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United Doubles-Down on Third-Party Application Policy

Date: November 24, 2020

United recently issued an Inflight Scheduling Alert notifying Flight Attendants of the corporate decision to eliminate all third-party applications. Their communication reinforced that this would include third-party suppliers who have provided a variety of services, including monthly schedule bidding services, for some number of years. By limiting the access these vendors have to United’s proprietary systems, these vendors will have no choice but to end their relationships with us as soon as early February just prior to bidding for the March schedule month begins.  On a going forward basis, United further clarifies only United “approved” software will be allowed and by this, reference is being made to applications developed by United’s IT group.

As we all know, the tools United uses to develop the pairings that populate our monthly schedules has become more complex and sophisticated over time.  We rightfully should expect that the tools they provide us should be similarly complex in their technology.  As an example, United has used its pairing optimizer to sequence the network flight schedule (which has been optimized on a daily basis) into the pairings we fly. These pairings are derived from what is often referred to a United’s “best flown solution.” As a result, many times in the domestic markets, there are no two pairings that are exactly the same from day to day.  As a result, especially at the larger bases, you may have to bid hundreds of times to cover yourself. Accomplishing this will require sophisticated computer logic to serve our needs.

We call on United to continue to invest significantly in development of the products they plan to offer as replacements.

United’s UBid software has been designed by their IT department.  While we have no reason to question the capability of those responsible for this development, it’s important to point out the unique nature of Flight Attendant schedules.  Perhaps not all of those nuances have been completely understood.  Your Union will continue to work and engage United’s IT department to identify and implement our needs into their technology and will follow through on management’s commitment to meaningfully improve tools such as UBid.

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