25 May 2008

Sarah's job security

I've read several reports regarding the financial health of the airline industry.

The conclusion seems to be that while the major airlines in the US currently have some cash reserves to weather the high fuel prices and economic downturn, these reserves will start running out later this year to early next year, and bankruptcies will once again be likely. If current fuel prices and economic downturn persist, *every* airline in the US can expect to file for bankruptcy by next year.

Sarah's airline, United, is considered one of the more vulnerable. It is already grounding most of its 737-500s and laying off about 1,000 (I don't know how many of them are flight attendants).

The business model is not sustainable, analysts say; for things to work out right, fares will have to skyrocket, but that will decrease demand for air travel. Capacity will need to be cut, at least by the equivalent of taking the largest airline, American, completely out of the picture. (I have a feeling that it could be bad enough to take both American and United out, and still have an oversupply.) The saddest part will be that air travel will once again be an exclusive domain of the rich and the business people, like the days before the jumbo jets brought down the cost of flying.

What does this mean for Sarah? She has lost her job once already, as United nearly liquidated several years ago. Seniority will keep her less vulnerable this time, but United may collapse for good this time, and that will be the end of Sarah in the aviation industry. And even if she survives, the evolution of air travel back to a luxury will mean more sexist/elitist customers, and she will have to work in a more hostile environment - one she may simply be too old/unattractive for.

I really hope it doesn't come down to this, for Sarah (and for all my frequent flier miles at United as well).

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