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AFA E-Lines: March 23, 2021

Date: March 23, 2021

Real Time Survey - Real Time Issues

As many of you are now aware, on March 19th management announced their decision to launch a new customer feedback program. The program is set to begin April 1, 2021 on select routes operating out of ORD and HNL (details in the March 17 IFSW).

While the program is geared to focus on constructive or positive feedback, we all understand that this also offers an opportunity for less positive responses as well. We’ve all been in situations where we get frustrated, and after some time and perspective feel differently. The instant gratification of this concept could lead to potentially negative reports that lack objectivity.

Having said this, it’s a good time for a reminder on the importance of completing an IOR when required and when we feel our perspective on a particular interaction needs to be accurately documented. It’s important for us to take actions necessary to give a clear picture of any questionable interactions. It’s also important to copy in AFA on the IOR, and as a backup, consider copying the text and keeping a record of it, in case questions arise.

While United’s latest venture into customer satisfaction may be well intentioned, it's easy to see how misunderstandings can occur during our typical work days. It’s important that we keep our skies safe and friendly, but prudent to take steps to make sure we are not at a disadvantage due to the unintended feedback that may result from this new program.

Snacking and Demasking

Flight Attendants know first-hand the difficulties in managing passengers during a global pandemic. We have worked hard to ensure passenger and crew safety, while simultaneously working to create a welcome and warm environment.

Despite the mask requirements at both the federal and company level, Flight Attendants are still in the uncomfortable position of having to constantly remind passengers to properly wear or to replace their mask if they have removed it. While our job is to keep everyone safe and enforce the law, the near-constant reminders to passengers creates an environment where it may appear that Flight Attendants are required to be “mask police.” We are not.

The new addition of snacks and the rollout of alcoholic beverages in particular, creates an even more difficult situation for working crew. In addition to already prolonged contact with passengers, reports are that United's sales software is glitchy creating frustration for both crew and passengers alike, and we are now providing more opportunities to remove masks for eating and drinking. We’ve said this before, but introducing alcohol to this mix creates even more problems. In addition to having the mask off longer to consume alcoholic beverages, it’s a fact that alcohol reduces inhibitions and impairs judgement and creates a toxic environment for Flight Attendants already struggling with mask compliance.

While we are on the road towards recovery with vaccinations and federal mask mandates, we are not yet at a place where the sale of food and particularly alcohol, amidst a continuing pandemic is the right decision. United wants to “meet the needs of our passengers,” they should also more importantly “meet the safety needs of their Flight Attendants.”

As the company explores this new option we should remain vigilant in maintaining a properly masked aircraft and use the tools at our disposal if food or beverage availability leads to non-compliance. An IOR (with copy to the Union), should be sent for mask compliance issues, including those escalating from the consumption of onboard food and alcohol.

Mask Exemption SSR Code Clarification (PPEX)

As many Flight Attendants return from furloughs, they are adjusting to updated policies and procedures put in place during their leave. The recent announcement about customer mask exemptions and the SSR Code has left some confused and concerned about mask policies.

Passenger mask exemption has been in place since mask requirements became federal law on January 29, 2021, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order requiring the wearing of masks by travelers to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. That same order exempts children under two years of age and persons with disabilities who cannot wear a mask or cannot safely wear a mask, because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. As such, United is required by law to allow exemptions as defined by CDC.

In order for there to be compliance with the ADA (American Disability Act) there had to be an opportunity for exemptions to be offered. In conjunction with the CDC, both the federal government and United have worked hard to ensure this exemption is not abused and only made available to those who genuinely qualify. It is important to note that the exemption is approved on an extremely limited basis. Even when a passenger is approved to travel without a mask, they are still required to follow specific procedures to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The recent updated refers only to the Special Service Request (SSR) code, that will now be available to working crew, to quickly and efficiently identify an individual who has received an approved Mask Exemption. In the My Flight app under Flight Details, Flight Attendants can identify any passenger approved to be Personal Protective Equipment Exempt (PPEX).

U.K. Travel Update

As travel begins to resume to more international destinations, it is important to remember each country sets their own requirements for Crew that is laying over in their country.

The United Kingdom has recently updated their travel policy. Effective immediately the UK Government is requiring non-residents of the UK to self-isolate in their accommodation (if staying in a hotel, required to remain on hotel property) while taking rest breaks in England. Additionally, this rule applies to commuters while in England before/after/between trips.

Prior to working an international flight, it is recommended that you review the latest update on International Restrictions to remain compliant with each Governments requirement. United has complied the most current information on Flying Together> Coronavirus: Latest Updates> International Restrictions.

It is important to note that restrictions may vary given your status as working crew or as a member of the traveling public. When utilizing pass or revenue travel in your personal time you should refer to the local government specific resources as the information on Flying Together pertains to working crew. 

May Special COLAs Available (1/2/3 months)

Yesterday United announced they would be offering Special COLAs beginning May 2021. The durations available are 1, 2 and 3 months. Bidding is open now and will close Thursday April 1 at 0800 CT. Awards will be published prior to the May bidding window. Any requests on file may be awarded at any time before the May bid month starts if slots are still available.

These Special COLAS will include medical benefits at active employee rates. Additionally, pay and vacation longevity are not impacted for contractual step increases.

Flight Attendants interested in bidding may do so in CCS under the drop-down menu “Leaves” and select Special COLA. Once a COLA is awarded it cannot be rescinded. If you are awarded a Special COLA you will be required to complete any overlapping assignment. In the event you do not wish to fly your overlap trip you have the ability to adjust your line through the normal process.

Easter Monday Paid Holiday U.K.

JCBA Sections 2.Q and 4.I

Trips originating in the United Kingdom that touch the designated Easter Monday holiday will include holiday pay as set forth in Section 4.I. of our Contract. Section 4.I. of the Contract provides information on the formula used to determine holiday pay. No Flight Attendant shall be eligible to be paid for more than five (5) holidays in any calendar year.

Additionally, when a Flight Attendant’s birthday falls on a contractual paid holiday and the Flight Attendant chooses to fly a trip on that day, they will receive pay for both holidays (ex: Flying on the designated Easter Monday holiday which is also the Flight Attendants Birthday on the same day). Pay will be calculated in the same manner for each of the holidays.

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

Reminders and Quick Links

April 1- Special COLA Bidding Closes 0800 CT
April 5 – Easter Holiday U.K.
April 10 – The Association of Flight Attendants- CWA Scholarship closes
April 18 – Gina Rose Montalto Memorial Foundation Scholarships
April 29 - CQ 2021 Trimester CBT 2 Due
April 30 – Joe Beirne Scholarship Closes


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