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Association of Flight Attendants-CWA United Master Executive Council

Full TA Questions and Answers (August 4, 2016)

Date: August 4, 2016
Type: AFA Article

Page last updated: August 4, 2016

Compensation

How does a 13 year pay scale impact Flight Attendants at the top?
Having a 13 year pay scale means Flight Attendants can reach the top of the pay range in a shorter period of time. Typically unions want to shorten the pay scale to get higher wages to more workers sooner while management attempts to drag out the pay scale. In this Tentative Agreement we were able to shorten the pay scale which is an improvement. If you are at the top of the pay scale you will remain at the top of the pay scale and get the immediate increases of between $9.47 an hour and $15.14 on date of signing. Don't forget other pay factors, like the International Override, Incentive Rates, Reserve Override (if you're on Reserve) and Special Qualifications are in addition to your base rate of pay.

Why is there no signing bonus?
Historically, signing bonuses have not been valued against the overall agreement. However, in recent labor agreements throughout our industry, management has started to cost signing bonuses against the value of the agreement. In other words, increases to wages and benefits would be sacrificed. Unions have had to make a tough decision between a one-time signing bonus and provisions that would live for the duration of the Contract and beyond. Obtaining a signing bonus that would have significant value to Flight Attendants would have meant foregoing more valuable improvements that we achieved.

The cost of a $10,000 signing bonus for 25,000 Flight Attendants would be $250 million. To achieve that number on a 5-year contract, this would mean reducing our wages by $50 million a year, or the equivalent of reducing our compensation package by more than $2,000 a year for each Flight Attendant. That would also have additional impact on other areas of compensation such as 401(k)/retirement contributions, profit sharing, vacation value and all other pay factors associated with our pay rate for each year going forward. Finally, it would mean decreasing the overall value of the contract, creating a lower bar for the next negotiations.

What is the average pay increase for all Flight Attendants at Date of Signing and at the end of the five year agreement?
The average wage increase, taking into account where each Flight Attendant is on the pay scale today and assuming an 85 hour month, is over 25%. Using the same assumptions and applying them to the life of the agreement, Flight Attendants will be making on average over 47% more than today.

Do healthcare costs impact these pay increases?
Yes. But the Joint Negotiating Committee worked with our financial analysts and benefits specialists to ensure the pay increase far outweighed any increase to healthcare costs for each seniority bracket and pre-merger airline. And, we worked hard to ensure Flight Attendants would have choices and time to evaluate the best medical plan for their needs, including cost containment.

What is the total cost of the Tentative Agreement?
There is a $380 million average increase each year over 5 years, which means the Tentative Agreement is a $1.9 billion increase above the cost of the current contracts. This is the increased cost of the Tentative Agreement, over and above the current cost of our three contracts.

Does the language of 4.N.1. mean that the union will decide how I receive my Profit Sharing payment?

No. That is the choice of each Flight Attendant.

The 2006 reference is old S-UA language to preserve the features of the profit sharing plan that was negotiated at the conclusion of bankruptcy. At the time, it was necessary to make a group decision in order to qualify the profit sharing payment as a pre-tax Company contribution directed into the 401(k). The alternative was the option of a cash payment that would be post tax. Rules applicable to the 401(k) at the time required that the entire work group had to elect for the pre-tax company contribution to the 401(k) in order to qualify. AFA took a vote of the full membership and advised the company based on the outcome of that vote. But the language had to provide time for AFA to conduct the balloting of all members and that is why the language states:

"The Union will advise the Company whether in lieu of a cash distribution, Flight Attendants profit sharing distribution should be made as an additional Direct Company Contribution to the Flight Attendants' 401(k) Plan accounts."

The membership voted and the majority elected to have it placed in the 401(k). Years later, the rules changed and Flight Attendants asked the leadership to reconsider the decision. The Flight Attendants were then given the option of having all or part or their profit-sharing as a cash distribution or a contribution into their 401(k).

The 2006 language included above is in reference to the vote that was to take place back then. While it references a process that was conducted over ten years ago, we imported the whole language of the section, including this process already completed, to protect the contractual history and practice of the entire provision.

Scheduling and Hours of Service

Q: A snapshot is taken at 4pm of trips in Open Time to use for Reserve Preferencing the next day, assigned by the Preferencing program not crew scheduling. Are we able to trade for or pick up any trips that drop in after 4:01 pm or is all trading and pickups for the next day frozen until 7:30 pm?
A: Open time trading never closes. At 4 pm the company takes a snap shot of trips for the next day and uses those trips to assign to reserves through the preferencing program. Instant trading continues and any trips that drop into open time after 4 pm are available for instant trading. Instant trading does not close during the Reserve Preferencing award process, nor any time during the schedule month.

How long will open time trading shut down each day for reserve preferencing?
Open time trading will not shut down each day. Trades for the next day only close each day at 1600 and remain closed until preferencing is done at approximately 1930. Keep in mind that anything that drops into open time between 1600 and 1930 is not used in preferencing. Once preferencing is complete, trades reopen for the next day. During the preferencing window, trades for others days continue as normal. All the trips that drop after the snapshot are held, and when trading reopens, they are available for line holders to pick up/trade. ALL trades for the next day are frozen during preferencing.

The summary says "check-in time 1900-0459 limited to no more than 7 hours flight time, ground time no more than 2:30." What exactly is "ground time"?
Ground time is your duty time that's not also flight time.

A hotel provided for sit time greater than 4 hours, scheduled or actual. Is that correct? And, what is "sit time"?
"Sit time" is time between flights, either scheduled or actual. If during the course of your trip you end up having a known "sit time" of four hours or greater, the company must get you a hotel for your "sit." If scheduled, a hotel will be reserved as part of your pairing.

Can you explain why international rest was reduced?
First, we need a common position in order to negotiate with the company. There were vastly differing views on international rest provisions. Secondly, and actually a higher hurdle, the international layover rest in the TA still exceeds the rest of the industry.

It's important to remember that United cannot schedule layovers to the minimum in most cases. Remember these times are free from duty, both scheduled and actual. When the Company does schedule planning they add at least a few hours of buffer time, if not more, to ensure a level of schedule integrity when they build the pairings. In some cases management has chosen to schedule layovers an additional day to protect the trip should the incoming crew go illegal.

Also consider that flights simply do not arrive/depart at international locations to allow for scheduling at these minimum rest provisions.

Does the TA have deviating deadhead language?
Yes. When a Deadhead is in the front end of the trip and if the deadhead is to another base- you can notify scheduling that you are checking in at that other base. You are still paid for the deadhead segment.

When the first leg deadhead is to a downline station- you can request to check-in at that non-base downline check-in. You are still paid for the deadhead.

Last leg deadheads, you can notify scheduling that you won't be taking that deadhead and still be paid. A Reserve with prior approval from Crew Scheduling can do the same and then elect to be released from duty.

Additionally, you can elect to deadhead on an early flight over the same routing. Or, you can have PS5 positive space over the same routing for a period of 24 hours from the original deadhead departure time should you wish to stay in the location longer.

How will Relief Lines be built once we are integrated?

Vacation relief lines will be built with time falling out of lines because of vacation. Flight Attendants will be awarded a “shell” relief line with a line number. At some point, all the trips used to populate the relief lines will be posted. Flight Attendants will be able to preference what type of flying they want (Flight Attendants can also enter pairing numbers). The system will then run and try to award preferences in seniority order. The system (called FABS) has not yet been developed and is not scheduled to be put in place until sometime after being placed on a common crew management system. Between common crew management system and implementation of FABS, the relief lines will be awarded using a system similar to current pre-merger United, where Flight Attendants will be able to see actual relief lines and bid on them.

Please explain section 3.A.7 - regarding payment of taxes and governmental fees, what does this mean? 

This reflects the same taxes and fees that we pay today.  Flight Attendants jumpseating from U.S. locations to international locations would be responsible for the same fees that someone pass riding would be responsible to pay. 

FSL - Can the qualifications 'expire' for either those grandfathered in or those who enter the program under the new agreement? 

A grandfathered ISM/Purser who bid for an opening but could not hold it because of seniority, retains the qualification for 2 years as long as she/he fulfills the associated obligations such as FSL recurrent. If opening an the FSL base occurs within the 2 years and the grandfathered ISM/Purser does not bid for the opening, then she/he loses the qualification.

 

Reserve

How does current 83 hour guarantee for CAL Reserves compare to a 78 hour guarantee with a Reserve Override?
It's an increase for pre-merger Continental Flight Attendants. Here is the math: 5 hours of guarantee at first year pay of $26.68 per hour is $133.40. The $2.00 Reserve Override is guaranteed whether a Reserve flies the 78 hours or not. The Reserve Override of $2.00 X 78 = $156. That's a $24.60 increase. While an 83 hour guarantee is more than a 78 hour guarantee, the $2.00 Reserve Override is paid for every hour on Reserve. So, when you add the $2.00 to your rate of pay, it generates more money than 83 hours without the override.

If you compare Reserve Guarantee for a fourth year pre-merger Continental Flight Attendant working under the current contract the illustration is greater:

Current contract:

Tentative Agreement:

$27.26/hour x 83 hour guarantee= $2,262.58

$32.07 + $2.00/ hour reserve override x 78 hour guarantee = $2,657.46

That's $394.88 more per month without any other pay factors.

Also, Reserves will have 12 days off a month, which for pre-merger Continental and CMI regular Reserves is an increase of two days. That's two fewer days of availability to the company and two more days that a Reserve can have as time off, or use as an opportunity to pick up Ads from Lineholders on days off and be paid above guarantee.

For example, if a Reserve chooses to work on just 1 day off by picking up a 5 hour turn, she or he still has 11 days off and now has pay for an 83 hour month. Plus, she or would receive the $2.00 per hour Reserve override for 83 hours (83 x 2.00= $168.00), plus the block hours go toward quarterly incentive pay.

If a Reserve picks up a pairing from a Lineholder on a day off, can the trip be removed and return the Flight Attendant to reserve status?

No. If a Reserve Flight Attendant picks up a trip on days off, the Reserve would be treated as a Lineholder for that pairing. The Flight Attendant is paid over the Reserve Guarantee and works the pairing in the same manner as Lineholder. If the trip cancels, the Reserve would be subject to the reassignment language as Lineholders.

If ratified, will all Reserves be on straight reserve right away?
No. Most of the scheduling provisions will not take effect until all Flight Attendants are on a common crew management system. It is anticipated that this will take 12-18 months. Until that time, we will all continue to work under the scheduling provisions in our current Contracts, but with the higher pay rates. Keep in mind that after we are on a common crew management system, FRA, HNL, HKG, LHR and NRT will continue to operate on an A/B Rotation system. 

If a Reserve picks up a pairing from a Lineholder on a day off, can the trip be removed and return the Flight Attendant to reserve status?
No. If a Reserve Flight Attendant picks up a trip on days off, the Reserve would be treated as a Lineholder for that pairing. The Flight Attendant is paid over the Reserve Guarantee and works the pairing in the same manner as Lineholder. If the trip cancels, the Reserve would be subject to the reassignment language as Lineholders.

If a reserve picks up additional flying, how does that flying affect their Reserve Guarantee and factor into incentive pay?

Reserves will have the ability to pick up flying from Lineholders on her/his days off. Any flying that is picked up on days off is paid above what the Reserve flies on their days on.  In the instance where a Reserve does not fly over the 78:00 guarantee, if she or he picks up a 20:00 trip from a Lineholder she/he will be paid 78:00 plus the 20:00 for a total of 98:00. If she or he is flown over the 78:00 guarantee she/he will be paid for all the hours she or he flew as a Reserve plus the 20:00. The hours flown on Reserve assignments or paid for vacation, plus any hours picked up on days off, go towards calculating the 200 hours needed in a quarter to trigger the Incentive Pay Rate. For example, if 60 hours of the 78 hour guarantee were flown or part of vacation, then those hours count toward incentive pay, plus any hours picked up on days off.

Under the TA, how many Reserve lines can the company build?

Reserve coverage, otherwise known as the percentage of Reserves assigned at any location, is dictated by the needs of the service.  Reserve percentages range between 18 and 22 percent depending on the schedule month.  Because the contract obligates management to build lines of flying and move-up lines and limits the amount of open or uncovered time for the purposes of trading, building only Reserve lines is not permitted under the Contract.
 
Crew Scheduling at our airline runs with "Lineholders" covering the scheduled flying and Reserves covering the unplanned events. In addition, Lineholders have a 71-hour minimum and Reserves have a 78-hour minimum. Building excessive Reserve lines comes at a cost – one that is controllable by management and is avoided as a means of reducing costs. Management works to schedule the number (or percentage) of Reserves statistically believed to be essential to support the efficient scheduling of the airline and to support coverage. 

Vacation

Vacation cancellation? Under what circumstance is it contemplated this may occur and how likely?

This was Continental language (vacation deferral), and it has not been used in recent memory. It is further unlikely to happen because there is now a penalty that the Company has to pay. The JNC negotiated to modify the language to include the addition of the 50% incentive for Flight Attendants whose vacation is deferred/canceled. The Company has to ask for volunteers first, who would also get the 150% value of the vacation.

Hotels

Domestic Place of Lodging language is new. Is this the same as Key in Hand?
Place Of Lodging(POL) means being physically at the hotel. While we all agree that the concept of key-in-hand (in your room) is the more desired option, some Flight Attendants have already noted that the company could start having keys handed out on the van to shorten rest at the hotel. The item that needs to be read with the 8 hours Domestic POL is the no more than 30 minutes to get your hotel room. If the hotel room is not available within 30 minutes Flight Attendant can use self help to go to another hotel and the 8 hours POL requirement would start at the time you get to the new hotel. The Purser would call the crew desk to advise of the time at the hotel if it is less than 8 hours. Your pick up would be adjusted to provide the minimum of 8 hours at the hotel.

Healthcare and Benefits

What changes regarding FMLA? Will we be subjected to the point system like other sick calls?
FMLA cannot legally be subject to the point system. The number of FMLA days has increased in this Tentative Agreement. And, the company can no longer "auto-designate" to try to burn your FMLA time. The number of FMLA days has also been increased from 72 to 78.

If I am on an Occupational sick leave will I accrue vacation and sick bank?
Yes. You will accrue full vacation if you have a minimum of 120 hours "paid activity" within a quarter (Section 12.A.2.) and accrue full sick and occupational injury bank credits if you have a minimum of 120 hours "paid activity" within a quarter (Section 13.A.1.a.).

As a premerger United Flight Attendant I use the PPO and I'm thrilled that AFA was able to keep our Flight Attendant Specific Plan. What about our deductibles and out of pocket maximums, did those stay the same and if so, can you remind everyone what they are because my healthcare provider is always amazed at how low they are compared to his other patients?
Yes. The annual deductibles will remain as they are currently in the traditional PPO: $250 for single and $500 for family. The annual out of pocket maximum also remains the same at $1500 dollars per single and $3000 per family. We have protected all of the features in the traditional PPO. This was a huge accomplishment in negotiations and a major benefit to all United Flight Attendants if the Tentative Agreement is ratified. In addition to the contractual protections of our health care plan and all of its features extended to the entire group, we also added heathcare options for all Flight Attendants.

Seniority

Is there a way for us to see a merged list for each base using the semi-annual seniority list that just came out on 7/1 and use the list to show where straight Reserve will start?
Remember that the company projections on additional hiring between ratification (if ratified) and integration is very high. So the 7/1/16 list would not provide you with an accurate accounting in bases where there is projected to be placement of new hires.

Here is the seniority report from the Seniority Merger Integration Committee that provides you with all of the information to determine where you are on the full list. http://www.afacwa.org/uaseniority

The list is provided to the company at the point of ratification. System seniority does little to approximate how the contract will apply to your experience in your domicile and of course it will depend on the flying the company assigns in your location at the point of integration as well. In other mergers we have found that once the flying is combined, after a few months most people continuing flying similar trips to pre-integration. In this case with the projection of hiring it's possible that your experience may improve. 

Also note:

  • There are 213 Flight Attendants scheduled to retire or separate from the company on August 30, 2016 as a result of the Early Out.
  • The company is projecting hiring to continue in 2016 for a total of 2200 new hires, 2100 in 2017 and 2000 in 2018. This is to cover attrition (Flight Attendants leaving the list) and the company's anticipated number of aircraft hours through 2018. That's an additional 5000 Flight Attendants not reflected on this list.

The Joint MEC met by conference call on July 12th to discuss a clear call from AFA members to post the merged seniority list, which would become effective upon ratification. The Joint MEC voted unanimously to post the list in a secure location as soon as practicable after all necessary administrative work is done to ensure the list is as up to date as possible with all of the current Flight Attendants. AFA posted the list on July 22, 2016 | http://ourcontract.org/merged-seniority/

Q:  If the Tentative Agreement passes and the merged seniority list is implemented, will the company be able to assign Flight Attendants to work aircraft assigned to a different subsidiary prior to integration? 
A:  No. Flight Attendants must all be on one crew management system (CMS) in order to be assigned to all of the aircraft in United's fleet.

The Protocol and Related Agreements Letter of Agreement (commonly referred to as the "Metal Agreement") states:

"United Flight Attendants, Continental Flight Attendants and Continental Micronesia Flight Attendants will not be interchanged between the operation of the respective airlines."

The Tentative Agreement includes a Letter of Agreement that provides for a swap of aircraft once the first three 777-300 aircraft are delivered, which is expected by March 2017. At that point the three 787's currently flying as pre-merger United metal will be swapped for the three 777-300's. This will allow for more efficient scheduling of the aircraft fleets, thus creating more flight hours for both the pre-merger United and Continental Flight Attendants.
This aircraft swap Letter of Agreement also reinforces the fact that the metal assigned to pre-merger Flight Attendant operations will continue to be scheduled according to the "Metal Agreement" in place since the beginning of the merger.

The separate subsidiary flying will end with the implementation of a common scheduling platform.

Retirement

Why are there different retirement plans for each pre-merger group?
Retirement plans accrue a benefit over the course of an entire career. In general for the whole group, changing plans mid-career would interrupt the retirement benefit. For example, starting a Defined Benefit Pension for someone who already has 20 years of service would not provide time to accrue a meaningful benefit for retirement.

Our goal in these negotiations was to equalize the benefits of the different groups, while the company sought to achieve a common plan for all newly hired Flight Attendants. We utilized retirement specialists, actuaries and our Benefits Committee to review the plans and ensure the benefits paid to Flight Attendants were equivalent – and we were successful in negotiating that in this Tentative Agreement. This required a substantial increase to the contribution to the IAMNPP for the CMI Flight Attendants and an additional 2% contribution to the United Defined Contribution Plan. Management originally wanted the additional 2% contribution to be an employee match, which would require a contribution from the Flight Attendant as well. We were successful in achieving a Direct Contribution from the company, which does not require an additional contribution from Flight Attendants in order to receive it.

Going forward, all newly hired Flight Attendants will take part in the Defined Contribution Plan (401k). In addition, we achieved a Letter of Agreement that requires the company to explore the possibility of establishing a Defined Benefit Pension for the next generation of workers.

Process

When are the JNC Information Sessions and can I attend in another location?
Yes. All AFA members are invited and encouraged to attend any one of the JNC Information Sessions explaining the Tentative Agreement. We also encourage members to plan to attend the live Webcast with the JNC on July 13th at 1100 Eastern.

The JNC Information Session information is available at OurContract.org. Locations and times are being added as they are confirmed with the hotels. Remember that these dates are just the initial sessions with the JNC. There will be other meetings scheduled in each location for Flight Attendants to get questions answered.

What happens if the Tentative Agreement doesn't ratify?
As difficult as it may be for all of us, it's important to think about what the plan is if an item is an individual deal breaker. It's important to consider whether that item is a deal breaker for the majority - in other words, is it a strike issue for the majority? Very tough for the individual items we each care about, but it is important to weigh the ability to change it.

If the tentative agreement doesn't ratify, United would continue to pocket tens of millions of dollars a month that would otherwise be in Flight Attendant paychecks. We can only control what we would do, and certainly we can't know for sure what the circumstances would be if not ratified. The state of the industry, the price of fuel, United's performance and the political climate including the presidential election will all have an impact.

Excluding the impact of these outside forces, we can share what we know has happened in other negotiations. The NMB would require us to define a limited number of issues to change from the current TA before considering scheduling any sessions. These issues would need to be common priorities of the entire work group and we would need to demonstrate our desire to reach an agreement through action such as a strike vote. Essentially, we would be stating that we are willing to strike over those issues and it would require 90% or greater to be effective.

Is there a No-Strike Clause in the Tentative Agreement?

No. There isn’t a no-strike clause in the Tentative Agreement. AFA members are free to exercise all of our rights under the Railway Labor Act, which allows for union members to vote to strike in response to a “major dispute” (substantial unilateral change to our contract such as a nullifying our scope clause) to our contract any time during the life of the agreement. In addition, the Railway Labor Act provides the right to engage in sympathy or secondary strikes in support of strikes by other work groups. While these scenarios are extremely rare and unlikely, all of our rights are preserved and protected in the Tentative Agreement. This ensures we have every tool available to enforce our contract.

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