By Michelle Seiler-Tucker, Special for USDR
Recent airline worker strikes by Lufthansa and Air France pilots have been affecting flights all throughout Europe and even the world. Air France may be a European owned company, but its flights are also partnered with Delta and other American owned Airlines that fly in and out of the United States as well. Europe’s two largest airlines are in financial turmoil, and so they made the decision to cut wages and other expenses in an effort to trim operating costs. Unfortunately, these budget cuts led Air France pilots to go on a two-week strike, and while Air France pilots have returned to work this week, pilots from Lufthansa have begun one. Meanwhile, there is still no solution to the on-going issue; and despite costing their employers approximately $317 million, Air France must still figure out how to cut costs or face bankruptcy in less than a decade.
Average pilot pay for Air France is about 80,000 euros, and their starting pay is around 38,000 euros. There are a few instances where I read that Air France pilot salaries can top off at 200,000 euros, but I need to see those paychecks in order to believe it. Overall, I think it is a decent living, and so it is hard to justify and say that their wages should be or should not be cut. If it was my job, of course I would be against it! In addition to that, I cannot fly a plane. I want an educated and experienced aviation pilot at the wheels of my airbus, always! However, Air France and Lufthansa’s pilots have been ridiculed by the public majority as being selfish and classified as “luxury strikers.” In such a case, I say let the majority rule on this one.
Ultimately though, there is a much bigger problem at hand, and the pilot strikes are just one small factor in a much bigger issue. Over the years, the airline industry has completely transformed from what it used to be into an entirely new entity. Airlines all over the world are struggling to maintain adequate cash-flow, with an increase in profits, but this general business objective is becoming harder to do in the airline industry. Air France and Lufthansa have stated that they earn good returns on long distance flights, but struggle to afford large, short-haul series of flights. In the good old days, short distance flights would still disembark with several empty seats, and flying standby was pretty easy to do, but now both are much more rare and difficult. As a leading authority on buying and selling businesses I know there are many differentiating factors that can lead one company in the same industry as others to excel past another company of its equivalent. For example, Southwest Airlines has built its entire company around short, large-haul networked flights. No business is ever beyond irreversible repair in my eyes. I have turned around multiple numbers of companies that were losing more money than they were bringing in, as mentioned in my award winning and best-selling book, Sell Your Business For More Than It’s Worth. I know that sometimes, the best solution to a broken business system is a pair of fresh eyes and a new perception on the situation—or a highly experienced business broker who can assist you through your financial woes.
Nevertheless, we all better get ready to prepare ourselves for a new approach to cutting costs, and it’s a way I do not think many consumers will like. While Southwest has managed to make short distance travel profitable enough to sustain its business operations, there are other things in the works that I do not think many air travelers will be very excited about. Over the summer I read about a new interior seating design proposed by Boeing and Airbus that would fit 200 seats in an aircraft that currently seats 156. These seats are shaped like triangular bicycle seats and they flip up and down like plastic stadium seats. It looks absolutely miserable, and I think that if the airlines have their way with this one the next air strike will be by the passengers—not the pilots! I say these multi- billion dollar companies hire me. I’ll rework their finances and stream them more effectively, while simultaneously saving the world from having to experience the real pain in their butts from those so-called seats.