I'm not looking to pick a fight or take sides - please do not misinterpret what I'm about to say.
Overpay a CEO and you're only overpaying for one person. Overpay a workforce - pilots, office workers, maintenance, CSA's, whoever - and you're overpaying for a lot more than one person. Has anyone looked at airline CEO wages and compared them? Honest question - people complain about CEO's making too much but compared to market median - are they? (this isn't about what you think they should make, by the way - topic for another day). When it comes to costs, you can't argue that salaries and benefits are at or near the top of the expenses of an airline. Fuel has typically been the highest closely followed by salaries. It's a natural target from a visibility standpoint.
It's easy to look at a workforce of 10,000 and say "no raises for you" or "you're pay is in line with the market". Might shave a couple million off your payroll in savings but the millions saved are wasted by bad decisions at the Executive level or higher Management levels. All well intentioned decisions but that doesn't mean they were "right" or "smart" or "well executed". That, to me, is where good-will has and is lost - "taking one for the team" (to use your phrase) only to see that **bleep** away elsewhere. Especially when executives leave and get compensated very handsomely to do so. I think there are lot of employees that sacrificed something over the years for the betterment of the company. Some do it for the financial benefit and some do it because they're good, well-intentioned people. When the times are good - bonuses, profit share, share growth, etc. all make up for it. When the times are bad -- well. Attitudes change.
Back to your initial response about pricing out of the market. It's not about hiring someone better at math, it's about changing an entire global industry. Do you really see that changing? I keep hearing about global pilots shortages so maybe the movement is already happening. I don't know. I also don't see a diminishing appetite for rock bottom pay-nothing airfares. In fact, I see the opposite. I was in line at Best Buy the other day and this guy in front of me was complaining to his buddy about how he is paying $350 to fly round trip from Vancouver to Calgary at Christmas. So hard done by, the guy was considering not even going to Calgary for Christmas ("I can't afford to visit the family for 4 days at that price"). The guy who was spending $600 on video games was complaining about paying $350 to fly round trip at the busiest time of the year. Let that sink in for a minute.