New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Seniority worth a fight
Nov. 9, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
When US Airways offered Kim Mortensen his job back last year, the 59-year-old pilot was thrilled.
He had been laid off twice since joining the old US Airways in 1989, the last time in 2002. He spent the intervening years flying for smaller carriers and, most recently, as a financial adviser.
"I'm still hoping I'll get a chance to finish my career" at US Airways, he said.
Mortensen believes there is a way to increase his and others' chances of avoiding another layoff before retirement: Adopting a date-of-hire seniority system for the merged airline.
"It's the only functional way for us as pilots to get a handle on our career progression," he said. "If we don't do that, we will continue to be buffeted around by what both the economy and airline managers and these guys do in their back offices."
Since he was hired nearly 20 years ago, a date-of-hire policy would put him ahead of many America West pilots because that carrier, formed in 1983, started small.
Under the seniority list published last year by a federal arbitrator, he would fall far because it puts pilots on furlough at the time of the merger below active pilots from both airlines. America West didn't have anybody on furlough at the time of the merger; US Airways had about 1,700 inactive pilots.
Mortensen, an Airbus first officer based in Philadelphia, said that his not being at work at the time of the merger is irrelevant because that furlough was dictated by the events of the time. The new US Airways' recent furloughs are based on current industry conditions.
"We don't hold anything against the group that we're competing with to prevail here," Mortensen said. "It really has to do with grabbing what's right for ourselves as an industry. That's what we're fighting for."