Airline CEOs Suggest Salary Cuts a Shared Sacrifice with Unpaid Workers, Neglect to Mention It’s Only Fraction of Their Annual Compensation

Allied Progress Analysis Finds Airline Execs Less Than Forthcoming About Level Of Sacrifice

Washington D.C. – Around the same time the airline industry began seeking $50 billion in aid from the Trump administration to stem profit losses during the coronavirus crisis, several U.S. carriers announced that their executives would be cutting back their own salaries. These announcements were an apparent effort to get in the public and government’s good graces — demonstrating their CEOs are also making significant sacrifices as many have asked their workforces to take unpaid leave, and as some already plan to cut worker hours and pay even if the U.S. Treasury approves their bailout requests.

However, these announcements conveniently leave out the crux of the story: that their salaries only make up a fraction of their annual compensation, as an Allied Progress analysis of records from the Securities and Exchange Commission show.

For instance, Delta CEO Ed Bastian has repeatedly touted his intention to cut his own salary “by 100 percent through the next six months.” However, SEC disclosures from 2018 show Bastian’s base salary of $891,667 was only about 5.9% of his total compensation — meaning a 50 percent cut in similar salary this year would amount to less than a 3 percent reduction. It was not the first time Delta has obscured reality during this crisis; Allied Progress criticized the airline’s decision last month to pay out a $257 million dividend to shareholders as it held hat in hand for taxpayer assistance.

“If the big airlines accept a taxpayer bailout, they need to be honest about whether their executives are making any real sacrifices themselves,” said Derek Martin, Director of Allied Progress. “Can these CEOs really say they’re standing in solidarity with their struggling workers that they have pushed towards unpaid leave? Certainly not the ones already scheming to slash worker hours and pay the minute the check clears from Uncle Sam.”  

Added Martin: “Bottom line: the airline CEOs can’t have it both ways. They should either come closer to matching the level sacrifice they’re asking employees to make, or stop claiming they’re going above and beyond for their workers.” 

KEY FINDINGS FROM ALLIED PROGRESS REPORT

  • Delta CEO Ed Bastian Touted Cutting His Own Salary “By 100 Percent Through The Next Six Months” — Which SEC Filings Show Would Have Been 3-Percent Of His Total Compensation In 2018

 

  • United Airlines CEO And President Said They Would Forgo Base Salaries Until At Least June 30th –  In 2018 This Was, At Most, 6-Percent Of The CEO’s Compensation And 8-Percent Of The President’s Compensation

 

  • Southwest CEO Promised An Undefined 10-Percent Pay Cut—If The Cut Only Applies To His Base Salary, He Would Still Be Making Over $7.6 Million

 

  • JetBlue CEO Announced a “Temporary Salary Cut” Of 20 Percent—Considering Hayes’ Salary Was Only About 16 Percent Of His Salary In 2018, He’d Still Be Making Over $3.4 Million A Year

 

  • Spirit Airlines CEO Announced A 30-Percent Salary Reduction—This Could Represent Less Than 27% Of His Total Compensation, According To The Most Recently Available Filings From His Predecessor.

 

  • Alaska Air CEO Brad Tilden Brought His Base Salary To Zero, Representing Only About 10.5 Percent Of His 2018 Compensation

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