First, I apologize for the formatting/gaps in my article post. I tried to edit them out, but they appeared anyway once I posted the article. I have never read this guy's column before, but really liked this article explaining furlough/seniority and how generally screwed up the whole airline profession is. I felt the author very accurately described the industry, better than I can, and also shares my general opinion and point of view on things. The author's history with airlines seems kind of similar to my husband's.
My husband's history is as follows: In high school he took his first flight lesson, got hooked, and then his parents basically continued to get him trained as a pilot. He went to college, but actually didn't major in aviation. He's got a BS in MIS (management information systems- which is kinda computer science mixed with business). This is kind of funny because we had always said that it was a good thing that he majored in something other than aviation, so that he'd have that to fall back on if his aviation career crapped out, but it turns out, it hasn't helped in the least to have a degree in something else. We think the reason is because MIS is the kind of degree you graduate with and immediately apply the degree in your field. He's been a pilot since graduating college (15 years), so he never went out and got a computer or business related job. With a field like computers that is ever changing, have a degree in MIS is kinda useless if you've never worked in the field and the programming you know how to do is stuff learned 15 years ago. I digress. So anyway, he graduated from college and did what I gather a lot of pilots do and became a flight instructor. From there he got hired at a small freight operation, flying a prop plane that carried bank checks and lab samples. It was dangerous work and he flew alone at night a lot. He built up his hours and then applied to several airlines, mainly regional carriers, which is where many pilots start their careers before going to major airlines. He got hired at a regional (ACA) and within a couple years made Captain. He was a Captain for 7 years, which is what he was doing when I met him. At the time I met him, he was basically making as much as he's made in his career (we didn't know that at the time!).
Now, at this point I feel like I need to explain Regionals vs. Major carriers and what I know of that dynamic. This is all information I've gathered from my husband and/or what I know of the industry and I'm just going to give the "big picture" as I know it. I'm not sure I know whether Regionals created themselves and marketed themselves to the Majors or if the Majors expressed the need for Regionals and then they were created (kind of a chicken/egg question). All I know is that at some point they were created and mainly handle the flying to and from smaller airports for the Majors. Regional pilots are paid much less than major airline pilots. Literally, starting pay is less than $20,000 a year, and this is common. The reason is (at least the way I understand it) that there are now a LOT of Regionals and they compete with each other to get the flying contracts with the various Major airlines. Well, the most attractive thing they can do is say "hey, I'll fly for you for less than the others will" to get a contract, which in turn translates to paying their pilots peanuts in order to do so.
Which brings me back to my husband's career. He was at one of the highest paid Regionals. Which spelled disaster, because it meant that no Major would want to keep them despite their professionalism and good track record, because they were too expensive. Might as well go with a low-paid cheaper Regional to save money. Which, let's face it, all airlines need to save money! So, my husband's Regional fought with their major carrier and decided to do something different. They created their own airline called Independence Air.
Then he heard about another airline starting up that was trying to do the new/modern progressive thing. It was called Skybus, and they had a lot of the ideas Independence had, only this time they would not start out huge, they would grow gradually, so he thought it could work.
He hasn't flown since.