How Does AFA Inspect Hotels?
There seems to be a question we have all asked at some point in our careers. Layover hotels are an important quality of life issue for all Flight Attendants. What follows is an explanation of the process for placing Flight Attendants into AFA approved layover hotels.
First of all, contractual distinctions are made between downtown, field, and overflow locations. Section 6.B.5 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, requires, “Unless otherwise requested by the Union, on layovers of twenty (20) hours or more, the Company will provide hotels in downtown or downtown-like locations in close proximity to restaurants and shops.” A field hotel is considered to be one that is less than twenty (20) hours. Field hotels are expected to be within approximately fifteen (15) minutes of the airport. Legal rest requirements come into play with field layovers. At field or airport hotels; Section 7.J.1.b. & c. states you must have, “Nine (9) hours free from duty at any point away from home where lodging is provided within approximately fifteen (15) minutes time (or time agreed upon by the MEC Hotel Chairperson) from the airport provided prompt transportation is available, or c. Eleven (11) hours free from duty at any point away from home where lodging is provided more than approximately fifteen (15) minutes time from the airport.”
Overflow hotels are listed in Unimatic's TVLLST and TVLQCK and are to be used when scheduled layover room needs exceed predictions and/or when IROP situations exist. Most hotels on this list have been inspected and AFA approved, but were not chosen for contract layovers during hotel site inspections. If anyone has an unpleasant experience at any overflow hotel, we encourage the submission of a TVLLOG so it can be investigated.
Overflow hotels should meet the same contractual parameters as ones they use on a daily contract basis. It is important to understand United does not have actual contracts with most overflow hotels, so some amenities we are accustomed to may not be available at such hotels. This may include free phone calls, check cashing privileges, and restaurant discounts. However, Flight Attendants must never be asked for a credit card or cash deposit to check into a hotel or to have in room phone availability.
AFA works with three Purchasing Agents (Buyers) in United’s Crew Accommodations Department (WHQBQ), who procure rooms and transportation for Flight Attendants and pilots around the world. Each of the Buyers is assigned specific cities/stations. They solicit bids, set up inspections, negotiate rates with hotels, and finalize all contracts. Their responsibilities also include reviewing all TVLLOGs and taking action on reported issues.
Following is an example of how the inspection process works:
The Buyer sends bids to various hotels within a particular city and interested hotels respond with a bid. The volume of rooms needed, flight arrival/departure times, and hotel location are examples of things considered when deciding which hotels end up being inspected. This also explains why, in some cases, pilots or internationally based Flight Attendants may go to different hotels. Next, a date is set to inspect the properties. Inspection participants usually include the WHQBQ Buyer, an ALPA Hotel Committee member and an AFA inspector. Inspections are conducted using the same inspection questionnaire, which identifies more than 100 items related to safety, security, cleanliness, food availability, room comfort, and amenities. We tour each property, looking at several rooms (and some unplanned rooms as well), their restaurant facilities and work out rooms. Details such as chains on doors vs. bolts, double or single pane windows, hairdryers, hard wired smoke detectors vs. battery powered, the number of fire exits per floor and where they lead; are just a sample of what goes into assessing a property. Critical for our approval is a hotel meeting the Contract requirements and Flight Attendant Hotel Standards. If the hotel is providing crew transportation, we inspect their vans as well.
It is not uncommon to inspect up to four hotels in one day in different areas of the same city. (That is one reason we love digital cameras!) Time spent at each hotel averages two hours. We always spend the night at a hotel which is most likely to meet our requirements. Unfortunately, it is impossible to overnight at each potential hotel, especially when numerous hotels are being inspected.
After the inspection, we submit our evaluations to WHQBQ. They take that information and begin the negotiation process. Ultimately, it is the decision of the company as to which hotel is selected among those inspected and AFA approved.
The company has developed a Unimatic program to track hotel and transportation issues, called TVLLOG. Over the years the program has been enhanced and made easier to use. You have thirty days to input up to four issues per day regarding your transportation and lodging. For example, a Flight Attendants can write up a day room, transportation vendor, crew lounge and a hotel, all using the same occurrence date. Using TVLLOG directly benefits Flight Attendants in resolving our problems with transportation and hotels. You may not think your lone TVLLOG will make a difference, but the cumulative effect of documented TVLLOGs helps us identify trouble spots. It is also important to use TVLLOG, as they become part of a permanent data base which AFA has access to. The AFA MEC Hotel Committee views this data base on a regular basis.
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