Home > News > AFA DEBRIEF: October 15, 2021

AFA DEBRIEF: October 15, 2021

Date: October 15, 2021

AFA DEBRIEF – October 15, 2021

  • Recognizing our Work - $1,000 Special Award Announced
  • No Cost Health Care Coverage at SFO Eliminated Under the Law
  • Variable Staffing Position(s) & Overstaffing
  • Understanding Corresponding Jumpseat and Work Positions
  • Returning to Availability List Following Completion of a Standby Assignment (OSB)
  • Rapid Re-Accrual of Sick Leave When Returning from Injury, Illness or Maternity Absence
  • Vacation Election Period Closes Today - Next up: First Round Vacation Bidding
  • Transfers with November 30, 2021 Effective Dates Awarded Today


Recognizing our Work - $1,000 Special Award Announced

Earlier this week, Scott Kirby announced that all active employees will receive a special award of $1,000 this year, for their exceptional work during 2020.  The special award is intended to recognize the collective and individual work of employees that helped United get to the other side of the pandemic and come out stronger.

Following the announcement, there have been a number of questions about this company offered program and we have endeavored to seek clarification on a number of these questions.

Leaves of Absence & Eligibility for the Award

Flight Attendants on a leave of absence, including a Special COLA, for November, for the purposes of the recently announced $1,000 award, are not considered to be active and will not be considered active on November 10, 2021.  Consequently, these employees will not receive the award payment in November

Flight Attendants who take a Special COLA in November will be eligible to receive the award payment provided they have returned from leave, including a Special COLA, for the January 2022 schedule month which begins on December 30, 2021.

Further, Flight Attendants may take the November and, if offered, December Special COLA and will still be eligible for the $1,000 award provided they have returned to work prior to December 31, 2021.  (Being back in schedule for the full January schedule month which starts of 12/30/21, meaning no Special COLA for January, will qualify them to receive the $1,000 award payment mid-January.

Impact of Special Award on Retirement

We have confirmed that United has determined that this award will not be considered eligible earnings for either of the pension plans (CARP and IAM-NPP) nor will these monies be subject to 401(k) withholding or the defined or matching contributions.

To create another “Retirement” option opportunity for our members, we have asked United management if it would be possible for individual employees to elect to directly contribute the proceeds of the award into their 401(k) plan accounts in a manner like that which is done with Profit Sharing.   While we have advocated for this additional option over the course of the week, we have been advised this in not a possibility. While there was an interest in terms of what the idea of direct deferral can do for future retirement security, the answer that came back is a “no” – at least not directly.  Because this award is not Retirement Plan-eligible pay and is not eligible for 401(k) deductions, it cannot be directly deferred.   It was suggested that another way to defer the additional income would be for employees to allocate additional savings to their 401(k) plan accounts for the last four (4) pay checks of this year (11/01, 11/16, 12/01 & 12/16).

To have additional deductions take from the remaining four paychecks of the year, you must change your contribution percentage no later than today, October 15, 2021 to be effective for the November 1, 2021 advance paycheck.

Alternatively, if you wish to be taken from only the final three pay checks of the year following the issuance of the Special Award payment on 11/10, you may change your contribution percentage during the period from October 16, 2021 through October 29, 2021, which will be effective for your November 16, 2021, paychecks going forward.

To increase your current deferral percentage to your 401(k) Plan account, access NetBenefits from Flying Together or the Fidelity Website at www.401k.com.  From the landing page, click on Retirement Savings >> Quick Links >> Contributions >> Contribution Amount. 

Remember, this change to your contribution percentage will remain unchanged unless you return to the webpage after the 12/15/21 paycheck is issued to reset the contribution percentage to that desired for the 2022 calendar year.

If you have additional questions, contact your Local Benefits Committee or Local Council Office for assistance.

No Cost Health Care Coverage at SFO Eliminated Under the Law

As we reported in E-lines in January of this year, the Healthy Airport Ordinance expanded subsidized Medical Coverage at SFO.  As we approach Open Enrollment for 2022, we want to proactively remind you of changes we told you about when we learned about further changes to the plan that resulted when the ordinance was amended earlier this year.

On November 10, 2020, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors amended the HCAO to include specific requirements for SFO employers.  The Healthy Airport Ordinance (HAO) went into effect on March 21, 2021 which included amendments proposed on March 2, 2021.

When all was said and done, reviewed by AFA Legal and the MEC Officers, when enacted in March 2021, there were two definitive changes that occurred:

  • Medical Coverage was extended to families (rather than only to individuals) and defined coverage requirements were established, and
  • The amendment clarified the definition of who was covered making it clear, under the law, that Flight Crew Members were not covered under the ordinance.

When these changes occurred, your SFO Local Council leadership identified their concerns to the MEC Benefits Committee expressing proactive concern about how these changes would impact Flight Attendants.  In consultation with the MEC Officers, an effort was immediately undertaken to advocate for the company to continue the program as had been offered over the years for the benefit of the Flight Attendant work group.

Council 11 and the MEC Benefits Committee participated in discussions with the Department of Public Health and the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to discuss the impact of these changes.

Through the course of the Union’s ongoing advocacy and following discussions with management, the company and AFA understood that if the company were do this, the cost of this coverage would become part of the Medical Rate Setting methodology (LOA #21).  As a result, the cost of continuing this coverage would result in the subsidy coming from other Flight Attendants as the cost would be passed on to other Flight Attendants. 

Discussions with the company made it clear that if the company could continue this program without harming other Flight Attendants, they would do so.  However, the costs of the plan would have to be passed along (since United is self-insured).  As a result, other Flight Attendants would end up subsidizing this “free” benefit when these costs were included in the total medical costs for the year and setting the medical rates for the next year. 

Given that the law defines who is covered and the HAO amendment clarified that Flight Crews are not covered, continued coverage without cost, as had been provided in the past, would not be a viable alternative.  As much as the Union would like to see this benefit continued, what it boils down to is equity for all employees.

Offering this “free” benefit to one group of employees who are not eligible for the benefit under either the law or the Contract while passing those costs, the subsidy, on to other employees in the same work group was simply not supported by the Contract nor could the Union justify passing along these costs to other Flight Attendants.

For 2022, Benefits will continue to be offered consistent with the terms of our Contract.  We want to be sure you are aware of these upcoming changes and are prepared to review the plans that will be offered this year to make the best decisions on the coverage that is right for you and your family.  

Variable Staffing Position(s) & Overstaffing

Recently, a number of Flight Attendants have asked questions about how to assign jumpseat and work positions when the number of Flight Attendants assigned to work a flight exceeds the number of Flight Attendants required by the Established Staffing Guidelines (ESGs).  This is often referred to as overstaffing.

As the International Purser / Purser, refer to the staffing sheet and assign the next jumpseat(s) in numerical number to identify where any Flight Attendants above the required ESG (overstaffed) will be assigned a jumpseat and where they will work.  If you have more than one (1) Flight Attendant above the ESG, the overstaffed Flight Attendants will decide, in seniority order, which next numerical jumpseat they will occupy which will determine their work position.

 As an Example: On the B787-8 (78H) configuration: 28 (UPB) / 21 (UPP) / 194 (UE) for a total of 215 economy passengers.

  • FAA minimum: 7
  • Domestic Established Staffing Guideline (ESG): 7
  • International ESG: 7
  • International Variable ESG when the combined passenger loads in United Economy and (EU) United Premium Plus (UPP) is 172 or greater: 8

In a circumstance where a flight to a certain international city is full leaving the U.S. but not full returning from the international point, you could be overstaffed at 8 when the passenger loads in economy (including UPP) is less than 172 passengers.  This constitutes overstaffing.  The Flight Attendant either assigned during the monthly bid with a pairing of 63XX or, if built in the operation with a variable position of 9XIX, would work the next numerical position on the staffing sheet which would be FA08. This is their work position and jumpseat, even if the passenger loads in economy are less the 172.

If the passenger count in economy or the premium cabin are light, as an International Purser / Purser, you can always ask for volunteers to assist in another cabin when the service is completed in their assigned cabin as no one is finished until we are all finished, and all passengers have been served.

However, what cannot be done is the assignment of the variable staffing position into an alternate cabin to “enhancement staff,” for example, the premium cabin.

Please note, the identifier on the staffing sheet stating “variable staffing position if UE loads are XX or higher” is there to indicate when you should receive the International Variable ESG position or when you would receive short crew pay if the variable Flight Attendant is not on board.  This should not be misunderstood to be an indicator that the position can be assigned to work somewhere else on the aircraft or to supplement staffing in another cabin.

If you have additional questions, contact your Local Council or a supervisor at the domicile.

Understanding Corresponding Jumpseat and Work Positions

Understanding how to read a pairing and to understand the corresponding work-position eliminates uncertainty and ensures we are collectively & individually prepared for our specific safety and service responsibilities in advance of our arrival at the aircraft.

To keep it as simple as possible, we recommend you get into the habit of either printing or taking a screenshot of the Bid/Work Position Matrices found in each month’s Primary Cover Letter for each domicile. A review of the corresponding Staffing Sheets for each flight is of equal importance.

Staffing Sheets are found in the Link as well as on Flying Together, and the Primary Cover Letter for each domicile/bid month is found with the Bid Packets in CCS under the Bidding Tab.

Having immediate access and understanding of both tools mentioned will ensure everyone has a clear understanding of who is working which position on a given flight as well as the corresponding jumpseat assignment and responsibilities.

Flight Attendants are encouraged to review the following educational articles/resources pertaining to associated work-positions for specific pairings:

For more information, please contact your domicile supervisor.

Returning to Availability List following Completion of a Standby Assignment (OSB)

We have received questions from Members about the circumstances under which a Reserve is to be placed back on the availability list on the same calendar day after having been released from a standby assignment (OSB).

Ultimately, it depends on how the Flight Attendant was initially assigned during the 1930 Reserve Assignment Process, as this determines their required availability for the following day.

Please review the article posted on the Reserve page of our United MEC website which provides more detail into this contractual process.

Rapid Re-Accrual of Sick Leave When Returning from Injury, Illness or Maternity Absence

Flight Attendants returning from maternity (sick leave), or a single injury or illness absence are reminded, as provided in Section 13.A.5. of our Contract, if during this single absence you have used more than 255 hours of sick leave, you are eligible to begin the rapid re-accrual process upon return to work.   The rapid re-accrual rate is at seven (7) hours each month until the Flight Attendant reach the same level of sick leave they had at the onset of the injury, illness, or maternity (sick leave).

To begin the rapid re-accrual process, a Flight Attendant having used more than 255 hours for a single absence and seeking rapid re-accrual is required, upon return to flight duty, to contact their supervisor who is responsible for submitting the rapid re-accrual request to Crew Pay for validation and set up in a timely manner.

For more information, please contact your domicile supervisor.

Vacation Election Period Closed - Next up: First Round Vacation Bidding

The twenty (20) day period during which Flight Attendants are provided the opportunity to elect Vacation Buy Back or 401(k) deferral and purchase FLEX vacation close this morning, October 15, 2020 at 8:00AM LDT.  

The next step in the annual Vacation bidding process is the opening of first round Vacation Bidding on October 23, 2021.  

For an overview of the information, we need to know for bidding vacations, refer to our Vacation Bidding resource for bidding options and rules.

Transfers with November 30, 2021 Effective Dates Awarded Today

The company has awarded transfers today to the following domiciles:























It should be noted, vacations for transferring Flight Attendants will be awarded at their new domicile.  The vacation award program will assess where you are domiciled on January 1, 2022, and this is the location from which your vacation allocation will be awarded.

If you have questions, please contact your Local Council office.

October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October & November – AFA Opening Proposal Roadshows
OCT 17 – Primary Bidding for November Schedules Closes at 0800 LDT
OCT 23 – First Round Vacation Bidding Opens
OCT 29 - Open Enrollment Period for Retirees Closes
OCT 30 – November Flying Month Begins
OCT 30 – Third Trimester CBT DUE
OCT 30 – Daylight Savings Time 2021 Begins in the U.K.
OCT 31 – First Round Vacation Bidding Closes
NOV 07 – Daylight Savings Time 2021 Begins in the United States






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