Home > News > E-Lines: January 22, 2021

E-Lines: January 22, 2021

Date: January 22, 2021

AFA Membership Survey

Wednesday, we published a Special E-Lines announcing an AFA Membership Survey.  The survey instructions were mailed to your home address and will contain a unique password which has been assigned to you to provide access to the online survey.  The password may only be used one time. 

For those who are concerned about not being home to receive the mail, we suggest you contact a relative or neighbor to retrieve the mail, and ask that you arrange for them to provide you with the information (password) before the survey closes.

The survey is now open and will close at 1200 (noon) Central Time on Saturday, January 30, 2021. Once you have received your credentials by mail, you may respond to the survey on-line using any browser by using the following link on our website. At the end of the survey, you need to select the “submit” button in order for your response to be recorded.

Let’s Talk About IVF vs IVFMP

Recently, we shared information about how the last IVFMP Letter of Agreement came into being .  This week we launched a survey asking for your input on one question:

“In the event United Airlines insists on another reduction in force for Flight Attendants and there is no additional federal relief to stop it, how should the Union respond?

  • The Union should strictly follow the provisions of Section 18 of the Flight Attendant Agreement.
  • The Union should negotiate with United management to achieve an involuntary furlough mitigation program (IVFMP) in addition to what is provided for in Section 18 of the Flight Attendant Agreement.”

First, we should clarify what we mean when we ask for your view about the Union negotiating an involuntary furlough mitigation program.  It does not necessarily mean we go back to the exact language of the IVFMP that just concluded. The prior IVFMP Letter of Agreement has been extinguished and is no longer in effect. What’s different in our current situation is that we have more time to get your view on the next steps the Union should be taking if faced with another reduction in force in the event the PSP is not extended.

The survey includes an area for you to provide comments and feedback, along with sharing with your Local Council Officers your ideas and thoughts.  The question on the survey asks in broad terms if we should negotiate with management – which means quite possibly a different outcome than last time.  While no solution is going to be deemed perfect by everyone, we do have an opportunity, should we pursue that path, to address concerns from the last program and to possibly improve upon them.

To keep future concepts in perspective, you will recall that last time, management made clear the program had to be cost-neutral – and remember the program needs to offer some level of benefit to the company as well.  That’s what a negotiation is about, achieving a compromise both parties can live with.

The other side of that coin is strictly following Section 18 of our Contract. It’s important to realistically look at that outcome before responding, to make the most informed choice.  Remember neither choice is “right” or “wrong,” and each path carries with it a consequence. 

As an example:

  • If United management were to announce a need to reduce our Flight Attendant population by 10,000, and if there were 1,000 Voluntary Furlough participants and 200 Furlough-Mitigation Partnerships, that would result in an involuntary furlough of 8,800 Flight Attendants or to the approximate seniority date during the month of November 2006.
  • Likewise, if United management were to announced a need to reduce our Flight Attendant population by 15,000, and there were 1,000 Voluntary Furlough participants and 200 Furlough-Mitigation Partnerships, absent an IVFMP, that would result in an involuntary furlough of 13,800 Flight Attendants, or to the approximate seniority date during the month of June 1997.

These are not actual numbers, and they’re not meant to scare anyone into a mindset, but it is the simple reality of what the result would actually be.  It’s a sobering consideration.

Remember, there is a consequence to each path:

  • An involuntary furlough results in thousands of Flight Attendants completely out of work, with short-term furlough pay and access to health, welfare benefits; and,
  • An IVFMP keeps people connected to the company providing access to health & welfare benefits and whatever other bargained priorities.  However, the program potentially raises concerns of potential or perceived seniority violations while having to choose between healthcare and furlough pay. 

The final considerations:  These are the largest reduction in force numbers we’ve ever been faced with resulting in an involuntary furlough occurring in tandem with a harsh economic reality. Compounding what would already be an incredibly difficult process to endure in normal times, for many, unemployment benefits are expiring soon.  In addition, the fact is that more traditional temporary or supplemental work such as bartending, restaurants and other “gig” work simply is unavailable now because of the pandemic. These furloughs are unlike anything we’ve ever faced or that have ever been contemplated under our Contract.

For many of us, the thought of so many junior flying partners out on the street is anathema. At the same time, giving in to what we perceive as unfair or a seniority violations is equally difficult to accept. All are valid considerations when we need to carefully consider our path forward.  In fact, these are the same issues the MEC struggled with last time, and the enormity of the consequences in terms of its impact on Members can be overwhelming, not only for those of us making these decisions but also for those who find themselves away from work.

It’s a lot to consider and can elicit very strong emotional reactions on either side of the issue.  As we’ve said before and undoubtedly will say again, there is no “good” choice if it comes down to a reduction in force again.  What we’re left with, unfortunately, is making the “best” of “bad” choices, all of which we wish we didn’t have to make. 

CBT Obligations

All Flight Attendants that are currently qualified and that are in possession of their Link, need to complete the Trimester 1 CBT.  This does not need to be completed in advance of attending CQ, but does need to be finished by the January 29 deadline.

Flight Attendants that are non-qualified (NQ) status and need RQ1 will have up to 8.5 hours of CBT work to complete, and this will include the content from the Trimester 1 CBT. This will be loaded into their TakeOff Learning, approximately 7-10 days before training.  For those Flight Attendants in this status, you do not need to complete the Trimester 1 CBT by the January 29 deadline.

Mask Compliance on Airlines Now Federal Mandate

This past Thursday, President Biden signed an order mandating masks in airports and on aircraft, among other modes of transportation. As essential workers in the sky, we know firsthand the dangerous result of passengers refusing to follow mask requirements, as they relate to health concerns as well as conflict with passengers.

The new order calls on a variety of federal agencies to “immediately take action” to require passengers to wear masks.  Details on compliance and when these new orders take effect are being worked out, and those responsible for implementing the order have been given one week to update Jeffrey Zients, coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, on their progress in meeting the mandate.

This welcome advocacy for our workgroup comes on the heels of the FAA recent announcement that it has adopted a stricter approach to dealing with unruly passengers.  Through March 30, 2021, passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with airline crew members can face fines of as much as $35,000 and even imprisonment, according to the FAA. The agency had previously addressed such instances with warnings and civil penalties, among other methods.

We look forward to United’s response on how to strengthen the mask compliance requirements, given this additional regulatory backup as we continue our commitment to keep both ourselves and our passengers safe.

United 4Q Earnings Report

In their fourth quarter earnings report this week, United announced their expectation to surpass its pre-pandemic margins by 2023, but warned, in the interim, sales would suffer early this year as the COVID-19 health crisis wears on. 

United reported a net loss of $1.9B in the fourth quarter from a $641M profit a year earlier.  Fourth quarter revenue fell 69% to $3.41B, below analysts’ estimate of $3.44B with United’s full year net loss of $7.07b being the largest since 2005. 

United believes the widespread availability of vaccines will fuel a recovery, but the rollout has been slow and chaotic marked by a shortage of doses.  On the call, United appeared upbeat about their 2023 goal, but they aren’t expecting a quick turnaround early this year.  First quarter revenue will likely come in 65% - 70% below 2019 levels.  Estimated capacity in the first three months of 2021 are predicted at least 51% below the same period in 2019.

MEC Virtual Winter Meeting January 26 & 27

The United Master Executive Council (MEC) will meet for their Regular Winter Meeting, virtually on Zoom, on January 26 and 27.  The meeting is open to Members in good standing from 9am – noon both days.  An Agenda of the meeting is available on our website. 

Pre-registration is required, individually for each day of the meeting if you wish to attend.  To register, click in the link below for the day(s) you wish to attend:

Register for Tuesday, January 26, 2021 – 9:00AM – 12N by clicking this link.

Register for Wednesday, January 27, 2021 – 9:00 AM – 12N by clicking this link


Healthy Airport Ordinance Expands Subsidized Medical Coverage at SFO

In conjunction with a recent change in the Healthy Airport Ordinance, beginning March 1, 2021, United will expand free subsidized medical coverage to include family coverage for those who choose to enroll in the Kaiser Northern California Option B medical plan for 2021.  For information on coverage tiers and updates to the plan, access information at the following link.

January 2021 Semi-Annual System Seniority List

The Semi-Annual System Seniority List is currently under review by Labor Relations and AFA to ensure only those who are eligible to be on the Seniority List appear on it.

The comprehensive review of the list is just about completed and the list is expected to be released early next week at which time the thirty (30) day review process will begin. Additional information will be released once the list is ready for publication. 

United Covid-19 Vaccine Update

United had a lot to say about vaccinations this week.  In today’s United Daily it was mentioned that “Covid-19 vaccine is now available to some employees.” As United has not yet provided us directly with an option, we assume it to mean that many local governments are moving towards vaccinating individuals in group 1b. 

The Daily also discussed that United is working with government officials and healthcare providers to create onsite vaccine distribution centers at some locations, but encouraged us to get vaccinated locally if the opportunity presents itself.

The CDC has included essential workers such as flight crew to be included in group 1b, and while it is up to each municipality to determine their own groupings, many are adopting the CDC recommendation.

Like much else with the vaccine rollout, there isn’t a straightforward way to go about it in most cities as of yet.  Hopefully as new strategies emerge, and more vaccine becomes available answers will be easier to find in the days and weeks ahead.  As of now, this is your best option if you wish to be vaccinated.  We are please to report that United management is working to find ways to ensure Flight Attendants have access to the vaccine.

To round out the topic, during the United earnings call yesterday, CEO Scott Kirby talked about United’s intention to make the vaccine mandatory for employees “at some point.”  Scott mentioned that ideally United would be among many companies that will mandate the vaccine. In a transcript of the call Scott said “…I recognize it’s controversial – I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require the vaccines and to make them mandatory.”  The comment is taken from the context of Scott writing letters to surviving family members of United workers lost to COVID. 

At this time, the company and AFA have not had a fulsome discussion about compulsory inoculations and, as we’ve said, the vaccine isn’t readily available. Our focus is on access to the vaccine. Right now, Flight Attendants are in different tiers for access in each state. We need a federal approach that prioritizes Flight Attendants as essential workers facilitating interstate commerce.

A Conversation with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Thank you, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, for joining AFA-CWA Flight Attendants today to discuss the path forward for aviation workers and our industry and what we can do to keep the pressure up as the Biden Administration considers new pandemic relief for frontline workers.  We thank Leader Schumer you for his fierce and relentless support of aviation from the start!

Watch the webinar here.


Reminder and Quick Links

January 23 – Open Trade Window Bracket
January 26/27 – MEC Virtual Winter Meeting
January 29 – First Trimester CQ CBT Due
January 30 – First day of the February Bid Month




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