(SNN) WASHINGTON DC–In an unprecedented development, airline AIR AIR–the most trusted name in air–is allowing pilots and crew to collect gratuities from passengers. This decision follows quickly in the wake of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s testimony to Congress describing his loss of pension and cuts in pay after airlines were given a free hand by the Bush administration after 9/11 to do anything short of cutting executive salaries and bonuses to avoid bankruptcy. Sullenberger is the pilot who had to ditch his Airbus 320 into the Hudson River after Canadian terrorists sent a flock of suicide geese into the Airbus flight path, fouling the engines and dying while honking “O Canada!” No other lives were lost as Sullenberger glided the aircraft into the Hudson River and each passenger was given the bird by the airline for Christmas dinner.
Last February, Sullenberger’s copilot Jeff Skiles also testified that low pay and torturous working hours were forcing airlines to hire pilots before they had finished flying school. More recently, Michael Moore’s new film Capitalism: A Love Story contains interviews with pilots who were forced to enroll for food stamps and take extra jobs to make ends meet. Congressmen who weren’t twittering during Sullenberger’s testimony harrumphed a good deal and threatened to think about doing something. “Who wants to fly with a pilot who has to work 24 hours a day just to make ends meet? I wouldn’t want to fly with any pilot who hasn’t gotten at least 4 hours of sleep,” an anonymous Congressional source told us.
Air Air touted its new policy as directed towards passenger safety concerns. “Passengers may now take responsibility for their own welfare,” Air Air’s representative, who asked to remain anonymous, told us. “The more they give pilots and other crew, the less staff will need to take on extra jobs. We see this as empowering passengers by making them a part of the flight team through their contributions. Naturally, first class and business class travelers will be exempt from the need to “tip”. We suggest 15% plus two dollars a bag. Gratuities may also be left at the airport to ensure air traffic controllers take notice of your flight. These gratuities should be paid in small bills rather than credit cards to avoid a paper trail.”
Sullenberger’s book, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, co-authored by Jeffrey Zaslow, is available in bookstores this month.