GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Hawaiian Airlines plans to concentrate its pilots in Honolulu and Seattle, eliminating Los Angeles and San Francisco bases.
cuts pilot bases
The move to furlough or
reassign San Francisco and
Los Angeles pilots will save
the airline $4 million annually
Bankrupt carrier Hawaiian Airlines, exploring all options to cut costs, has given its pilots 60 days' notice that it plans to close its Los Angeles and San Francisco bases in order to save what it says will be nearly $4 million annually.
The closures, which are effective Nov. 1, will affect the jobs of 40 to 45 pilots in those areas. The Seattle base, which has roughly 24 pilots, will remain in order to give the airline a West Coast presence in case of flight disruptions. Other workers, such as flight attendants and mechanics, aren't affected by the decision.
Bob Glasgow, Hawaiian's vice president of flight operations, informed pilots of the closures in a memo dated last Monday.
About 12 of the affected pilots will be furloughed, allowing them to retain seniority rights in case they are recalled.
Ron Hoopai, the former master executive council chairman for Hawaiian's Air Line Pilots Association, said in a letter earlier this month to Glasgow that the pilots' union did not agree with the decision to close the bases. Hoopai resigned his position last week midway through his two-year term. His replacement, Jim Giddings, refused yesterday to take a phone call. Hoopai could not be reached for comment.
However, Hawaiian spokesman Keoni Wagner said ALPA is taking the matter to arbitration and he expects the hearing to take place sometime next month.
"We support the arbitration," he said. "In the end, it's best for the pilots involved because they'll know then that the process has been run through completely. Otherwise, they may wonder whether the union may have pursued it as far as it could."
Wagner said most of the airline's cost savings would come from furloughed reserve pilots. Those pilots have been kept in San Francisco and Los Angeles in case they are needed due to schedule disruptions that prevent other pilots from flying because of union rules regarding rest and other issues. He also said the company will realize cost savings through reduced pilot training time.
Wagner also said it's more efficient for Hawaiian to staff reserves where it has a larger base of employees. He said it gives the company more flexibility to change flight schedules quickly if all the pilots are based in Honolulu.
The company will pick up family moving expenses for pilots who decide to relocate to Honolulu and Seattle, Wagner said. He said the company expects some of the pilots will commute to Hawaii. The airline estimates that if all the pilots decide to move and the maximum expense were incurred, it would take Hawaiian just more than a year to recoup its initial expenses.
Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and chief operating officer, earlier this month warned the pilots that this move was coming. He said the decision was made following five months of discussions with ALPA representatives.
"It has been an extremely difficult decision for all involved," Dunkerley said in a letter to Hawaiian's pilots. "Having weighed all the long-term benefits, the initial cost of the closings, and the disruption for those who are domiciled in San Francisco and Los Angeles, however, we have concluded that there is no viable alternative.
"We very much regret the tremendous impact this change will have on the lives on our pilots and families involved. Unfortunately, in order to help move our company toward a successful emergence from bankruptcy, this is clearly an unavoidable step."
Meanwhile, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Faris approved restructured lease agreements yesterday between Hawaiian and International Lease Finance Corp. on four Boeing 767s. He also approved a fourth extension with Boeing Capital, which leases Hawaiian three 767s and 13 Boeing 717s. The new extension will expire Sept. 30.
"I view these extensions as an expression of goodwill on Boeing's part," said Hawaiian trustee Joshua Gotbaum, adding that he hasn't had detailed discussions yet with the lessor.
However, Gotbaum did leave the door open that Hawaiian might consider another type of plane than the 717 for its interisland routes. Glasgow, in his letter to the pilots, alluded to the same thing, saying that "the future interisland aircraft is still unknown."
Some of Hawaiian's pilots have been discussing the possibility of the return of the McDonnell Douglas MD-80, which Hawaiian flew a decade ago. Aloha Airlines, by comparison, flies Boeing 737s for its interisland routes.
"One of the consequences of being in bankruptcy is you have to consider all sorts of things and alternative fleets," Gotbaum said. "Hawaiian has to clearly consider alternative fleets, but it doesn't necessarily require an alternative fleet."