United and USAirways, while under bankruptcy protection, managed to jettison their respective pension plans. While there is legal precedence for them to do so, these airlines have tossed their plans away on the back of their employees, many of whom have little else to draw upon in their retirement.
Now that both companies have emerged from bankruptcy protection, what we are now seeing are fully scaled down companies ready to do battle. Lest they each forget, their very livelihood was built on the back of pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, customer support personnel, and so many other unnamed and unsung employees who breathed life into their respective airlines.
UAL, in particular, is poised to let 400 executives profit from an upcoming stock IPO. Many executives will be instant millionaires once the I.P.O. is complete. On the other hand, long time employees of United are without a pension plan. There is something terribly wrong with this picture.
Fortunately, the U.S. Government Accounting Office will soon be conducting a thorough investigation of the pension plan set asides. In my opinion, the federal government owes this to airline employees who have worked their hearts out only to lose the security of retirement. The airlines, for their part, have benefitted from billions of dollars of government aid over the years, particularly copious sums gained after 9/11. Thus, there must be some accountability on the part of the airlines for the decisions they have made that are now affecting current and retired employees.