as a passenger with a certain Low-Cost carrier (lets call them AirLeary) who I vowed never to travel with. I would never have booked the flight myself, but the reason I was flying in the first place was to operate flights on behalf of the alternative (lets call these guys Green Air)- whose Cabin Crew are on strike (which I will come to) so there was no other way to get there.

The flight was a short 40 minutes, and (whilst I would never choose to fly with AirLeary) try as I might, I can find nothing to complain about. The flight departed on time, the aeroplane was new and clean, the cabin crew smartly turned out and professional, and since the seats had no pockets in the back, I had enough room for my knees.

Actually I think this is one area that they have absolutely right. No seat pockets means no space for an inflight magazine, or safety card so magazines are handed out only to people who ask for one. It keeps the magazines in much better condition, and must keep the aircraft weight down as you don't have to carry so many. The safety card is now stuck to the headrest in front of you and therefore never gets bent or crumpled. It's position means that you are almost forced to give it some attention, and while this is a little intrusive, for just 40 minutes it was tolerable. I would still not fly with them if I had an alternative, but for a short flight, they do job fine.

And so to the strike-busting. I don't know the details of the strike, it has not been well publicised in the UK as we have our own high profile flag carrier with cabin crew problems. From what I gather, though, the dispute centres around extra working extra hours, at more unsociable hours, for less money. This is not a workforce who went to their employer with unreasonable demands and threw their toys out of the pram, these are people who feel they are being treated unreasonably and unfairly, and they have my sympathy. And yet I am in effect crossing their picket line (there was no one actually picketing but you get my point).

So how do I justify this? Well, I work for a charter airline. A significant proportion of our money is made from chartering our aircraft and crew to air operators who, for whatever reason, cannot provide the service themselves. Sometimes it's due to a "Tech" (broken) aeroplane, sometimes, it's a regular arrangement for an independent travel agent, sometimes a football team playing in Europe, sometimes it's down to industrial relations.

I have a certain amount of discomfort knowing that I am playing a part in the deterioration of aircrew terms of employment which have been under constant attack for a long time now. However, the cabin crew are making their point very well. They are causing Green Air disruption and embarrassment, and imposing a financial penalty on their employer by having them pay for charter companies, which is not cheap. Despite this Green Air has a duty to it's passengers not to cancel flights willy nilly, and is making an effort to get the job done even using other people's aircraft. I hope the Green Air passengers acknowledge this and that there is a job for the Crew to return to when the dispute ends.

I wish them all luck. To the airline that needs to keep ticket prices competitive so that they manage to keep their passengers. To the Cabin Crew whose mortgages and living standards depend on fair wages and conditions. I hope you reach a reasonable and amicable conclusion, and also, since it was obvious what I had been doing at your base, thank you for not taking your frustration out on me During my flight home in uniform tonight.

- Blogged by a mercen-air-y

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