We are all experiencing changes at work. Some of these changes are merger related – redeployment of aircraft into different markets while running two separate inflight operations. Other changes come as a result of our new Contract that provides for increased productivity – fewer Flight Attendants doing more work. The changes have resulted in new experiences for all of us - including a return to serving Reserve for some who have not done so in a long time.
We are experiencing the annual shift of reduced flying. Does this mean we are shrinking?
As Contract changes take effect, we are experiencing the annual shifts of reduced flying during specific seasons and time of year. Does this mean we are shrinking? No. It's important to understand all of the moving parts within our schedules, identify what is really happening at our airline and how it impacts our schedules.
This article provides a comprehensive review of all of these points. There is no single factor that is tipping the scale, but a number of issues in combination are having a noticeable effect. Reading the article may not change the reality of our current schedules, but it may help with our understanding of what is causing the current changes we may feel on the job.
The following chart of block hours flown, clearly demonstrates that the total amount of flying for United Flight Attendants have remained consistent over the past three years; in compliance with our Contract and related agreements (see Maintenance of Separate Inflight Operations).
Hours Flown System-wide Remain Consistent
- Block hours are defined as the time between block out and block in.
- Block hours (on the left of this chart) are the total hours flown, by all United Flight Attendants, system-wide.
- Block hours are shown for Domestic, International and the Total hours of both.
- Schedule month (on the bottom of this chart) are quarterly periods, beginning January 2010 through October 2012.
As you can see – while the block hours fluctuate seasonally, they remain consistent from pre-merger United to today.
Until there is a ratified Single Contract and integrated Seniority List, we will continue to fly on our own metal. The recent ratification of the Pilot Agreement does not change our protections. Due to aircraft ordered by Continental prior to the merger and given the recent delivery of those aircraft, Continental subsidiary continues to hire Flight Attendants.
Our Agreements with the company provide:
- Pre-merger aircraft are designated as United or Continental aircraft, including aircraft on order
- Replacement aircraft are assigned to United or Continental based upon where the aircraft is being replaced
- Flight Attendants will not be interchanged between the operations
- No Flight Attendant will fly as a crewmember on the aircraft of the other subsidiary
Opening of New IAH Domicile and EWR Co-Terminal Impacts Flying Distribution
The opening of the new s-UA domicile at IAH and the JFK co-terminal at EWR has resulted in the reassignment of flying between domiciles and subsidiaries. The overall effect is the "spreading out" of the available flying to 15 domiciles instead of 14.
Optimization and Redeployment of the Aircraft Schedule
Of the more recent corporate initiatives is the company's attempt to match passenger demand to the aircraft scheduled in the market on a day of week basis. This means that a given flight may operate using a 757 aircraft on Monday and Wednesday, an A-320 on Thursday and Friday, an A-319 on Tuesday and Sunday while not operating at all on Saturday. In addition, there has been an initiative to reduce some flying around the holidays while making other flying "seasonal." The end result of all of this "optimization" is a further reduction of flying that is not available to be included in the lines of flying.
As management attempts to match the "right" aircraft to the passenger demand in each market, our flying changes in response. Given the ability of the company to move "our work environment" on the airplane from month to month or day to day, our work schedules change dynamically in response. For example, when the company uses a 767 aircraft in a market, the result is work for nine Flight Attendants (at maximum staffing) each day the flight operates. When the passenger demand increases and the company serves the same market with a 747 aircraft, work is now available for fifteen (15) Flight Attendants each day the flight operates - increased work for six (6) Flight Attendants
Number of Primary Bid Lineholders Decrease
This chart illustrates that there has been a fluctuation of Primary Bid Lineholders System-wide over the last 2 ½ years. Note this is not a reduction in the system-wide block hours. This is a reduction of the number of Lines of Flying constructed and available for bid. (Primary bid excludes Relief and Move-Up Lineholders)
- While the chart below reflects the variance in the number of primary bid Lineholders, it also reflects a predictable consistency with the increase during the peak flying months (June – August).
- There are seasonal adjustments for Spring Break, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and reduced flying during the winter months of January and February.
(The numbers on the left column are the total number of Primary Bid Lineholders System-wide)
Our New Contract Provides for More Productivity
Our new Contract also provided an increase to the monthly Lineholder minimum guarantee from 65 to 71 hours and an increase to the Reserve minimum guarantee from 75 to 78 hours. These improvements to individual guarantees increase productivity, more work done by fewer Flight Attendants. As expected, when the Lineholder minimum guarantee increases, there is more time included into each Line of Flying with the end result being fewer lines available.
Effect of Unlimited Flying
We also have improvements in our new Contract, which include the ability to choose to fly unlimited hours. Lineholders are now flying more IDs.
We have the ability to choose to fly unlimited hours. Lineholders are now flying more IDs.
For example, a Flight Attendant who historically "maxed out" with three 26-hour IDs (3x26=78) who now chooses to fly one more 26-hour ID results in a line with a value of 104 hours – a 33% increase in flying contained within this line of flying. For every 3 Lineholders who increase their flying in this same way, the result is a reduction of one Lineholder position. This translates into less Lineholders while, at the same time, reduces the work traditionally available for Reserves to fly.
Industry Capacity Discipline Translates into Reduced Flying Opportunities
In combination with years of reduced staffing on the aircraft and little to no growth in domestic Available Seat Mile (ASM)s at United Airlines brought about by corporate capacity discipline. The result has been the stagnation of or, in some cases, a reduction in the number of Lineholder positions. This is likely to remain flat until the economy improves; we get new our new 737 aircraft and when the 757/767 fleet reconfiguration is complete.
Ongoing aircraft reconfigurations of the two class 767-MD to the Business First configuration (767-ME), as well as the reconfiguration of the 757-MP to the new p.s.™ configuration have resulted in a temporary reassignment of flying between subsidiaries at some locations.
The Critical Role of Reserves
Reserves serve a critically important role in supporting the operation. Our Contract provides the rules by which Reserves are scheduled. In an effort to put resources at your fingertips, the United Master Executive Council Reserve Committee has created the 2012 Reserve Survival Guide which can be accessed and downloaded from our website at www.unitedafa.org, search "Reserve Survival Guide."
Senior Designated Reserve Changes
There has been a gradual increase in the seniority of the Senior Designated Reserve (SDR) across the system. The changes in flying as well as the merging of our most junior flying partners from five (5) years of continuous Reserve into our Contractual Reserve rotation system reinforces the misperception that flying is being "lost." As more junior Flight Attendants are guaranteed to hold a line of flying every other month, the company's "Reserve" requirement remains the same. The result is that more senior Flight Attendants, also in the Reserve rotation, provide coverage for the Reserve requirement during those months where more junior Flight Attendants are guaranteed to hold a line. The Senior Designated Reserve moves "up" the seniority list as more senior Flight Attendants serve Reserve and when the company established Reserve requirement increases.
This chart shows the current Senior Designated Reserve, by month & year, in each Domicile location for the December 2012 and January 2013 schedule months.
December 2012 (Reserve Letter B)
Schedule Month Overview: Traditionally higher Reserve requirement in December because of schedule variance between the beginning and end of the month; as well as additional coverage requirement during peak travel days of this month. The company also believes they require additional Reserves in December due to the holiday period.
January 2013 (Reserve Letter A)
Schedule Month Overview: Reduced flying means fewer Lineholders are needed and combined with a higher Vacation liability the result is an increase in the number of Reserves.
Many factors play a part in the fluctuation of the SDR on any given month. Reserve requirements are dictated by travel demand, vacation liability, holiday periods and other factors; and may drive significant swings in the seniority of those serving Reserve.
Based on the stated priorities of the Membership through various feedback mechanisms including surveys, Local Council Meetings, discussion and e-mail with Local Council leadership, the United Master Executive Council continues to make Reserve improvements a top priority in our negotiations. Over the years, AFA has successfully negotiated modifications to the Reserve System and our most recent Expedited Mediation resulted in transformational improvements to our current Reserve system. In fact, many of those improvements have yet to be implemented and are expected to be in place next year.
Many factors affect our schedules. The realities of the merger, including redeployment, have impacted the "familiar" domicile flying patterns to which we have become accustomed. While the flying assigned at our respective domiciles has changed, on an overall system-wide basis the amount of flying has remained fairly constant given the impact of seasonal flying changes. As the merger moves forward, we will continue to see fluctuations in flying and this should include increased flying opportunities as new aircraft come into the fleet and as aircraft reconfigurations are completed.
As always, AFA has and continues to welcome comprehensive Membership feedback to identify and address the priorities of our workgroup. If you have questions, suggestions or comments, please notify your Local AFA Office.