The industry during the Lost Decade

Hey guys, so the Lost Decade was a dark time in aviation, with 2 catastrophic events and thousands of pilots on the streets. Now, with the current crisis, there’s been a lot of references to this time when making the argument against concessions. My question is, what were these concessions, and what was the end result of the concessions? What was it like to be an airline pilot during the Lost Decade?


I had to Google “aviation lost decade” because I’ve honestly never heard the reference. As someone who was hired in '05 I guess I experienced half of it. Honestly I think that term is a bit overly dramatic and I believe most pilots would agree. It really comes down to where you were in the process and your seniority which is the same thing now. As a union rep I’m speaking with pilots at both ends of the spectrum. The senior guys really are unaffected, the junior guys are freaking and the guys in middle are scattered. If you just got hired or just hit 1500 hours things are going to be rough. It was the same in your “Lost Decade”. Those who just got hired around 9/11 or were junior again had a bad time. The pilots I know were furloughed for anywhere from months to around 2yrs. If however you were hired long before or after you were again relatively unaffected. When the recession hit same deal. I was downgraded as a new Capt but the guys hired only a few months before me in '04 missed both 9/11 and the kept their seats.

Bottomline is the effects can range from none to dramatic and it seems there’s always something that trips things up. What I always find interesting is it’s these events that separates those with the passion from those who do not. I often say having a passion for the job is important. The reason is exactly what you’re talking about. I know people who were furloughed and decided that was it, wasn’t meant to be and became accountants or TSA agents or whatever. Those who stuck it out (aka those with the passion) are the many of the senior pilots I work with and all are glad they did.




I have heard the term used before. To my understanding, it refers to the period from about 2003 until 2013 when the United pilots worked under a concessionary contract. During this time period, the pilots of most of the major carriers worked under pay cuts and cuts to their work rules. Also, several of the pensions were turned over to the PBGC.

I was in the airline industry for part of this time, our contract at Continental certainly had room for improvement. When Continental and United merged we were able to secure a new contract that had big improvements in our and quality of life.

The argument against concessions is that they are not really necessary in these times and will do little to actually improve the financial state of the airlines. Also, it took way to long to recover from those concessions.

I still enjoyed my job during those times, but it was certainly better after the contracts improved.


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