System Reserve Meeting Report - December 2020
December 17, 2020
December 2020 System Reserve Meeting
The System Reserve Meeting with United Airlines was held on December 17, 2020 via Microsoft Teams™.
Present for AFA were Matt Stegehuis, MEC Reserve Committee Chairperson, and Jeff Heisey, MEC Secretary-Treasurer. Present for the company were Tina Austin, Manager of Inflight Crew Scheduling Process Quality and Training, Jill Fox, Senior Manager of Inflight Crew Operations, Matthew McKenna, Senior Manager of Inflight Crew Operations, Chad Melby, Director of Inflight Operations Crew Scheduling, Nick Litrenta, Nicole Wilson and Nina Elumba, Senior Specialists for Inflight Crew Scheduling Process Quality and Training, Rico Vallejara, Todd Ring and Samantha Washington, Managers of Inflight Crew Scheduling.
January Reserve Pool Levels
As our first priority for discussion we questioned management’s decision to make changes to the Reserve Pool levels (LVL) for the end of December. Chad reviewed the more recent history affecting Reserve availability; there have been plenty of Reserve resources available, and levels were simply set at a specific number for mid-week, and another, higher number for weekends, holidays as well as at the beginning and end of the bid month. With the now reduced Reserve resources since October 1st, management has identified a need to refine these levels in order to account for sick leave, vacation and other liabilities such as PTO, COVID-related MDPs, etc. Working with the planning team, Crew Scheduling identifies periods during the month with peak need or potentially large open time banks and assigns a “risk level” when building their coverage plan. Minimum Reserve coverage (levels) are then set to meet that potential need.
We relayed and addressed reports of Flight Attendants having been told by schedulers that trades were being “blocked” through the end of the month. Management confirmed that this was not the case. The ability to trade into or out of these periods continues to be based on the math of bad day/worse day.
Management determined the minimum Reserve coverage (Levels) for the January bid month will be higher the first five days of the month, weekends and the President’s day holiday due to what they have identified as peak need. Management indicated projections may need to be further increased due to the possibility of increased COVID-related MDPs.
Anticipated Standby Levels for January
Management informed us they plan to continue the practice begun last month of building Standby positions for the entire bid month in advance of its start. Looking at the current DSL planning model, that is how the pairings were initially constructed by the optimizer, there has been somewhat of a loosening of the crew connecting times, which should help reduce the number of tight connections; something that has driven an increased need for pre-boards in recent months. However, the potential for winter storms remains a concern. Overall, the number of system Standby positions will likely remain close to unchanged from December, but we may see check-in times for these Standby positions adjusted slightly.
Follow-Up: Pre-Boarding Concerns
We followed up with management on the concerns we identified at our prior meetings regarding the business processes associated with the assignment of Flight Attendants to pre-boarding duties.
- How are pre-boarding Flight Attendants added to a flight? Management continues to follow up with Airport Operations (AO) at certain stations on their process for adding pre-boarding Flight Attendants to a flight. The most common process is for the agent to first check the working crew list for the flight. If the pre-boarding Flight Attendant is not on the list, the agent then manually adds the Flight Attendant to the minimum crew required for boarding via the gate reader. We reiterated the Union continues to have security concerns with this process.
- How does a pre-boarding Flight Attendant access flight specific data on the Link? Management continues to follow up with the IT team that handles Link apps. Currently, there is no way to access the flight specific announcements at this time. We emphasized our concern lies more with the ability to access the flight and passenger data required to not only conduct a proper crew briefing but to identify the unique needs of the passengers on the flight.
- Has the methodology for determining Standby/Pre-board need changed? We asked management whether programing changes had been made to the system that alerts schedulers to potential crew misconnects to coincide with the reduced connection buffers applied to pairing construction in recent months. Management stated schedulers have the ability to filter flights by various crew connecting times (i.e., those with :90 minutes, those with :60 minutes, those with :30 minutes) when evaluating the need to build additional Standby positions or send Pre-Boards. Currently, management looks at connection times of :75 minutes or less as a “risky connection,” but also considers historical flight arrival data when planning Standby positions. When determining the need to recrew a flight, management stated they use the Contractual minimum connection time, but also look at other factors, such as passenger load, aircraft type, etc. Efforts are underway to determine and include more accurate taxi times and terminal transit times as part of the overall solution when evaluating connecting times and in planning to either re-crew a flight or to send Standbys to pre-board.
Follow-up: Consideration of “FA” Standbys Prior to Special Qualification Ready Reserves
After further review of the language of Section 8.I.1.h.(2). of the Contract, management issued a briefing item to all Crew Scheduling personnel on December 11th clarifying that both at-home and Standby “FA” Reserves must be assigned to open “FA” pairings prior to assigning available special qualification Reserves to pairings not requiring a special qualification.
Follow-up: Clarification on Restoring Reserve Days Off Due to Lineholder Carry-Over
Following our discussion on the topic last month, management confirmed the procedure for restoring Reserve days off due to Lineholder carry-over is as provided in Section 8.O.9. of the Contract:
“In cases where a Lineholder is returning to Reserve duty, all conflicting days off will be restored so that the published amount of days off remains.” (Emphasis added.)
Said another way, days off in the Reserve month that are encompassed by a carry-over pairing from the Lineholder month will be restored to the number of days off originally built into the awarded Reserve line as it appeared in the bid packet, even if that line was built with more than 12 days off. For example, if a Flight Attendant is awarded a Reserve line built with 16 days off and has a Lineholder carry-over pairing that covers three (3) of those days off, all three (3) days off will be restored to return the line to the originally published day off value of 16 as corresponds to the Reserve minimum guarantee for the schedule awarded.
Note: If a Flight Attendant has restored Reserve + days of availability to a line built with more than 12 days off, days off encompassed by a Lineholder carry-over pairing will be restored so that the newly established minimum number remains. Using the previous example of a line built with 16 days off but where the Flight Attendant has restored two (2) of the four (4) Reserve + days of availability, the line would be restored to 14 days off.
Reserve Release (RLSD) Process at LHR
The Local Council in LHR reported inconsistencies and confusion related to the manner in which Reserves have been released (RLSD) of late at that location. We brought these concerns to management and asked what direction, if any, had been provided to schedulers. Management’s initial response was that the process should be accomplished in the same way it is at other locations. We pointed out the unique nature of the flying assigned to the LHR base, and the categorization of multi-day Reserves into separate day groups is unlike other locations throughout the system. We expressed a view that these factors may warrant a more refined approach when determining those excess Reserves that shall be RLSD. Given most of the assigned flying at LHR is 3-day pairings, rather than RLSD all excess Reserves from the 1-3-day groups (as is often done at domestic locations), we suggested it may make more sense to keep available 3-day resources and instead apply RLSD from other day groups having Reserves not required to cover open flying on that day.