Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pilots' Pay Gap Widens as Other Airlines Give Raises, Issue Looms for Twa

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pilots' Pay Gap Widens as Other Airlines Give Raises, Issue Looms for Twa

Article excerpt

Each weekday at 2 p.m., a pair of McDonnell Douglas DC-9s pull away from their respective gates at Lambert Field, bound for Minneapolis.

One of the jets bears the red-and-white livery of Trans World Airlines Inc. The other is painted in the red and gray of Northwest Airlines Inc.

But the differences between TWA Flight 210 and Northwest Flight 596 go beyond paint schemes. They extend to the salaries of the pilots responsible for getting the passengers to the Twin Cities safely. TWA's pilots, in general, fly the same equipment and routes as their rivals, for far less money. They hope to narrow the gap this summer when they negotiate a new labor agreement. "Certainly we are a long way from what anybody would call an `industry standard' contract," said Don Jacobs, head of the TWA branch of the Air Line Pilots Association. "But that . . . is what we will be aiming toward." Pilots at other airlines want to push the standard even higher, demanding that management share some of the wealth generated by efforts to cut costs and improve efficiency. Unions at Northwest, American Airlines and Continental Airlines all are negotiating new deals that call for generous raises. TWA's pilots, who have flown through two bankruptcies in five years, ju st want to boost their incomes without undermining the airline. A TWA DC-9 captain with 10 years of service makes $79,824 annually, according to Aviation Information Resources (AIR) Inc. of Atlanta. That figure is almost 40 percent below the pay of a Northwest DC-9 captain with equal experience. The TWA DC-9 captain fares even worse in comparison to peers at Delta, Southwest and US Airways, according to AIR's new salary survey, released last week. Younger pilots at TWA also suffer from the disparity. A DC-9 first officer with five years of experience makes $46,164 annually, or 26 percent less than someone in the same position at Northwest. Pilots at TWA and Northwest are owners as well as employees, the result of stock-for-concessions deals that got their airlines through the dark days of the early 1990s. So are pilots at United Airlines, who approved a new contract Thursday that gives them a 5 percent raise this July, a 5 percent raise next July and restores them to pre-concession levels by the turn of the century. Wages and benefits are among an airline's biggest costs. For the typical airline, labor accounts for 37 cents of every dollar spent. Pilots at Continental Airlines, which has pulled off the industry's most dramatic turnaround, served notice early this month that they want a pay increase of 38 percent. Management has not only acknowledged that the pilots deserve a raise, but has promised them one. Continental hopes to have an agreement on wages and other issues in pla ce by July 1, when its current agreement becomes amendable. …

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