Over the past year there have been numerous stories about outsourcing jobs in all industries, not just the airline industry. Though it has been a fairly comman practice among every airline to outsource some of their positions. Usually it's ramp services that airlines contract out. Those people who park the aircraft, load/unload freight, mail, and baggage. The ones who make sure the plane is connected to power and conditioned air while at the gate. In most outstations, it's not economical for airlines to keep a full time ground crew, when they may only operate 2 or 4 flights to that city on any given day.
There are plenty of companies that offer such services, Menzies
, being the main one worldwide. Though airlines have been known to contract with other airlines to provide ground service. Airlines also contract out actual flying. Here in Houston we contract out our express flights Express Jet
and to Colgan Air
. Express Jet use to be a wholely owned subsiderary of Continental till it was spun off approximately a year ago. They provide most of our regional feeder service at all three of our hubs. Colgan Air provides feeder service to select small markets in Texas. Markets that Continental would be profitable if they were operated by Express Jet.
The thing is though, most of the ramp crew members I've talked to in Houston think it's a huge comical joke. Those flights are contracted out to Colgan Air. The ground handling, since it technically isn't a Continental flight, is handled by Delta Ground Services. There is another contractor who cleans the aircraft, and still one more who caters the flight. The Colgan Air flights are operated as a pad operation; meaning they don't have jetways to pull up to, but a spot they park at and passgeners are bussed from the plane to the terminal. That means, why yes, another contractor to do the bussing.
And while I think outsourcing can be nice on the financial side for a company, one should really pause to think about the consequences of what may or may not happen. A few months back, we had a Colgan Air flight leave full of passengers, but the ramp crew did not load a single bag on board. Apparently most of the planes passengers were transiting through customs, and they cleared customs sooner than their bags did. The ramp crew seemed to have their collective head up their ass thinking "wow, i make 6 bucks an hour, i can buy a 40 ounce beer and a pack of smokes," instead of questioning that they had no bags to load on this flight.
The one thing though, is that with as quickly as companies are outsourcing their labor, it's give fear to the actual company employees that are left. The other day i was walking through the terminal just listening into various employees talk, and one guy pointed out, that with the way things are going, every position will be contracted out. Ramp & gate agents to Wal-Mart rejects, reservation centers to india, and the pilots and flight attendants will become independant "contractors," and the A&P mechanics will be replaced by a grease monkey from your local Pick-A-Park. That an airline, will just be a name, some uppermanagement officals and that's it. Scarey thought.
In other news, the The New York Post
ran an article
critizing Continental for stranding passengers in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. In the article they critize the airline for diverting flight 55 that was enroute from Newark, New Jersey to Paris, France due to an engine problem. The NY Post is usually considered one of the best papers for tabloid reporting and this article is no different. They interview one person who is quite irate for the stop at Gander, and the paper reports that the hundreds of other passengers that were stranded at Gander had experienced the flight from hell.
A couple clarifications. On that particular flight, Continental operates a Boeing 767-200 aircraft. The seating configuration for that particular aircraft does not even hold 200 people, so I'm wondering what flight these 'hundred of other passengers' came off. As far as it being the flight from hell, I can understand people being upset about not making it to their destination on time. The flight was delayed out of Newark for four hours due to maintenance, and then diverted due to an oil pressure light that came on during flight. I don't know about anyone else, but if i'm flying, and some warning light comes in regard so the engine, I want those pilots to get that aircraft on the ground as quickly and safely as possible. If I'm not mistaken there was a flight that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean mainly due to the pilots ignoring a low oil pressure light. Now that would have been a 'flight from hell' for me. We also just didn't strand them there. We offered to put them up in a hotel, give them compensation. It's not like the captain came across the p.a. and announced "ok folks, we're cruising over Gander Newfoundland, the flight attendants are coming through with parachutes and this is where everone gets off."
The article also doesn't interview anyone else on the flight. Only the one irate passenger. There isn't much more Continental could have done. We normally don't store spare aircraft in Gander, nor do we have an infinite amount of aircraft near any given airport we serve that could have been flown in as a replacement. I particularly got a chuckle that in the Post's report that the put "engine trouble" in quotes, as if the pilots made that up so they could make a stop in Gander to visit friends. They also have a picture of an aircraft in the story... the byline being "a boeing 767-200, just like the one pictured below" but, the picture below is of a boeing 757.
I think if anything, the aritcles shows the mindset of people who actually fly, then on how airlines actually function. The post never sent a reporter to Gander to investigate. The one passenger who they interviewed, called the Post herself to make her complaint. Though I doubt many people will realize it, and just chalk it up to big bad rich airline screws the little person again.