HAWTHORNE, Calif. -- Aiming for a proactive approach, FAA First Federal Credit Union has created its Crisis Co-Pilot program to help members affected by layoffs in the airline industry.
The new plan includes the Crisis Co-Pilot loan, which allows members to borrow up to $5,000 interest free for the first six months with no payments required for the first 90 days. After six months, the loan converts to FAA First's standard signature loan rate for the duration of the 48-month term, according to the credit union.
In addition, members also receive fee reversals for six months for items such as early certificate of deposit withdrawals, courtesy pay, overdraft transfers and any minimum balance related service charge. They will also receive 90-day payment extensions on any existing loans. Free resources are also available for members such as credit counseling services through a third party or a financial consultation with the investment services team.
"As a credit union [that] serves the air transportation industry, we felt compelled to have a program in place to help our members get back on track, financially, should they at some point be affected by an industry crisis" said Eileen Rivera, president/CEO of $300 million FAA First.
So far, only inquiries have come in about the new program, which made its debut on Aug. 1, said Ralph Ruiz, vice president of sales and technology at FAA First. The credit union is promoting the program to existing members, as well as potential new air transportation sponsor groups, through a special Web site page at https://www.faafirst.org/loans_credit_cards/crisis_copilot_program.htm.
"At this point, we believe our members have not been affected yet [by airline layoffs]," Ruiz said. "There have been strikes at [Los Angeles International Airport] and the threat of furloughs. Fortunately, at this point, there aren't a great percentage of members using the program."
FAA First has seen some membership growth since it expanded to a trade, industry and profession charter nearly four years ago. Ruiz said membership has grown between 2% and 4% each year.
As the airline industry continues to find its financial footing during times of high fuel costs, carriers are starting to charge fees on services that were once complimentary. Several airlines closed their doors for good earlier this year, and layoffs and mergers may continue to occur. Meanwhile, FAA First said it started putting up buffers a few years ago to withstand the industry's current strains.
"We're pretty happy that we're one of the credit unions in the black. Like many credit unions, we've experienced some bankruptcies and charge-offs, but we've done a good job of tightening our belts," Ruiz said. "We've been able to maintain positive income and our ROA is projected to better than expected by the end of the year."
According to FAA First's NCUA June 2008 financial performance report, return on assets average was 0.25% compared to 0.51% for its peers assets. Net charge-offs were 1.13% compared to 0.94% for its peers by assets.
As for the Crisis Co-Pilot program, Ruiz said he realistic about its intent on helping members.
"We're not going to be able to solve all their problems. We want to be proactive as opposed to waiting until a crisis occurs."