Archive for February, 2014

2/21/14

For the week ending Feb. 15, U.S. railroads reported 270,632 carloads, down 2.9 percent, and 236,625 intermodal units, down 5.7 percent compared with volumes from the same week last year, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Total combined weekly traffic fell 4.3 percent to 507,257 units and only two of 10 carload commodity groups posted increases: petroleum/petroleum products at 7.9 percent and grain at 2.5 percent. Nonmetallic minerals and products volume declined 10.6 percent.

Severe winter weather remained a negative headwind to U.S. traffic volumes and railroads’ operating metrics, including terminal dwell times and cars on line, said Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. analysts in their weekly “Rail Flash” report.

“CSX recently released a customer advisory alert noting it had experienced the worst winter weather impacts to its network in recent years, and that the railroad would further ramp up resources to mitigate network disruptions,” they said.

Through 2014’s first seven weeks, U.S. railroads handled 1,877,070 carloads, down 0.8 percent, and 1,666,024 intermodal units, up 0.1 percent on a year-over-year basis.

For the week ending Feb. 15, Canadian railroads reported 71,456 carloads, down 9.5 percent, and 55,317 intermodal units, up 2.8 percent compared with carloads from the same 2013 period. Mexican railroads’ weekly carloads dipped 1.1 percent to 15,571 units but their intermodal volume rose 4.1 percent to 11,249 units.

Through seven weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 2,472,714 carloads, down 2 percent, and 2,079,757 containers and trailers, down 0.2 percent compared with carloads from the same 2013 period.

via Rail News – U.S. rail traffic registered another drop in year’s seventh week. For Railroad Career Professionals.

2/17/14

(KMOV.com) — A Southwest Airlines employee admitted to police that he took an iPad he found at Lambert Airport home with him.

St. Louis County Police said David Baumstark was on a Southwest Airlines flight that arrived in St. Louis on December 31, 2013. Baumstark told police he had left is iPad on his Southwest Airlines flight.

Police were able to track the iPad to the home of Jeffrey Hamford, 51, in Maryland Heights. Hamford told police he had found the iPad under a podium outside a gate, rather than on the plane. He then told police he took the device home, which is against Southwest Airlines policy on lost items.

Hamford is charged with stealing the iPad, an estimated worth of over $500, and is being held in St. Louis County on a $5,000 bond.

via Airline employee charged with stealing passenger’s iPad at Lambert | KMOV.com St. Louis.

2/19/14

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Virgin America airline said on Wednesday it had won the last eight takeoff and landing slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The slots at the popular, gate-restricted airport that serves the political and business communities are among those American Airlines Group Inc was required to sell to win antitrust approval for its merger with US Airways.

The win by Virgin comes after bidding last month that awarded 54 slots at Reagan National to Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co and 40 to New York-based JetBlue Airways Corp , including 16 that JetBlue had been leasing.

Earlier Wednesday, Spirit Airlines Inc said it had lost a bid for the slots. A slot is the right to operate one takeoff or landing.

Virgin, which counts Richard Branson’s Virgin Group as a minority investor, said the new Reagan slots would not allow it to add nonstop service to San Francisco. It said it would announce flight schedule changes this month based on the slots at Reagan and LaGuardia International Airport in New York.

American’s former parent, AMR Corp, and US Airways agreed to give up slots at Reagan National and LaGuardia as well as gates at other airports under a settlement of an antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department seeking to block their combination. The merger, completed in December, formed the world’s largest airline.

Southwest won 22 of the LaGuardia slots while Virgin America won the remaining 12.

American Airlines also agreed to give up two gates at each of the following airports: Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Boston Logan Airport, Miami International Airport and Dallas Love Field.

American and US Airways announced last year that they planned to merge. The Justice Department sued to stop the deal, saying it would lead to higher fares. The sides announced a settlement on November 12 after the airlines agreed to a long list of divestitures.

The Justice Department argued that the slot and gate sales would give low-cost competitors better access to some of the country’s busiest airports. Analysts, however, said that a relatively small number of flights would be affected and any change would be incremental.

via Virgin America airline wins eight final Reagan National slots – chicagotribune.com.

2/19/14

Baggage handlers and other ground workers at Southwest Airlines plan to picket a company meeting in downtown Phoenix on Thursday to protest some of the airline’s contract proposals.

Members of the Transport Workers Union Local 555, who have been in negotiations with the airline since 2011, the past year with the assistance of a federal mediator, are upset about Southwest’s proposal to hire contract workers and to expand the number of part-time workers, among other issues.

Charles Cerf, who has worked for Southwest for 32 years, said the move to contract workers in particular would hurt Southwest’s cutomer service because the workers won’t be as vested in the company’s success as company employees. He said Southwest’s longtime recipe has been to take care of employees so they will go the extra mile to take care of customers.

“This is what’s grown this airline from 40 planes (in the early 1980s) to a fleet of 600 today,” he said. “We’ve kind of gotten away from that.”

In a statement, Southwest said, “We’ve taken care of our employees for 42 years and we will continue to do so. We are not looking to outsource current Southwest jobs. We need the ability to add flexibility by utilizing part-time and seasonal employees when extra help is needed.”

The union, which represents 10,000 Southwest ground workers including 500 in Phoenix, also said Southwest’s staffing in some cities is inadequate given the airline’s addition of Boeing 737-800s, which carry more passengers and bags than its traditional Boeing 737-700s.

“They’re not adding any extra people for the larger aircraft,” he said,

Southwest’s on-time performance has been poor for the past several months, landing the airline in last place for the fourth quarter of 2013 and 12th place for the year in a U.S. Department of Transportation ranking of 16 carriers. The airline blames the problems on a tighter flight schedule that left little margin for error. Officials said they are reversing many of the changes put in place last summer and should have the airline’s on-time performance back to historical levels in the low 80 percent range by later this year.

The union’s informal picketing will take place before a company meeting at Comerica Theatre. Gary Kelly, the airline’s chairman and chief executive officer, is scheduled to talk to employees as part of his annual series of meetings-cum-pep rallies called the “Message to the Field.” The meeting is closed to the public and the media.

Southwest said in the statement that it supports employees’ rights to express themselves and noted that informational picketing is not unusual during contract negotiations.

“We continue to actively participate in discussions, making every effort to reach agreements with our unions that are rewarding, flexible, and secure,” the statement said.

Reach the reporter at dawn.gilbertson@arizonarepublic.com.

via Southwest Airlines union to picket Phoenix meeting.

2/20/14

Members of Congress sent a letter to the MTA Wednesday, urging the agency to call another presidential emergency board to deal with an impending LIRR strike, or to follow the first board’s suggestions.

“Any disruption in LIRR severe would severely impact many of our constituents,” said the letter to MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, from 12 reps, including Peter King, Steve Israel, and Grace Meng.

The letter also said that the strike would force riders to use other forms of transportation that are “time consuming, inconvenient, and costly.”

Workers in the Sheet Metal, Air and Transportation Union voted earlier this month to strike in March if the MTA doesn’t adopt the recommendations from an emergency board of negotiators appointed by President Obama.

Among other things, the panel called for pay raises.

It did not suggest work-rule changes.

“The Unions do not want to strike, but it looks like the MTA does,” said Anthony Simon, head of the SMART union, and urged the MTA to adopt the negotiators’ recommendations.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said the findings of the presidential board “ignored the sacrifices MTA customers and taxpayers make in financing railroad operations, the critical need for capital maintenance, and the stark realities of MTA finances.”

He also said the MTA is hopeful they reach an agreement with workers.

On Friday, unions representing LIRR workers, as well as federal and local officials, will gather at the Transport Workers Union Local 100 to discuss strategies to avert the March strike.

via Congress urges MTA to try to avoid impending LIRR strike | New York Post.

2/20/14

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — About 400 projected layoffs will be avoided this year at the American Airlines maintenance base in Tulsa as the airline uses buyouts and attrition to trim its workforce, the company said Wednesday.

The airline previously projected that the Tulsa layoffs were necessary this year because its newer fleet of aircraft required less maintenance. But American announced Wednesday that it’s making other changes to avoid those layoffs.

“As we’re revitalizing our fleet and completing several aircraft modification incentives in anticipation of American’s changing operational needs, we continue to collaborate with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) to find ways to mitigate any potential labor surplus in Tulsa and at the Alliance Airport maintenance base (in the Dallas area),” American Airlines said in a statement. “These efforts to rebalance operations through work schedules and workload will ensure that the impact to our Tulsa and TAESL (Dallas) operations remains minimal.”

The company said it will bring MD-80s to Tulsa for structural inspections and use the Tulsa site to check in its new 737s. The airline says it hopes to gradually reduce numbers at the Tulsa base through attrition, retirement and voluntary buyouts.

“We all knew this was coming sooner or later,” said Jay Potter, Transport Workers Union Local 514 treasurer. “The older planes are retiring, and with the newer planes there’s less maintenance. …. We know it will pick back up eventually. And we hope that as the work picks back up, it comes back here.”

The company has about 6,000 employees at the Tulsa base, which is the primary overhaul facility of the world’s largest airline, the Tulsa World reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1c4u41e ).

The airline also said Wednesday that it will switch from a five-day work week to a seven-day work week in Tulsa, which will save jobs but require some employees to work weekends.

“We are happy that they are willing to be flexible with the schedule,” Potter said. “There are a lot of people out here that don’t like seven-day schedules but they like their jobs.”

___

via No layoffs projected in 2014 at Tulsa airline hub – Times Union.

2/20/14

The funeral for William Pena at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle brought out hundreds of mourners to mark the life of a veteran bus driver killed last Wednesday after his M14 was struck by a truck that authorities say had been stolen.

The show of support for Pena, his wife and his teenage daughter overwhelmed those who attended the bilingual funeral mass.

“It’s been very impressive and very surprising that we’ve had such an outpouring of the public coming out to honor William,” said Jimmie Colon, one of Pena’s co-workers.

“To see so many people in the church, so many people out in the streets, from the MTA and the police department and all these city workers here involved, it’s just very, very profound,” said Eddie Marrero, who sang at Pena’s funeral.

A bus driver hadn’t been killed on the job since 2008, when Edwin Thomas was stabbed to death while driving a B46 in Brooklyn.

Transit workers said that Pena’s death reminds the public of the dangers they face behind the wheel.

“I wish people were aware of it every time they get into a bus. We have everyone’s lives in their hands,” said Frank Austin of Transport Workers Union Local 100. “It’d be nice to get appreciated, not just this way, but every day of the week.”

“When you leave home in the morning, you don’t expect this to happen. You expect to come home, enjoy your family,” said Howard Davis of Transport Workers Union Local 100. “To lose a life doing your job, that’s not the way to go.”

The man accused of stealing the truck, Dominic Whilby, is facing vehicular manslaughter and drunk driving charges.

“DWI? A man loses his life? A daughter loses her father? It makes no sense,” Davis said.

John Samuelsen, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, said that Pena’s widow and 17-year-old daughter, Gabriella, will be taken care of by his union.

“I’m very proud that the union is stepping forward and has the capacity to step forward to help the Pena family, both Gabriella the daughter and Nancy the wife, in terms of college education,” Samuelsen said. “It’s a big, big concern of this union.”

Pena was laid to rest in Hillside, N.J., where he lived with his family.

via MTA Bus Driver Killed in Crash Mourned by Hundreds at Funeral – NY1.