In the (usually) excellent Blogging at FL250, Sam attempts to defend the union system, arguing that the insanity that results from a system based entirely on seniority would be best fixed by just making the seniority list include the whole country. That strikes me as addressing a bad idea by simply trying the same bad idea on a grander scale. (Maybe he got that idea from the Federal Government.)
The salary for a junior regional first officer is around $30-$40 a year, working the worst hours the FAA will allow and doing the hardest flying he or she will ever see in their career. The salary for a senior captain pushing buttons on a fully automated 747 is over $200k a year.
Apparently the unions have decided that flying should be done at a level of ability that is proportional to the number of seats. I’m sure that’s a comforting thought if you’re in seat 1A of a 747, but perhaps not so much if you’re in seat 1A of a Saab 340. In truth, the smaller airplanes are the hardest to fly, and spend more of their time in the weather.
What’s funny is that this huge skew is exactly what a free labor market would probably arrive at, too, given its mercenary monetization of human life. The only difference between the unions and the free market is that the unions also make sure the pilot’s competence never comes into play at any level.
No matter the skepticism with which I regard free market capitalism, the results of alternative systems rarely fail to disappoint more.