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Association of Flight Attendants-CWA United Master Executive Council

Redeployment and New Domiciles

Date: May 15, 2012
Type: MEC President Letter

Ladies and Gentlemen:

One constant in the aviation industry is change and nowhere is this more evident at United Airlines since the Merger announcement with Continental Airlines in May 2010.  As we move through the phases of bringing United, Continental and Continental Micronesia Airlines together we have confronted many obstacles and opportunities together.

This afternoon, United announced that due to aircraft schedule changes and as United aircraft move into the Continental hubs, and vice versa, Inflight will no longer be able to manage this redeployment in the same manner as they have been doing for the past year.  Up until now, Inflight management has been managing this by creating longer IDs and positioning Flight Attendants through deadheading.  Inherent in the tentative plans announced today is the recognition that United is currently not ready to integrate the operations of Its subsidiaries. 

Over the next eighteen (18) months we can anticipate that United will transition to managing the redeployment of aircraft by opening a new United Flight Attendant domicile in Houston, expanding the size of the JFK Domicile by ramping up the operation of the Newark co-terminal and opening several new Continental Flight Attendant bases.

It is expected as we move through 2012 and into 2013 we should see an increasing amount of aircraft being redeployed in the Domestic operation through 2012 and beginning in March 2013 another round of aircraft redeployment in the International operation.  Accordingly, some of our current domiciles will start increasing in size, as more flying driven by the ongoing redeployment of aircraft naturally moves into these locations. 

As we move through 2012 and into 2013 SFO, IAD and JFK will increase in size as more flying naturally moves into these locations and the Company works to increase its relative size in SFO and IAD.  It is anticipated that ORD, DEN and LAX will see a modest decrease in flying.  It is also planned that IAH will open as a United Flight Attendant domicile with at least 350 Flight Attendants. 

United has not yet determined the actual startup date of the United Flight Attendant Domicile in Houston and accordingly has not sent the official ninety (90) day notice per Section 22.D.  Additionally, we have again confirmed that Inflight has no plan to close any current United Flight Attendant domicile.  It is currently anticipated that the new domiciles/bases will open after the summer in time for the fall flying schedule and will have no impact on the overall total amount of flying done by United, Continental or Continental Micronesia Airlines Flight Attendants.

We expect that some Members may have concerns about this announcement and the opening of Continental Flight Attendant bases at some of our current domicile locations.  Since the inception of the merger we have been diligent in our oversight and protecting the work of United Flight Attendants while working towards the eventual operational integration.

The following example demonstrates that on an overall system basis our overall flying has remained relatively constant over the past two years.  The same is true for the flying being done by Continental and Continental Micronesia Flight Attendants, notwithstanding an increase in population to support staffing needs associated with replacement aircraft on order prior to the Merger announcement and hiring needed to alleviate an understaffing situation at Continental Airlines.

In April of 2010, the first full month before the merger announcement, at United there were 5,207 Lineholders flying International and 4,325 Lineholders flying Domestic.  In the same schedule month this year, there are 5,763 Lineholders flying International and 3,836 Lineholders flying Domestic.  These examples are taken from the primary bid package for the schedule month of April 2010 and April 2012 and do not include Reserve, Reserve Move-up and Relief Flying.

The United Master Executive Council will continue our oversight and work to insure that this redeployment of aircraft is being accomplished in accordance with the terms and conditions of our Collective Bargaining Agreement as well as the provisions of the Protocol and Related Agreements.  There are many details still to be finalized and United has committed to comply with our Agreements as well as to begin negotiations for a Single Contract no later than the end of this summer.

The true benefit of a merger is realized through an operational integration and Flight Attendants are a key part of that process and the future success of United Airlines.  As recognized in United’s announcement, management has great incentive to work with labor to achieve operational integration.  We are prepared to protect and advance our careers every step of the way as the world’s largest airline can also become the world’s best airline.

Since the merger announcement over two years ago we have been moving through the process of merging and have taken each step together.  To date we have taken part in the first phase of a merger with critical oversight by participating in Congressional hearings and conducting numerous transitional discussions with management and concluding the successful representation election.

During the second phase we memorialized a Protocol and Related Agreement that set the stage for the second phase for continued progress in the merger and the successful conclusion of our negotiations.  We also experienced a good amount of work intended to align policies and practices for both employees and passengers.  The second phase began with employees and passengers experiencing little immediate changes as a result of the deal closing in a financial transaction in October of 2010.  Some signage changed and we began to see our new airplane livery, but both United and Continental Airlines continued to operate as they did prior to the merger announcement in May of 2010.  Each airline ran its own customer-service and marketing activities with separate workforces as work intensified to bring the companies together.  Then in September of 2011 we saw the issuance of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Single Operating Certificate, which culminated in work to align safety procedures under Continental’s Operating Certificate.  In March of this year, the passenger computer systems (website, reservations, etc) were integrated in what has now become an infamous experience for employees and passengers alike.  We also began to see a corporate strategy of moving aircraft into the markets best suited to drive additional revenues.

Today we find ourselves moving forward and confronting the third and final phase of the merger and by the end of 2013 the third and final phase of the merger will take shape and will result in the complete integration of the two airlines. Upon complete integration, our new Company expects to generate up to $900 million more a year in revenue than the two generated separately and realize up to $300 million in cost savings. The goal is a large, well-run company that generates about $30 billion in annual revenue by carrying about 144 million passengers to 370 destinations in 59 nations. This holds promise for all at the new United Airlines.

As we have outlined before, the integration phase of this merger is not going to be that simple. There are huge labor and operational components that will have to be harmonized in order for those efficiencies to be obtained. While it makes analytical sense, integration can only be accomplished by dedication and commitment to a successful outcome that recognizes the hard work of Flight Attendants and other front line workers. Integrating United and Continental airlines – bringing together the very different operating styles, workforces, fleets and corporate cultures - in a way that works for our community and the passengers we serve will be an enormous undertaking.

The combined United/Continental route network offers clear opportunities for Flight Attendants. The depth and breadth of the combined route network, together with our focus on improved pay, benefits and working conditions will put our airline in a strong position to deepen its global reach and improved prospects for everyone.

United, Continental and Continental Micronesia Flight Attendants have made this merger possible with our hard work and sacrifice.  Remember, for even management recognizes this key point, for an airline merger to be truly successful, it has to be a partnership benefiting employees, management, shareholders, and passengers. 

We anticipate a positive future ahead for the new United Airlines and our community of Flight Attendants. We know that change is difficult.  We will continue to explore the range of opportunities for our community throughout the merger - careful to preserve our rights so as to be able to take advantage of all options available to us. The immediate next steps for us is to capitalize on the final phase of the merger and negotiate not only for the goals of pay, benefits and work rule improvements defined by you but also those that are reflective of the potential associated with a world-class global airline. 

Today, despite the announcement there will still be two separate airlines for operational purposes until a number of important issues are resolved.  We will be working with Inflight management to insure this next step is being accomplished in a Contractually compliant manner and we will exercise complete diligence as it relates to our Contractual provisions related to Domicile Location, Moving Expenses, Filling of Vacancies as well as all other relevant provisions.

United management would like nothing better than for us to be distracted and lose our focus during these times.  We must keep in mind our common goal with our sisters and brothers at Continental and Continental Micronesia in Negotiating a Joint Contract that sets a new industry standard and unites us all as one workforce.  Together, not only can we do better, we will do better.

In Solidarity,

Greg Davidowitch, President
United Master Executive Council

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