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"McCain Blasts Pilots for Adding to Air Delays"



Thursday, September 14, 2000

McCain Blasts Pilots for Adding to Air Delays


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain
blasted airline pilots on Thursday for what he called their greed and role
in exacerbating gridlock in U.S. skies.

McCain, a Navy pilot shot down over Vietnam, accused pilots at UAL Corp.'s
(UAL.N) United Airlines of carrying out ``work stoppages to satisfy their
personal greed'' and noted a sick-out by pilots at AMR. Corp.'s (AMR.N)
American Airlines last year.

He said many parties, including the Federal Aviation Administration and
Congress, needed to shoulder the blame for aviation congestion. But he
singled out airline pilots for his toughest criticism, going so far as to
question their patriotism.

``This year, more than ever, airline employees have caused enormous
delays,'' said McCain, opening a hearing on air travel delays.

``And you know what saddens me the most? A large number of these pilots are
former military whose code is supposed to be 'duty, honor, country,''' said
McCain, who was held prisoner in Vietnam for 5-1/2 years.

``Now they take action without a thought for the Americans that rely on them
to ferry their families across the country for a family vacation, attend a
wedding or be at the side of a sick relative.''

Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President Duane Woerth quickly voiced
outrage at McCain's comments. ``We don't take a patriotic backseat to
anybody,'' Worth told Reuters at the hearing.

During difficult contract talks this summer, United pilots often refused
overtime, causing the airline to cancel thousands of flights and leaving
passengers scrambling to make alternative arrangements.

The problems at United, the world's largest airline, combined with severe
thunderstorms in major U.S. flight lanes led to record delays this summer,
final numbers are expected to show.

Fewer flights have been canceled since a tentative contract deal was reached
late last month. ALPA has denied there was any orchestrated pilot action.

McCain also contrasted pilots' salaries with those of other Americans,
comparing the 1998 per capita income of $20,120 with the $342,000 per year
that top pilots at United would make by 2004 under the tentative contract.

The plain-speaking McCain said Congress had probably contributed to delays
by passing pork barrel legislation that gave money to smaller airports in
lawmakers' districts at the expense of the largest airports that carry the
most passengers.

He said the FAA's air traffic control modernization program had failed to
keep up with the sharp rise in passengers, with 635 million people flying
last year compared with 278 million in 1978, when the airline system was
deregulated.

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