Profit sharing is a controversial topic at American Airlines (AAL) for two reasons.
First, CEO Doug Parker believes strongly that profit sharing is not a reliable method for compensating employees because profits sometimes disappear for reasons that have nothing to do with employees -- such as the economy or perhaps even the Zika virus.
This may be an eminently logical argument but it has become a tough one to make at a time when airline profits are at record levels.
Secondly, Delta (DAL) , American's fierce rival, offers profit sharing, as does United (UAL) . This year, Delta will pay employees $1.5 billion in profit sharing.
Delta likes for people to know that it offers profit sharing. Profit sharing, in good years, is a sign of a healthy company where workers are rewarded for success.
Also paying profit sharing, while unionized American does not, strengthens the case that Delta employees do not need unions. While Delta pilots are unionized, most of the rest of its employees are not.
Both aspects of the profit sharing controversy came up when Parker discussed the topic on American's fourth-quarter earnings call.
Before the call, Parker wrote about American's $6.3 billion profit for 2015 in a letter to employees. "That's more than American has ever made in its history, and indeed represents the highest profits of any airline in our industry's history," he said.
During the call, during a question, Parker was told that a Delta spokesman had said that if profit sharing was included, Delta would have earned $7.4 billion and would have had the highest profit of any airline.
In his response, Parker first discussed his opposition to profit sharing. "We have made a decision to compensate our people more per month and not have them be subject to the whims of things like Zika virus and people's concerns about that," he said.
"We think people should be paid what they earn, as they earn it as opposed to waiting for the end of the year to see if indeed the airline is profitable or not," he said. "So we put more in our base wages."