Shades of Eastern Airlines

The Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Sky Talk blog has a story about how Maxim Group analyst Ray Neidl sees a similarity in the behavior of American Airlines pilots and how Eastern Airlines pilots managed to drive their own company into the ground 20+ years ago.

While I agree with Neidl seeing similar behaviors that are similarly irrational, I don’t necessarily agree that the same outcome is likely.  Eastern Airlines pilots did what they did, in part, because it was very hard for airline labor not to believe that an airline such as Eastern would be allowed to go bankrupt and effectively liquidate itself.  This, despite seeing Braniff vanish just a few years before.  There was a belief, at that time, that management would cave in to labor or that Congress would intervene.  Neither happened.

Today, I think that AA pilots know a little better.  That said, things are already getting out of hand.  What pilots don’t appreciate is that their small individual actions have a massive combined effect.  The press on this issue is already exposing just how far this has gone and just how little room there is for it to go further.  Furthermore, I think we would have to see a greater indicator of irrational behavior on the part of the APA board and leadership before determining that the risk is realized and the threat of demise imminent.

I will, however, reserve my right to change my opinion based on union behaviors over the next few weeks.  If we see union leadership fail to reign in these behaviors, I’ll fully acknowledge the likelihood that the airline starts a downward spiral financially.

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