When Santa Barbara decided to replace our old airport with a new, larger airport many of us were skeptical and saddened by the loss of our charming airport. What changes would it mean for us travelers? Would there be more airlines coming to serve us? Would the experience of flying in and out of Santa Barbara maintain any charm? Would we still see the same familiar gate agents and ground crew? Well nearly one year later we now have our answer. No.
United Airlines (UA) made the decision to hire American Airlines (AA) American Eagle to service the gates and ground, crew that SkyWest currently employs. All of the current SkyWest crew will be replaced by September 12, 2012. This will result, say UA and AA, in a savings of 40%. The plan is to hire some 45 new employees to entry-level positions. This will impact travelers negatively for months to come as they become proficient at their new jobs.
Currently, those of us who fly weekly, in our case arriving blurry eyed at 4:45 a.m., are met by people who know us by name. They know our families and greet us with smiles and warmth. I usually fly United, so if it weren’t for Ed, Dan, Jill and “the twins” (Anita and Ida), my day would not start off nearly as well. We adore these SkyWest employees so this news is devastating to all of us.
And the pink slips extend to the ground crew as well (Shawn, Brian and TJ, to name a few). Despite delays or cancellation, they keep it as light as they can. Their years in service have given them the talent to deal with the daily delays to San Francisco and other customer service issues. But very soon that expertise and charm will be gone.
Their options are to try to get a transfer to another SkyWest or UA airport job. Or they can apply for an entry-level position with AA and forfeit their years of seniority to start anew. How can they support their families on a salary of 40% less? Many have made the decision to move on, uprooting their children from their schools and friends.
I realize that there is nothing that can be done at this point but I just wanted to say that I am not the only one who will miss these people. They have enriched our travel experience, which is something to say considering how the overall air-travel experience has become a shadow of its former self.
Thank you all, gate agents and ground crew, for your help and smiles over the years. Thank you for learning to cope with the merger between United and Continental and the DOS-based, antiquated computer system. We all wish you well and will miss you very much.