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Contract Changes Affect Line Construction

Date: October 18, 2019

Contract Changes Affect Line Construction

Since October 2018 when the Flight Attendant operation was merged and the development of Flight Attendant schedules became a single process, there have been a number of questions from various locations about the principles used in submitting recommendations for Flight Attendant schedules. 

While some of the tools used to build schedules at each of the pre-merger airlines were similar, there were also a number of differences that were driven by Contract provisions. Over the course of the past twelve months, the provisions of our Contract have governed line construction based on company established parameters that guide Local Schedule Committees in producing what ultimately becomes the schedules Flight Attendants bid and fly.

Of the most significant contractual changes governing how schedules are put together are the utilization parameters established by management upon which schedule recommendations have their foundation. These provisions are predicated on the language in Section 30.L.2. of our Contract. This language provides the following:

If the manner in which the monthly flying schedules are made up does not require an increase in the number of Flight Attendants at the domicile, lower the utilization of Flight Attendants or unreasonably worsen the working conditions of the junior Flight Attendants, the monthly schedules may be constructed to allow a choice of working conditions for Flight Attendant preferencing.  

Over the decades, the practice on the property through arbitral precedent has been the development of anonymous lines of flying that are bid upon by all Flight Attendants at each domicile location. These schedules are constructed to comply with the utilization targets set by the company.  These targets are expressed specifically. That is, Local Schedule Committees are told to build a specific number of lines, all of which must be legal (days off, line values above 71 hours, observing 1 in 7, etc.) the result being the distribution of the total hours at the location across the Flight Attendant population. 

At domiciles with ultra-long haul flying where trips have very high values and line averages are set by the company to be low, Local Schedule Committees are faced with the reality that they cannot build those lines in the same way they would if line averages were high. Local Schedule Committee Members are required to build the number of lines determined by the company.  Those lines must all be legal having a minimum of ten days off and values above 71 hours – the minimum line value.

When line values are high, it is ultimately easier to build lines of flying that contain all the same pairings. However, when line values decrease, the hours must be spread out over more Flight Attendants. When trip values are high, it is difficult, if not impossible, to spread those hours out over more Flight Attendants unless pairings having different values are used to build the schedules that meet the company’s utilization target. For example, when the company sets the utilization at 73 hours and you are building schedules with a 30-hour pairing, three of the pairings creates a 90-hour line, while two creates a 60-hour line.  In order to hit the lower utilization target, you will most likely be required to add a lower value pairing to the 60-hour line to bring the value above 71 hours.

It must be stressed that while Local Schedule Committees do an admirable job when building monthly schedules, they are constrained by the requirements of the contract.  That is, they may not increase the need for Flight Attendants, lower the utilization or unreasonablly worsen the working conditions for more junior Flight Attendants. If, in making their recommendations any of these items result, the recommendations must be changed to satisfy the company’s targets established under the Contract. This work is difficult and challenging for the Local Schedule Committee volunteers but is work that is required under our Contract.

And while Local Schedule Committees strive to meet the desires of the Membership at the location, often the utilization targets established by the company place constraints on how schedules can be built. Given that our airline has adopted a far more “seasonable” view of aviation, the hours available to build schedules expand and contract.  During the summer when our airline is doing a large amount of flying to seasonal destinations, schedule development is different from that which occurs when the company reduces or discontinues flying to certain destinations. At these times, the company offers time away from work to those who are willing and able to do so.  If people aren’t able to take time away from work, schedules for all Flight Attendants not on leave must be built and made available for bid consistent with the terms of our Contract.

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