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Old 05-01-2007, 06:28 AM   #1  
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Default A conversation with John Prater

Click here: Rocky Mountain News - Denver and Colorado's reliable source for breaking news, sports and entertainment: Airlines



A conversation with John Prater, the president of the Air Line Pilots Association
Ken Papaleo © The Rocky

John Prater
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By Chris Walsh, Rocky Mountain News
April 28, 2007

As a veteran Continental Airlines pilot, John Prater has encountered his share of choppy weather over the years. Now he finds himself navigating through a different kind of turbulence.


Prater took the controls of the Air Line Pilots Association in January, voted in as president by union members looking for a leader to aggressively pursue pay and benefit increases after years of cutbacks.
It's an issue sure to create some friction - and fireworks - as the union takes a hard stance with airlines. Aside from pay and benefits, Prater also is focused on union concerns, such as pilot fatigue, staffing shortages and executive compensation.
A lot of workers are counting on him: ALPA represents 60,000 pilots at several dozen airlines in North America, including United, US Airways and Continental.

Prater spoke with Rocky Mountain News reporter Chris Walsh this week about the union's primary issues.

Following are excerpts from that conversation.

• On ALPA's top priorities:
The issue of scheduling rules is one of the primary challenges we face with airlines across our system. In the rounds of concessions following 9/11, we agreed to changes in these rules to help our employers survive an attack on the U.S. Companies have fallen in love with these changes now and don't want to address our concerns.

• On problems that have cropped up with the changes: Pilot fatigue is one of our highest priorities. Pilots are working more hours, more days a month and longer days, month in and month out. They've continued to operate under these conditions for three to five years. Our pilots are tired. This has crossed from an economic issue to a safety issue.

• On rules at the federal level meant to address those issues:
These are antiquated rules that don't address the concerns and the reality of what we now face. More pilots are approaching a fatigued state. That has to be addressed.


• On problems that arise from unexpected weather and other events:
Load factors (a measure of how full planes are) are at an all-time high, which means there's less space to accommodate passengers whose flights have been canceled. And airlines have moved more flying to smaller planes. That adds to the number of aircraft in the sky, which helps create more rolling delays. Our concern this summer is that it's going to be ugly, that we'll see more delays and problems.


• On what ALPA perceives as pilot shortages at several carriers:
Airlines have cut staffing to the bone, and now they're seeing the ramifications of that. Pilots are already flying each month right up to the maximum number of hours they can work. So what happens if there are delays and pilots hit their maximums? The flights get canceled.


• On the federal government's role in pilot fatigue:
The rules need to be reviewed. The Federal Aviation Administration knows it's a problem, yet we have not seen efforts by them to address the issue. There's also more science on fatigue out there. We believe that needs to be introduced into the regulatory process.


• On executive compensation:
Many of us lost 50, 60, 70 percent of our pensions. Many lost 25 percent to 35 percent of their wages. If management doesn't recognize our sacrifice, that's going to be a problem. They've paid themselves, and we expect that our concessions will be put back into our contract. We responded when the airlines were hurting and our contracts weren't open for negotiation. We expect them to do the same now.


• On furloughed pilots leaving the industry:
A couple years ago, 98 percent of pilots came back when they were recalled from furlough. Now many of them are saying to hell with it, it's not worth coming back. [email protected] or 303-954-2744
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Old 05-01-2007, 09:35 AM   #2  
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it sickens me to see that there was no mention of the whipsawing at the regionals.

what a joke, his own airline's regional loses 25% of it's flying and that's not one of ALPA's top priorities. I'm sure it would be a priority if continental lost 25% or it's 737, 756, and 777's to jetblue, delta or airtran.
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Old 05-01-2007, 10:26 AM   #3  
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it sickens me to see that there was no mention of the whipsawing at the regionals.

what a joke, his own airline's regional loses 25% of it's flying and that's not one of ALPA's top priorities. I'm sure it would be a priority if continental lost 25% or it's 737, 756, and 777's to jetblue, delta or airtran.
Which regional would that be?
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Old 05-01-2007, 11:13 AM   #4  
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Which regional would that be?
expressjet
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Old 05-01-2007, 11:40 AM   #5  
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I know who you were thinking of. Does CAL own expressjet?
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Old 05-01-2007, 01:43 PM   #6  
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Originally Posted by Eric Stratton View Post
it sickens me to see that there was no mention of the whipsawing at the regionals.

what a joke, his own airline's regional loses 25% of it's flying and that's not one of ALPA's top priorities. I'm sure it would be a priority if continental lost 25% or it's 737, 756, and 777's to jetblue, delta or airtran.
Since when have any of the regional airline concerns been a priority for ALPA, the people that brought you folks scope clause?
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Old 05-01-2007, 02:17 PM   #7  
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Since when have any of the regional airline concerns been a priority for ALPA, the people that brought you folks scope clause?
so with this comment are you saying that scope clauses are bad?

I was hoping that Prater would be different but I guess he doesn't care about the regionals either. sad
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Old 05-01-2007, 02:19 PM   #8  
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I know who you were thinking of. Does CAL own expressjet?
CAL sold express a few years back and has given just about everything they made off the sale away. (guaranteed profits) but that's a whole nother story
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Old 05-01-2007, 02:50 PM   #9  
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Scope at a contract carrier is meaningless. The majors will go with the cheapest regional around. Until there's a national seniority list and ALPA (or another organization) decides to become a real union it will be that way. I wouldn't hold my breath on that.
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Old 05-01-2007, 06:32 PM   #10  
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so with this comment are you saying that scope clauses are bad?

I was hoping that Prater would be different but I guess he doesn't care about the regionals either. sad
I think you are way off the mark here. I have known John for many years and he is one of the strongest regional supporters out there specifically Expressjet.

PM me and I will give you John's e-mail and his cell phone if you want to talk personally with him.
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