Although in bankruptcy, everything's fair game, and
United's retire pilots are worried they'll be plundered by
more-current and better-connected creditors.
pilots' pensions represent unsecured debts of the company; they are
not independently insured. That means those pensions, like all the
other prepetition debts of the airline that was #1 in the
world during most all of their flying days, are subject to being
'forgiven' by the Bankruptcy Court.
Retired pilots, the Court may reason, aren't as 'important'
economically, as they can't show, as most suppliers can, that they
routinely employ others. Each retired pilot is just one vote; a
creditor-company could be hundreds, or thousands. Judges look at
that, as they decide who's going to get what, in a bankruptcy
reorganization such as UAL faces.
bitter disappointment to lose such a lifelong investment, and the
pilots have formed a committee, headed by two former top dogs of
the pilots' union, Frederick C. "Rick" Dubinsky and Roger Hall. The
two presented their concerns to the judge in court, this week.
Also at stake, and even likelier to be lost, are the retired
pilots' insurance plans. The over-60 crowd anywhere is finding it
increasingly hard, and expensive, to get insurance. UAL knows this,
too, and could easily look unfavorably on such an expensive
obligation as one it would like to shuck. So far, though, there has
been, to our knowledge, no official word of such a plan, if one
Nevertheless, the pilots are a rational bunch, and know that,
without organizing, they'll have a popsicle's chance in a tree
chipper of maintaining any of what they've counted on. There are
now, according to Crain's Chicago Business, nearly 1800 of
them on the membership roster of the United Retired Pilots Benefit
Protection Assn., a nonprofit formed in December. Perhaps they'll
at least get heard.