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MAXjet Airways Failure: Lessons Learned

Last month, the airline industry witnessed the sudden collapse of MAXjet Airways, an airline which served business-class clients on routes from the U.S. to the U.K. MAXjet was one of three airlines providing high end service to sports teams, corporations, and government employees from New York to London with Silverjet and EOS Airlines being the other two.

MAXjet was listed as one of the “recommended” air carriers on this site until one of our readers, Nicole Barrett, questioned why I was still featuring them. I realized I should have pulled their information earlier in the month when it became apparent that MAXjet was not going to fly again. It is the policy of CabinManagers to remove bankrupt air carriers from the recommended list even if there is a chance of restructuring and flying again at a later date as working conditions (pay, benefits, etc.) generally slips when an airline reorganizes. In MAXjet’s case this airline appears to be gone for good, therefore I apologize for not removing their information sooner.

MAXjet’s failure provides a number of lessons when it comes to seeking employment in the airline industry, particularly as a flight attendant including:

New air carriers have a difficult time surviving.

Shiny, new aircraft are great but they do cost money to maintain, lease payments must be made and fuel costs are always a concern. One of the downfalls for MAXjet was fuel prices and increased competition. Silverjet and EOS provided some of the competition, but American Airlines’ entry into the New York to Standsted market in October 2007 likely hastened MAXjet’s demise.

Things can start out good, but watch out.

One reason why some people prefer working for a new air carrier is that the working conditions are generally much better than what the established airlines offer. New employees at some upstart air carriers start at a higher rate than new employees with an established airline, due in part to union agreements which preserve the pay structure of senior flight attendants while allowing newbies to work at a lower scale (this varies from airline to airline). Signs of an airline’s demise include: trouble meeting payroll, canceled flights, reduced passenger load, higher fuel costs, employee turnover, etc. Many times these signs aren’t always apparent, even to flight crew, who are just as surprised as their passengers when an airline suddenly quits flying.

Expect several career moves as a flight attendant.

Unless you are fortunate enough to get in with the right air carrier from the get-go, there is a good chance your flight attendant career will mean working for several airlines. Gone are the days of lifetime employment, at least with most airlines. Instead, when an airline dies you will find yourself seeking employment elsewhere, perhaps losing seniority and pay as go to a different airline. Likely, many former MAXjet flight attendants will simply leave the airline industry instead of pursuing employment elsewhere — getting burned is no fun!

After MAXjet, Now What?

MAXjet’s failure is shining the light on its two main competitors — Silverjet and EOS Airlines — as two airlines in line for trouble. Recently, Silverjet’s CEO Lawrence Hunt

had to counter reports that his airline was “doomed to fail” an observation made by an industry broker. Silverjet insists that their position is fine, with delivery of two new aircraft due before the summer. Silverjet is looking at new markets including Miami, the U.S. west coast, South Africa, and elsewhere. Yet, a rosy future is no guarantee that any airline can weather financial storms.EOS Airlines has had to defend itself as well from similar claims

but says that their January bookings are up. Unlike MAXjet, which cut fares in order to compete, Silverjet and EOS have maintained their fare structure. Perhaps MAXjet was playing with fire when they went toe to toe with American Airlines?

What You Can Do

If you are still interested in a career as a flight attendant, then jumping into the industry with your eyes wide-open is probably the best approach to take. Specifically:Read as much about your potential employer as possible. Join flight attendant forums and ask a lot of questions; try to connect with flight crew from the air carrier that interests you and ask them for their scoop. Chances are if there are problems with an air carrier, they’ll know about it and share what they know.

Keep your expectations low.

New air carriers start up, new air carriers fail. If you are imagining yourself working for the same air carrier for 5, 10 years down the road, you could be setting yourself up for a big disappointment. Consider long periods of unemployment between jobs as a strong possibility — that car or house note which you can handle while you are working could be a problem for you down the line!

Consider other airlines.

I don’t list every airline on this site simply because there are some who don’t pay that well and others whose futures are spotty. If job security is important to you, then working for an established air carrier could be the way to go. You just won’t have much of a salary to speak of, but you may be able to make some of that up by taking on some extra flights.

Buyer Beware

As with any job, it is up to you — the job candidate — to do your research. Things aren’t always what they seem when starting out, leading to disappointment later on. If you are the type of person who can go with the flow, then you’ll manage change effectively. If not, then a career with the airlines just may not be right for you.