Delta pilots pass resolution to block takeover
With their contract negotiations with Delta over, The Airline Pilots Association can now put all of its energy toward keeping the Atlanta-based airline intact.
Amid an attempt at a hostile takeover of Delta by US Airways, and with Delta still in bankruptcy, Capt. Ed Thiel, a Park City resident, and the rest of Delta’s Master Executive Council met earlier this week in Washington, D.C., to discuss the union’s official position on the takeover.
The group passed a resolution opposing the buyout, vowing to block the move by US Airways using all of their energy and faculties.
"We as pilots have done an analysis and we have decided that the takeover is the worst thing that could happen and we’re going to be very vocal in voicing that," Thiel said. "I was in a radio interview last week and I said that not long ago we were in a life-and-death battle with management and now we’re having to team up with the same people to fight this takeover. We all do whatever is best for our people."
Thiel said if the takeover were to happen there would be thousands of jobs lost for Delta employees, many of which would be pilots who call Park City home. He also said the Delta hub in Salt Lake City would likely close because US Airways currently has hubs in both Las Vegas and Phoenix.
"No one in the airline industry, outside of a few people at US Airways, thinks the Delta hub would survive in Salt Lake City," he said. "Virtually no one you talk to thinks they would keep this hub when they have one in both Phoenix and Las Vegas."
Yet, US Airways executives have continually said they would keep the hub open. In order to offer Delta an alternative to their current restructuring plan, Thiel said US Airways has offered Delta $8.5 billion to essentially take the company over. America West recently bought US Airways, but kept the name of the latter. A merger with Delta would make US Airways the largest carrier in the country, leaving Thiel and others to question whether the takeover would violate federal anti-trust laws.
Any time two airlines merge, Thiel said, there are problems trying to join the two differing systems. America West is still trying to change over to US Airways’ systems.
"Their reservation systems are not compatible, their baggage system is not compatible," he said. "They have a huge mess on their hands and now they’re trying a hostile takeover of Delta."
Thiel said the takeover would be bad for the company, setting them back by driving the airline deeper into dept. It would also create an overlap in routes and flights, which would lead to decreasing the total number of flights, raising ticket prices, selling planes and laying off employees.
"There will be massive job losses and a decrease in the number of aircraft," he said. "They keep dropping catchwords like ‘synergy’ and what that means is they’re going to sell airplanes and cut Delta employees. I just think they’re trying to get rid of a potential competitor. Exiting bankruptcy, we’re going to have a better product at lower costs and we’re going to beat them at their own game and they’re afraid of that."
Although US Airways CEO Doug Parker told Delta officials he does not plan to change the Salt Lake City hub or the headquarters in Atlanta, Thiel said the pilots don’t trust Parker because he has broken promises in the past. According to Thiel, Parker told US Airways executives their headquarters would not be moved before America West took the company over. That did not hold true.
With a hope of getting Utah senators and congressmen involved, Thiel said the union wants to get local and national support for derailing the takeover.
"We’re poised to exit bankruptcy next year by the end of 2007 and this would delay that for many, many, many months and throw a big wrench in our plans for the next four or five years," he said. "We’re really turning this airline around: cleaning and redesigning the inside of airplanes, changing the routes to where, when, how they fly, this would derail all those changes. We want people behind us."
"This would have a huge impact on Park City," he continued. "The town is built around tourism and skier days and if the merger went through you’d see all those numbers plummet. It’s all about non-stop flights to Salt Lake, and those flights would be history if the merger happened."
Overall, Thield said the takeover would hurt Parkites, Utahns, Americans and travelers in general.
"I would say that from an industry perspective, US Airways has nothing we, nor anyone else, would want," Thiel said. " They have non-viable hubs, a poor route structure, virtually no international operation, a complicated fleet, and massive labor problems to go along with a current unsettled takeover between US Airways and America West. The whole thing is a horrible idea."
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