A trio of United Airlines pilots spent Monday morning in the terminal at Blue Grass Airport voicing their safety concerns to passengers. It was part of the pilots union’s attempt to break a deadlock in three year old contract negotiations.
The pilots claim United relies too much on regional carriers to cover domestic flights. United uses about a half dozen regional carries, including United Express, which serves Lexington.
"I'm not going to say they're not as safe, what I am saying is United Airline pilots are some of the safest in the world,” Scott Freeman, a First Officer with United told ABC 36 News.
Freeman says United pilots receive more training than pilots with regional carriers.
A United Airlines spokesman said in a phone interview from company headquarters in Chicago that safety is always the airline’s top priority. Megan McCarthy told ABC 36 News the company “holds all partners to the highest safety standards.”
McCarthy noted that regional carriers are a benefit to the communities and passengers.
Scott Supernaw, who was flying from Lexington back to his home in Connecticut, said he uses a small airport near his home, which relies on regional carriers, because of the convenient access. He said he feels safe.
United pilots say that in the wake of 9/11 they made “major sacrifices” to help keep the airline from going under. They say United as “exploited” their sacrifices.
"The average United pilot took about a 42 percent pay cut and we actually increased our monthly flight hours, so worked harder for being paid less,” Freeman said about the contract which was signed nine years ago while the company was under bankruptcy.
The pilots and United have been in contract talks since April 2009. “Any contract has to be fair to the company and employees<” McCarthy said.
But, the pilots claim when the company turned the corner senior management didn’t share the profits. "They rewarded themselves very richly,” claimed Freeman.
Monday the contract squabble spilled over into the nation’s airports, including Blue Grass Airport. The last time United pilots went on strike was 1985.