Thursday, October 14, 2021

Alex Berenson today on Pilots not showing up for work

 Get ready for turbulence ahead.

Yesterday American Airlines had almost 300 of its flights canceled, almost 10 percent of its total schedule, far more than ANY other carrier in the United States (Southwest remains second), and another 673 delayed. It is no doubt purely coincidental that I have heard from multiple pilots at American this week and that its pilot forums are filled with anger at the vaccine mandate.

It is also no doubt a coincidence that Delta - which has had far fewer problems than the other big carriers - has been the only one NOT to impose a vaccine mandate.

Meanwhile, though they still insist last weekend’s meltdown had nothing - NOTHING, I TELL YOU - to do with their vaccine mandate, Southwest’s executives have dramatically changed their rhetoric about said mandate.

On a video call yesterday, the company’s CEO encouraged employees who don’t want to be vaccinated to apply for exemptions and said he didn’t want anyone to lose a job over vaccinations. Last week, the language went like this: “Failure to comply with the COVID-19 Vaccination Policy will result in termination of employment.” (Still, the mandate remains in place, unless Southwest simply decides to wave through every exemption request.) 

Nothing to see here, folks.

Let’s be real: many airline employees are furious with the mandates. Especially pilots. By nature they tend to be conservative self-starters. No one decides to fly planes for a living if he isn’t comfortable with pressure and being responsible for other people (and has an ego, too - old joke: How do you know there’s an F-16 pilot in the room? He’ll tell you.)

They - many of them, anyway - don’t want the vaccine. But unlike most people, they can do something about it. They are inside huge companies with VERY complicated work rules, and they have union protections. And they are aware of the fragility of the system, and not just at Southwest.

Airlines can swing from huge profits to huge losses in months, depending on fuel prices and the overall economy - and that was before Covid travel rules made their corporate lives even more complicated. (No less an investor than Warren Buffett once said he would again never buy them again after a bad investment on them in the 1980s; then he did again, then he sold his positions at exactly the wrong time, after Covid hit last spring.)

Which means the pilots have a lot of leverage, should they choose to use it. A small number of sickouts at a single airline can snarl operations and lead to systemwide flight cancellations that leave tens or hundreds of thousands of people stranded for days. The costs to the travelers caught in the middle of this fight are real - they’ll be stuck and miserable at airports as their vacations are ruined and they miss funerals and weddings and business trips.

The pilots I’ve heard from don’t want that - they didn’t become pilots NOT to fly. But they also recognize they are speaking for tens of millions of working Americans who are furious with the choice the Biden Administration is forcing on them: your right to make medical decisions for yourself, or your job. 

So what happens next? The answer may come down to a delicate dance between the airlines - especially Southwest and American - and their employees. If the airlines signal that anyone who wants an exemption can get one, they may keep the anger to manageable levels.

If not - or if the Biden Administration steps in to force the issue?


Anonymous said...

Kudos to all employees who have refused to be vaccinated against their will, no matter what their particular occupation.

At the other end of the 'supply chain' are we customers. Here in Australia, the various state governments are aiming for a full (i.e., two shots) vaccination rate of at least 80% of eligible people before they'll open state and international borders and let life get "back to normal." In concert, they are implementing vaccine passports. Whether or not business owners agree with this strategy, I want to say this to them:

"Are you OK with losing 20% of your business over these mandates?"

Across almost all sectors, businesses - particularly small businesses - have been doing it tough. I doubt very many can afford to lose 20% of their customer base, or whatever the final difference proves to be between fully vaccinated and unvaccinated proportions of the population.

Anonymous said...

A pilot's #1 job is risk management. The actual flying of an aircraft only takes a few hours to teach. The remainder of their training includes techniques, but is primarily focused on risk management.

The change in the airline industry to focus on risk management has made huge gains safety. In the 1990s, airline fatalities were measured in HUNDREDS per year. Between 2011 to 2018, there were *ZERO*. In 2018, there was ONE death, the Southwest Airlines incident where the engine exploded and a passenger was partially sucked out of the window, causing fatal injuries.

Think about that. More people died in their bed, taking a shower, having a BM *TODAY* than have died in airline crashes in 10 years. Medicine could learn a lot from airlines' safety and reporting programs.

So why are pilots avoiding the jab? Risk management. They may not all be doctors, but they're used to reading mounds of technical documents and using logic (not emotions) to make sound decisions.

As a pilot with a medical background, I have been reading and following what's been going on. I can tell you that in the private/charter world, vaccines and masks aren't very popular. Even the private airports haven't required masks. Many other pilots I fly with are doctors as well and have similar thoughts. One of the friendliest guys on the field works in the ICU. He's been on the front lines of this, yet he's the first one to reach out and shake your hand, mask-free of course. He's not anti-vax by any means, at the same time, he's not been jabbed. The risk:benefit ratio doesn't make sense for him. Nor does it for most people.