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Three questions with Duane Woerth

President of the Air Line Pilots Association International, a resident of Indian Rocks Beach

By STEVE HUETTEL, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2003

Q. US Airways employees agreed to pay and benefit reductions, and other financially ailing carriers are asking workers for concessions. Is airline labor on the run?

I've seen this movie before. About once a decade, there's a severe enough recession that we see concessionary contracts. And one time a decade, the economy is so good that we're able to get significant pay raises and improved benefits.

This isn't the worst recession ever. But it's like the perfect storm. As soon as we come up from being underwater, we get hit by another tsunami: the economy, 9/11, war with Iraq and now SARS. But airlines were making record profits, and we got some good contracts in 2000 and 2001. So it goes back and forth.

* * *

Q. Is part of the airlines' problem that so many cling to a fare system that charges business travelers so much more than leisure travelers?

The model is broken, at least as far as network carriers. In the early '90s, bigger was better. Frequent fliers wanted the most (flight) frequencies and the most (geographic) coverage. Network carriers thought that's how they could extract revenue premiums from the business traveler.

Maybe they don't want to pay for that anymore. Southwest has been around 31 years and flies to just 59 of (the nation's) 429 airports. It's a different animal, a different mind set today.

* * *

Q. What still needs to be done to improve aviation security?

We need a screening system that looks for the likely suspect instead of forcing all passengers to go through the same thing to find the terrorist. First, they should get people with access to secure areas -- pilots, flight attendants, airport personnel -- biometric smart cards to get them out of the (passenger screening) system. We've all been fingerprinted and had criminal background checks. They know who we are.

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