03 December 2005

Wikipedia on United Airlines

I've been addicted to Wikipedia - "the incredible free encyclopedia anyone can edit" - in the last few days.

Somehow, tonight I decided to look up some information on Sarah's former employer, and ended up digging up a lot of dirt.

As it turns out, the seeds of trouble that ended up in the airline's bankruptcy - and Sarah's layoff - were planted way back in 1985, back when Sarah was a toddler, and I had yet to set my foot on a United plane (or any other airline's plane for that matter). The problem back then was a massive pilot strike, which lasted 29 days, and which eventually resulted in the disastrous Employee Stock Option Plan of 1994 - one that ended up causing a lot of friction as the dot-com bubble burst, passenger revenue declined, and stocks plummeted around 2000.

The ineptitude of the management team over those twenty years is also notable. It should've budgeted for a real pay increase instead of the stock options, and it should've prepared for the possibility of dot-com crunch.

It appears that the only thing that saved United from oblivion is its outstanding network both inside and outside the US, even though its South American network is now nearly gone. And through all these turmoils, I took my first flight, came to the US, flew across the US, then left the US repeatedly, using United's network. And Sarah found work, served these flights, and tended the needs of the customers, on the very same network.

I want to have the clearest possible picture of the circumstances surrounding Sarah's flight attendant work, so that I can write the best possible novel out of it. And thanks to Wikipedia, I am getting closer to that goal.

No comments: