Monthly Schedules and the Role of the Local Council Schedule Committee
February 20, 2021
Each month, your Local Council Schedule Committee faces a challenging task of submitting recommendations which ultimately become the schedules published in the bid package. The process begins with a review of all the flying the company proposes to assign, at each domicile or satellite by our Central Schedule Committee. Our Union’s Central Schedule Committee does not assign flying, create, or build actual pairings, nor decide when any of the pairings will operate during the month. Pairings are created by the company’s optimizer which is programmed using parameters determined by management, based on aircraft schedule, legalities, and base populations all of which must comply with the terms of our Contract.
Once the flying is reviewed for compliance with the Contract, each Local Council Schedule Committee receives all the pairings that are built by the company for their respective geographical location, along with a utilization target that determines the number of lines to be built for that location. Using patterns historically submitted by the Union and accepted by management, the Local Schedule Committee segregates similar types of flying (to the greatest extent possible) assigned to that base as if formulates recommendations. The Local Schedule Committee looks at trip length (i.e., 1-day, 2-days, 3-days, 4-days, etc.), departure/arrival times, and destination. Local Council Schedule Committee Members try to keep the similar types of flying together when creating sequences of flying based on the company’s stipulated number of line holders, utilization, and contractual legalities.
The company determines the amount of flying assigned at each location based on the number of Flight Attendants available at the base as well as the percentage of Lineholders and Reserves. Over time, we have seen extremes from noticeably high line averages (utilization) with few Reserves to lower line averages and an abundance of Reserves. The differences are typically demarked during peak times, (i.e., summer, winter holidays, etc.) and off-peak times (January & February) when the company’s network flight schedule is reduced.
Keep in mind, the value of the pairings, number of schedules to be built and the utilizations all interact to affect what the monthly bid package ultimately looks like. Aircraft flight schedules change considerably over U.S. holiday periods, over weekends and during mid-week periods when flying is typically less in demand. Outside of international flights, having a pairing operate daily for the entire month is a rarity under United’s fully optimized daily flight scheduling environment. Instead, the pairings change as the aircraft schedule changes and this drives a variety of one-time only transition, exception or holiday pairings which must be included in the development of monthly flight schedules.
When submitting monthly recommendations, the Local Council Schedule Committee attempts to match pairings in a way that provides for a consistent pattern of days on and off throughout the month. This is a very time-consuming process that must be completed within a limited time frame in order to meet the deadline by which schedules must be sent to the printers. All of this is possible only through the dedication of these committed volunteers.
Given the various pairing values and the parameters set by the company, the Local Council Schedule Committee cannot always build what some might consider a perfect schedule. Pairings may not match, the days off may not be consistent, and “odd” pairings that must be covered may need to be put in some schedules where they might not normally be expected. This is unavoidable given that the Local Schedule Committee must work within the parameters set by both the Company and the Contract.
When recommending sequences of flying, the company is required to accept those recommendations provided what is submitted does not increase the need for Flight Attendants, reduce the utilization or unreasonably worsen the working conditions for more junior Flight Attendants. Said another way, the Union does not have the latitude to simply build more (or fewer) lines because it might be possible to do so. Local Schedule Committees are required to meet the targets set by management. At times, these utilization targets can force the mixing of different types of flying to a greater degree when line averages are low than might otherwise be expected when line averages are high.
It is important that Flight Attendants keep this process in mind when reviewing the monthly schedules and when wondering why that “odd” pairing is placed in what might otherwise be viewed as a perfect schedule. Some of the factors which affect the schedules are generally not under the control of the Local Council Schedule Committee, but our volunteers work diligently to include in the monthly schedules the preferences of the Flight Attendants at the location to the greatest extent possible. Each month, the Union’s Central Schedule Committee provides reports on the monthly schedule development process detailing the changes and challenges with which Local Schedule Committees are faced in putting together what ultimately becomes the schedules on which we bid. The reports are available on our website as DSL or SWLOF reports and can be found in the non-public area of our website.