In 2007, when the career seemed to be at its darkest hour, the government and ALPA stepped in and rubbed salt in the wound. Age 65 was forced upon us. Not only did the lower half of the seniority list have to digest a massive and unprecedented retrenchment in career expectations and working conditions, our union and government ensured we would do so for another five years.
Cockpits across the industry are bitterly divided over the issue. Elderly captains believe this is their way of getting back part of what was stolen from them during the looting of the industry. First Officers believe that restitution is coming entirely at their expense.
How can that be reconciled? Is it possible?
We believe it can.
We believe it is possible to turn Age 65 into something positive for everyone, but it will take character, strength, maturity, and forgiveness to do it. Here is how:
Face it. Your timing was miserable. You had a decent career; it wasn’t as nice as your predecessors, but by the career expectations of the person sitting 5 feet to your right, your career is the stuff of legend. Just as you got to your late 50s, the management abused the bankruptcy laws to steal your pension – a fate they sidestepped in their own compensation. We understand your decision. We really do.
That doesn’t mean we agree with it. You never expected to work beyond 60, so this is a windfall taken at the expense of your First Officer. You smartly saluted every captain as he stepped off the top on his 60th birthday, and you advanced one number every time that happened. Your First Officer has a 5 year period where that isn’t happening. Some are furloughed – a 100% pay cut so you can still fly.
However, this doesn’t have to be a self-serving money grab. You have the opportunity of a lifetime in your right hand. You can take a simple action to make your extra five years be something your First Officer will be grateful you have – and you will get a pay raise.
You can ground the wide body fleet during OPERATION ORANGE. All airline management fear their wide body jets sitting idle. You can make that happen You can land the biggest punch, and walk away with a $300/hour pay rate. Sure, your jet will be empty if the narrow body jets don’t move, but showing that the wide body fleet will be grounded, no matter what, will bring enormous leverage.
What do you get in return? In addition to a healthy pay raise, your First Officer will be better off than he would have been if Age 65 never occurred. He will advance faster than he thought possible. He will have greater job security. He also gets a healthy pay raise.
You will bring honor to the profession. You will be the elder statesman of the piloting corps. You will be a positive example to the succeeding generations. All you need is the character to act in the interest of all your fellow pilots. You need the courage and strength not to be cowed by management. All you have to do is beach those whales.
You can make your five years count for something that will last for 35 years, and have the respect, loyalty, and admiration of your fellow pilots. You also get a pay raise.
It’s a huge shit sandwich. We know you want something else on the menu, but the law is the law and Age 65 isn’t going away. Going through life pissed-off isn’t helping you. You need to forgive and move on.
You can make a better life for everyone. Get your Captain on board with OPERATION ORANGE. If he can help you ground the wide body fleet, you will reap benefits that no pilot has contemplated in 20 years. You will advance faster than if Age 65 never was passed. You will protect your flank from the outsourcing operations.
Get the word out. Badger your Captain on OPERATION ORANGE. If you can convince him to participate in OPERATION ORANGE, he will advanced your career faster than if he just retired. He will make up for the loss of pay several times over. He will earn your respect.
Upon the successful completion of OPERATION ORANGE, you can look over at your 60+ Captain, extend your hand and say, “It is an honor to fly with you. Thank you for putting this profession back on its feet.”
Bridging this gulf is essential to a unified pilot group across the industry. Just as in every aspect of life, common sacrifice and common achievement are the foundations of unity. OPERATION ORANGE has the ability to turn a highly divisive feature into one that will unify us all.
Character and strength on the left.
Maturity and forgiveness on the right.
Vision and unity for us all.