Home > News > E-Lines: January 05, 2021

E-Lines: January 05, 2021

Date: January 5, 2021

Let's Talk About Scott Kirby

We started a conversation last week about what may happen on April 1. As we continue our expanding conversation, today we’ll focus on United’s CEO, and understanding Scott Kirby.

As we discussed last time, many within our airline, our industry and those who invest or follow us, consider Scott a “numbers guy.” It’s a distinctive difference compared to his predecessor, Oscar Munoz, who was well known for the interpersonal connections he made with employees as he traveled the system, showing up in some of the most unexpected places. We all knew, things were always going to be different with Scott, a man with a well-earned reputation for number crunching, weighing every decision through a cost versus profit lens. We do have to acknowledge and understand the lens through which the world is viewed by those around us even though, as “people-people”, it’s likely difficult for many of us to fully appreciate that perspective.

Having said that, we really should consider giving him some credit. It is undeniable that he took over as CEO of our worldwide company in the midst of the worst pandemic seen in over a century and likely the direst crisis to impact our industry, perhaps ever. 

There are those who believe his aggressive and decisive leadership may have been instrumental in keeping our airline afloat during a time when the industry was imploding around us. There is no denying that difficult, if not almost impossible, decisions were required to stem the hemorrhaging of cash and slow our losses to preserve the liquid resources we had in the bank. Considering the circumstances, our airline was fortunate to have someone with his skillset and experience to lead us through the initial months of the pandemic. At the same time, over those many months, corporate leadership changed even more as Scott put into place management leaders that reflected his style as a lean operating machine, focused above all else, on numbers.

This philosophical shift can be seen as we look back over the past 60-days at Flight Attendant staffing decisions made leveraging the negotiated provisions of our Contract to manage the staffing needed to meet holiday travel demand with limited staffing resources through the use of White/Purple Flag, Drafting and other scheduling tools. As a result, that segment of the Membership who took advantage of picking up flying for premium pay benefited while working alongside their flying partners who were not receiving that same pay while being subject to drafting and reassignment. The result was chaotic, ultimately creating a significant lack of schedule flexibility for many of us while impacting Flight Attendant quality of life.

Scott’s view of looking at “numbers” to run an airline is a legitimate perspective. However, the problem with this approach at ten months into the pandemic and in the long-term, is that we are not numbers, we are people. 

Perhaps from management’s view, we are now neatly packaged into finely-tuned, labeled and numbered groups consisting of Involuntary Furloughs, Voluntary Furloughs, IVFMP, those on NAL schedules, Lineholders, Reserves, senior, junior and, the list goes on. 

Some may argue, this is a necessity to manage staffing during a crisis. We can find agreement in the fact we are still an industry in crisis, and that we need equitable solutions to manage staffing to run the airline while allowing a mobile workforce to care for not only ourselves, but our families as well. We are not in agreement with continuing to follow a strict numbers approach that fails to recognize the very human circumstances we collectively find ourselves in during a pandemic. We remain resolute that we need to find better long-term solutions that don’t pit Members of our Flight Attendant family against each other. Breaking us down into these groups, by its very nature, puts us at odds with one another creating a competitive rather than a collective environment for employment, benefits, a living wage, discretionary time off or schedule flexibility. 

We are reminded each time we put on the uniform, and we need to remind Scott, as employees, while our employee files may have numbers, we have names. We are United Airlines Flight Attendants who believe not only in our airline, we most importantly believe in each other. As that work group that spends the most time with the passengers (upon whom we all depend for our success) and we bring them back, time and again, through our work and commitment.

Collectively, we must continue to vigorously pursue three goals:

  • To defend and protect our Contract, so that when the pandemic is over, we all have not only a job to which we can return but one that is respected and worth having. This may be the worst crisis we’ve ever faced, but it certainly will not be the last; and ensuring we have not just a job, but a career that recognizes the hard work we do is critical.
  • To minimize any and all potential involuntary job loss. Our ultimate goal must be to eliminate it, and that may or may not be a road that takes some time to achieve, depending on the willingness of Scott and his team to find reasonable, equitable solutions to our mutual issues. As we often say, “An injury to one is an injury to us all.”
  • To work through this crisis together as a United Flight Attendant family. We cannot, in fact, we must affirmatively work to avoid being at odds with each other. Despite all of the “titles” ascribed to our work group, we are first and foremost, United Flight Attendants. Allowing ourselves to be divided into these “numbers” and to be adversarial with each other, only allows management to exploit that division within our group to our collective detriment.

When we come together as a United work group, we can take Scott along for that ride with us. While Scott’s current playbook may have brought about much needed stability to survive during this crisis, we don’t want to just survive, we expect to thrive, together.


Update on Covid-19 Vaccinations

We’ve been hearing from many of you, asking questions about COVID-19 vaccination for Flight Attendants. First, we want to recognize that some Members may not wish to receive this vaccination. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that airline workers be placed in Tier 1B. As things stand now, each state is determining their own individual tiers, which makes things messy. To try and get more states onto the same page, AFA is among an industry coalition advocating that each state recognize the CDC recommendation and adopt it. 

The coalition sent letters to all 50 state governors at the end of December; you can view this letter to NY Gov. Cuomo as an example. Several states have placed airline workers in Tier 1C. The vaccine rollout has taken longer than expected and most states are still working to vaccinate Tier 1A.

United has not made any announcements on their intentions towards possibly procuring a vaccine for workers or requirement of employees or passengers to be vaccinated. As you may have read in the news, the roll-out and distribution has been disorganized. We are hopeful that under new White House leadership, a national strategy and plan may begin to take shape that address’s our concerns about vaccination, but we need to be mindful that even if so, it will likely take 2-3 months to get any new program up and running.

For now, we recommend you work with your local health provider and consider options in you individual state that best suit your needs. 

Additionally, we want to clear up any confusion that pilots are being prioritized over Flight Attendants. Pilots had to be approved by the FAA to take the vaccine because of the conditions of their FAA-issued airman medical certification. Flight Attendants don't have the same hurdles under our certifications.

If additional information becomes available we will keep you updated.


White Flag Pay Irregularities

As we all have seen, United management has been using white and purple flag as a means of supplementing staffing, especially over the past 30-60 days. With the increased usage of white and purple flag, there have been an increase in the number of reports from some of our Members that they are seeing irregularities in the non-payment of these premiums. 

We’ve all ready the 10+ CCS priority messages when we sign on about White Flag over the past few weeks, which condensed down basically say: “Flight Attendants straight picking up a pairing from CCS open time…”

Given the volume of open time, there have been greater opportunities for Flight Attendants to trade with open time. However, trading a trip in your line with a white/purple flag trip in open time is not straight picking up from CCS Open Time.

White and Purple Flag indicators follow the pairing when directly traded to another Flight Attendant, once it is traded with open time, the trip becomes ineligible for the pay. Some things to keep in mind:

  1. The company’s payroll system is not programmed to pay white/purple flag pay once a pairing has been traded with another pairing from open time.

This is less obvious when a Flight Attendant is picking the trip up through mutual ads. 

  1. In some cases, before the pairing was picked up from ads, the Flight Attendant who traded the pairing away had entered into a trade with open time, thus removing the white flag indicator. Based on the programming of the Payroll System, the Flight Attendant picking up the trip then becomes ineligible to be paid white flag.
  2. In other instances, Flight Attendants were told they should have been paid white flag by scheduling personnel when, in fact, they were ineligible; and in yet other instances, white/purple flag may have been improperly posted to some pay registers.

In the past couple of days, the company has audited more than 150 instances of the manual posting of White/Purple flag pay for the system to determine if the manual posting of premium pay was appropriate. To avoid an overpayment situation, improperly paid white flag has been removed from the Flight Attendant’s pay register to ensure payment has been made consistent with how the systems were programmed. We want you to be aware that these adjustments have been made to correct what the company has identified were improper postings of white/purple flag premium pay.


Return to Work Process from Furlough

As a reminder, everyone on both Involuntary and Voluntary Furlough should complete the return to work process if you wish to maintain employment. Failure to follow the process will result in your separation from the company.

Access the return from furlough portal directly at helphub.ual.com. During the process you will be required to provide an email address and we recommend that you use a personal e-mail address. Ensure that you receive an email confirmation once you complete everything, this is your record that you’ve met the criteria and are returning to work. If you do not receive the email confirmation after making a recall election:

  • Double check your ‘To-Do’ list in top right corner of their Help Hub home page.
    • Make sure there are no pending tasks showing- Such as a requirement to complete the Statement of Health.
  • If there is not a pending task, please reach out through the Help Hub Recall inquiry form to report not receiving an email confirmation.
    • Work will be undertaken to determine the specific reason you did not receive a confirmation e-mail.

Keep in mind, once you respond to the recall notice, you cannot change your mind. It is a final election that must be made within 14 days of receipt of your recall notice. All submitted elections are considered final once submitted in Help Hub.

We have received a number of questions related to the return to work process.

  • United has sent out the recall from furlough notices. Once you receive your letter, you have 14-days from the date of receipt to respond electronically to the recall notice. The letter is considered to be received when signed for by anyone at your address of record.  If a member of your family, roommate or neighbor signs for the envelope, this begins the clock.
  • If you are not currently at your address on file, it’s important to know that you do not need to receive the letter in order complete the electronic recall process. You may initiate the process immediately, even in anticipation of receiving the letter, to get the process moving forward and ensure your intent to return to service is properly recorded in company records.

It is important that anyone not receiving an e-mail confirmation file a Help Hub inquiry as we outlined in our December 31, 2020 communication. This is the exclusive method by which these errors can be addressed and through which our Members will receive the E-mail confirmation contemplated by the electronic recall response understanding to which we agreed.


Recall Process with Medical Issues

For those Flight Attendants on Furlough who are unable to return to work due to medical reasons, you must still follow the recall/return to work process.

Using the link to HelpHub, follow the prompts that you are returning to work. You will be asked if there is any medical reason you are unable to return, which you should answer affirmatively. Continue the HelpHub prompts that follow to complete the process. You will be required to substantiate your illness/injury with United Medical.

Union Scholarships Available

Our union membership provides opportunities for at least three different scholarships, and the ability to earn a degree with no out of pocket expense for tuition, fees, and ebooks. The time for applying is now!

Brought to you by the Union, these benefits of union membership have become very popular with members. Please see the respective links for detailed information, and good luck in obtaining some financial assistance.

AFA - This is a scholarship funded by AFA. The deadline for applications is April 10. Details to send to members are on the AFA website (http://www.afacwa.org/scholarships).

CWA - This is the Joe Beirne Scholarship offered by CWA. The deadline for applications is April 30. Details on this scholarship are on the CWA website (http://www.cwa-union.org/pages/beirne).

Union Plus - There is a suite of scholarships, educational discounts, and loans available for union members (https://www.unionplus.org/college-education-financing). One additional "click" brings up the scholarship applications that may be submitted online by the deadline of January 31.

Union Plus - Free College Benefit - Active and Retired Members and their families can earn an associate degree completely online – for FREE. Details and an application are online (https://www.unionplusfreecollege.org/). This can save you thousands of dollars.

All necessary information including eligibility requirements and applications for each scholarship is available online.

Reminder and Quick Links
January 8 – SPCOLA Deadline 0800 AM CST
January 12 – February Schedule Bidding Opens
January 17 – Bidding for February Schedule Closes 0800 HDT
January 29 – First Trimester CQ CBT Due
January 30 – First day of the February Bid Month

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