Flights are usually associated with two situations: either the individuals that are being flown from one spot to another, or the pilot. However, this purchased aviation paper from Ultius will show that there is an entire mechanical system behind the pilot that has been so idealized in American stories, or the passenger who wants to go home for the holidays.
The sheer price of airline tickets is not just because of the speed and convenience that flight has provided travels of long distance, it also has to do with the complex bureaucratic system behind it. There is much more than just flight attendants and a pilot, and the people who produce the airplanes themselves. The increasingly complexity of the ‘behind the scenes’ of flight is something that is little known to most.
By examining the legal and technical aspects of flight, a more accurate picture can be drawn. Through detailing the airline’s basic functioning operations, its’ organization techniques, governmental authority in regard to domestic flights, certification requirements, the usage of owned versus leased aircraft, all accidents that have occurred with
Delta airlines in the last eighteen years, the role that a labor union plays for pilots and maintenance personnel, and laws that account for the protection of employees and the quality of life that they maintain during their working hours.
Legal and technical information about Delta Airlines
When it comes to keeping an airline running and serving its employees in the best way possible, it takes multiple employees to do so. Maintenance crews, flight attendants, security guards … the list goes on and on. When it comes to Delta Airlines, they have employed 80,000 people in the process of keeping their airline going. Compared to other airlines, this is a number that is situated nicely in the middle of the road. This reflects their route structure, which reflects the main takeoff and landing points.
Most of their routes are structured around coastal cities. This is especially reflected when it comes to overseas destinations, such as China or Europe. Their route structure also revolves around the major cities in the United States and the population. For instance, the area around Boston, or the Florida coastlines, are both dotted with route destinations for Delta airlines. As far as the aircraft fleet itself, it is composed of 857 planes, with 661 of them being owned by the company and 196 being leased. (Delta Airlines, 2018, p. 3). The average age of these aircraft is seventeen years old. Delta takes a bit of a different angle that its’ competitors and is known for buying used planes.
Organization of the airline
Usually, airlines are categorized by whether they are operated by the government, or are a private corporation. In the case of Delta Airlines, they have an extensive amount of information available regarding the details of their private organization, history, and hierarchy of authority that has developed their airline over the past one hundred years.
“At Delta, sustainability is defined as ‘meeting the company’s financial goals of growth and profitability over time, through business practices that minimize the environmental impacts of Delta operations and promote the health, welfare, and productivity of the individuals and communities that we employ and serve. To meet this definition, Delta does more than simply satisfy its legal obligations. Delta’s stakeholders—investors, customers, SkyTeam partners, employees, non-governmental organizations, governments, and communities—have come to expect Delta to produce sustainable and responsible positive financial results, invest in healthy communities, maintain a robust workforce and protect natural environments. Collectively, these expectations drive Delta’s approach to sustainability and social responsibility” (Delta Airlines, n.d., p. 1)
This type of approach indicates the private corporation structure that Delta has arranged itself under. By promoting free market competition between airlines, it allows a war of quality and pricing that allows consumers to still maintain habits of affordable travel. By instituting natural competition, and the financial limits of customers when they attempt to purchase tickets for their flights, Delta’s existence as a private corporation has served it well as it strives to continue to evolve in the face of an everchanging industry.
Certification requirements for Delta Airlines
Certification requirements are always a bit tricky to navigate, and this is the case with Delta Airlines. While understandable—no passenger wants his life, and the lives of dozens or even hundreds of other passengers, in the hands of someone whose skills and capabilities are questionable—it does make it difficult to obtain a pilot’s license in the United States. Delta Airlines has an extensive list of requirements posted on their site. The first requirement details a prospective pilot’s age. Their youngest pilots can be twenty-three years of age. This makes sense, considering the second requirement, which is having graduated with a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent of a four-year program.
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Since a large percentage of students graduate at twenty-two years old (if they follow the traditional script of high school graduation, then immediately go to college for four years), this requirement makes sense. The next requirement enables potential pilots to travel outside of the United States, which makes them a better asset than they would be if they were only able to pilot domestic flights. Prospective candidates must have current passports.
The next set of requirements are set by the FAA. A commercial airplane pilot license is required, as well as the possession of a first-class medical certificate. Additionally, there are exams provided by the FAA that must be passed. Even after all these requirements are met, there are strenuous rules regarding flight time. Spending the equivalent of sixty-two and a half days—or two months and a few days in the pilot’s seat, must be the pilot’s total flight time. Then, a thousand hours of turbofan time is required.
Fifty hours of fixed wing multi-engine use is also required. Next, 250 hours is required in an aircraft. Ninety percent of all this time must be in an aircraft that exists within the powered lift category. It is little wonder that there aren’t many pilots. After all these requirements have been met or even exceeded, applicants must have an RP permit, undergo a drug test, be fingerprinted, and go through background checks. (Delta Airlines, n.d., p. 5-8).
Delta’s owned and leased aircraft
Delta Airlines has a detailed graph on its’ site that shows just how many aircraft they own, how many are leased, and the average age of each, in relation to the type of aircraft that the graph specifically refers to. The end totals produce an interesting result. Their current fleet is composed of 857 planes. Out of that eight hundred and fifty-seven, six hundred and sixty-one are owned by the airline.
That leaves one hundred and ninety-six that are leased for use by the airline. The average age of their planes is seventeen years old, and their oldest plane type still in use is twenty-six years old. (Delta Airlines, 2018, p. 3). While it is somewhat concerning that today’s college graduates could be flying on a plane that was built before their parents were even married, the statistics show a definite slant toward planes being owned by Delta Airlines, versus leasing. However, Delta also does pursue a slightly different strategy than most of its’ competitors: it purchases many of its’ planes used from other airlines.
The FAA, an acronym which stands for the Federal Aviation Administration, has a large amount of power and responsibility when it comes to dealing with airlines. Delta Airlines specifically interacts with the Federal Aviation Administration in this context, much like any other United States airline:
“To help monitor and even restrict flights moving from one air route traffic control center to another, FAA established the Central Flow Control Facility at its headquarters. Opened in April 1970, the new facility collected and correlated systemwide air traffic and weather data, detected potential trouble spots, and suggested solutions. On July 29, FAA established the Air Traffic Control Systems Command center to integrate the functions of the Central Flow Facility, Airport Reservation Office, the Air Traffic Service Contingency Command Post, and Central Altitude Reservation Facility. The Airline Deregulation Act … increased FAA workload exponentially. The FAA had to certify every new airline, and there were hundreds of applications after deregulation that FAA had to review and approve or disapprove” (Federal Aviation Administration, 2018, p. 18).
This type of hefty workload for the FAA means that airlines are well regulated.
Accidents involving aircraft
The relative safety of airplane travel has often been underemphasized. While plane crashes make for good drama in Hollywood, they are remarkably safe modes of travel—especially when compared to the statistics for traveling by car, motorcycle, or boat. With these statistics in mind, it stands to reason that there have been two major incidents involving Delta Airlines in the last eighteen years. The first occurred in late August of 2006. The flight was within the United States, and was intended to go from Lexington, Kentucky to Atlanta.
Instead of an extended flight, this plane crashed only a half mile away from its’ departure point. Casualties reported were two crew members out of the three on board, and the entire flight of forty-seven passengers died. The listed cause was tentatively attributed to the fact that the runway was not suited to the plane. The plane itself was built for a shorter runway, one that is usually meant for a different type of plane, instead of the usual runway that a plane of its’ size would use.
The second incident occurred three years ago, in the first week of March in 2015. This Delta Airlines flight was meant to go from Atlanta to New York City, to the La Guardia airport. The aircraft slid off the runaway and into a ditch off to the side. No one was seriously injured, but reports indicate strong winds, fog, snow, and inclement temperatures contributed to the disaster. (Airsafe, n.d., p. 5-7).
Delta airlines and labor unions
Like many large companies, the workers of Delta Airlines have formed a union. The purpose of this union is to fight for better wages and worker rights, in a unified body that will be able to exert significant amounts of pressure on the company via leverage and legal arguments that have been quite effective for multiple unions in the past. One of the issues with unions is that sometimes customers care more about the continuation of a service that they have paid for, rather than the rights that the workers are striking for.
The fact that our country is so interconnected by flight routes and airplanes delivering people and packages across the world, means that workers going on strike would provide significant disruption in the smooth pattern that airlines have developed.
Examples of issues that workers have gone on strike for in the past eighteen years include:
“pension for current employees, clothing and tool allowances, premium pay for Sundays and holidays … dental and vision plans, promotions, discharge and discipline, discounts on company products, rest and lunch period, equity pay adjustments” (Delta Workers Unite, 2018, p. 5), and so on.
As Delta continues to demand concessions from its’ workers, the amount of strikes or threats of strikes has increased significantly in the past eighteen years. One of the benefits on the side of workers is the fact that even the serious threat of a strike carries weight. The thousands of customers that would be impacted, the vast amount of company profits that would take a hit, and the sheer loss of customer retention and cash combined would be a great motivator for conversations between striking workers and the company to begin.
However, the messy politics and details surrounding such strikes emphasizes that strikes are best avoided, for both sides. The sheer amount of news articles that can be derived from a quick Google search, detailing threatened strikes by Delta airline workers, when compared to the actual number of strikes that took place, is astounding.
Regulation of governent details
Even though Delta Airlines is a privately-owned corporation, the federal government still has a very large say in what goes on within private airlines. Striking a balance between protecting consumers and allowing airlines to cut corners to maximize problems is a delicate balance that is not often met with professionalism or common sense. Consumers expect to be protected by the federal government, and more specifically, the United States Transportation Department, but as recent news articles show, protection can only go so far.
While customers’ lives have not actually been endangered, their pocketbooks and their patience with airlines—and thus, the chance that problematic airlines will retain their services or loyalty—have been compromised, depending on which president has been in office. This article by the Washington Post, written in the last days of 2017, has detailed cynical predictions about 2018:
“About the same time, the United States Transportation Department quietly abandoned two proposed consumer rules, one that would have required airlines to disclose baggage fees at the start of a ticket purchase and one that would have made airlines report more information about their revenue from fees charged for extra services, such as early boarding, seat reservations, and carry-on luggage … [the government] signaled to the airline industry that the Transportation Department’s attitude toward consumer protection has shifted … it reduced the number of regulatory enforcement actions taken against airlines last year” (Ohlheiser, 2018, p. 4-5)
This type of government regulation has had a huge effect on Delta as it attempts to navigate its’ way through the uncertain evolution of the airline industry.
The sheer amount of information available when it comes to learning about airlines—and especially such a complex, vastly successful airline as Delta—can be somewhat overwhelming. However, the multiple facets of the industry that are in place, to ensure passenger safety, consumer satisfaction, and protection and maximum benefits for employees, require a large system to sustain itself.
By examining the details of the industry—the laws that surround regulation, the incidents that have occurred to Delta Airlines since 2000, the nuances of becoming an airline worker, and the details surrounding Delta’s delicate balance between being a private corporation and subject to government regulation, the true strength and cooperation that it takes to run an airline can be greatly appreciated. Dealing with customer complaints and needs, coping with worker needs and demands, and putting all the delicately choreographed details together to get one flight off the ground is truly astounding.
Delta Air Lines plane crashes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.airsafe.com/events/airlines/delta.htm
Delta Air Lines: Corporate Responsibility. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/about-delta/corporate-responsibility.html
Delta Airlines. (n.d.). Aircraft Fleet : Delta Air Lines. Retrieved from https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/about-delta/corporate-information/aircraft-fleet.html
Delta Airlines. (n.d.). Delta – Pilot Basics. Retrieved from https://www.deltajobs.net/pilot_qualifications.htm
Delta Airlines. (n.d.). Delta Air Lines Map. Retrieved from http://dl.fltmaps.com/en
DELTA WORKERS UNITE | OUR VOICE. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://dalramp.org/
Elliot, C. (2017). As airline rules relax under Trump, here’s a survival guide to flying in 2018. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/as-airline-rules-relax-under-trump-heres-a-survival-guide-to-flying-in-2018/2017/12/27/693795ee-e444-11e7-833f-155031558ff4_story.html?utm_term=.9f432eefa221
Federal Aviation Administration. (2017, January 4). A Brief History of the FAA. Retrieved from https://www.faa.gov/about/history/brief_history/#duties