Home > News > E-Lines: April 09, 2021

E-Lines: April 09, 2021

Date: April 9, 2021

United Temporarily Grounds 16 737 MAX Aircraft

This morning, United learned Boeing had advised 16 airlines that fly the 737 MAX of a technical issue related to an electronics component.  United announced they would immediately and voluntarily ground these affected aircraft.   Of United’s current operating fleet of 30 737 MAX aircraft, 16 are affected and have been removed from service out of an abundance of caution.  There are 14 remaining 737 MAX aircraft that are not affected by this issue and will remain in service. We will continue to monitor updates from United and Boeing as to the remedy for this technical issue and any additional developments potentially impact the aircraft’s return to service.

United’s Controversial Feedback Program

As United moves forward with their controversial plan to communicate new customer feedback to Flight Attendants program, we are hearing concerns from Members and receiving questions asking about the specific crew information that United is sharing when our passengers take the survey.

Further complicating the issue is that the graphical information presented to Flight Attendants in United’s internal communication mistakenly creates the perception that crew information, including pictures of the crew, is being provided to customers. 

As the feedback from the initial test flights at ORD and HNL begins to make its way back to Flight Attendants, the information being provided to Flight Attendants does include the names and pictures of the crew members who were assigned to work the flight in question.  United tells us this is for the benefit of the Flight Attendants receiving the feedback; to help those involved remember the crew who worked the flight from which the feedback originates because the survey results could be coming back several segments or pairings later.

We have been provided reassurances more than once that the survey given to the passengers does not contain any personal information such as a name or a picture of the crew.  It is a general survey based on the entire crew and flight.  While passengers may provide information on a particular crew member or event in their survey, they do not have access to any identifying information through the survey.

As we cautioned originally, from the onset, this survey was destined to be controversial and just how much so remains to be seen.  While we can all draw our own conclusions on the type of feedback that may result from the “heat of the moment” and conjecture how United may interpret that data, the “proof will be in the pudding.”  We have expressed our reservations about the program and will continue to monitor events that develop around the program. 

Kirby Optimistic About United’s Future

Scott Kirby currently opines that United Airlines international and business travel will make a “full” recovery from the decimation caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic toward the end of 2021.  This is a bold prediction and not one that is necessarily shared by everyone in the industry.  For perspective, Kirby tempers his statement by explaining that international travel will face steeper logistical hurdles for recovery.  Vaccination records may be a requirement, especially to Asian and European destinations.  China would likely be the last travel destination to ease restrictions, Kirby said.

This is a markedly more optimistic outlook than Kirby predicted last Fall and Winter (think involuntary furloughs) when he was saying corporate travel wouldn’t return to normal until 2024.  During the pandemic, Kirby has gained a reputation as the airline CEO with the most conservative approach to managing the pandemic.  His approach to immediately and drastically reduce costs one year ago, has been largely credited with keeping our airline stable as we weathered the pandemic.  While we don’t always agree with every decision he’s made (for example, the aggressiveness of the recent Flight Attendant furloughs), most would agree he has been a responsible steward of our airline through this past year.

Many agree that the return of business flyers is key to the future health of United. The increase of domestic leisure travel has gotten many planes flying again and allowed United to reduce its “core” cash burn to zero (United defines “core cash flow” to be cash generated from operations minus investment and financing expenses).  However, a return to profitability, and profit sharing, will come when the companies that pay top dollar for last-minute plane tickets, book amenity-rich hotels, and reserve conference rooms, get their staff back out on the road. Kirby insists, unlike others in the industry, because business travel is about building relationships, it will make a total recovery.  A significant number of analysts disagree and think business travel will be forever changed by COVID and remain permanently more remote. Time will tell.

While we would love to fully embrace this theory of full business recovery by the end of 2021, it’s our view that a caution optimism is warranted.  Of course, all Flight Attendants are anxiously awaiting the return of our international flying and our business passengers, and we remain hopeful that vaccines widely distributed around the world will help make this a reality.  As of today, it is not yet a certainty.  Vaccine production is still largely happening only in wealthier countries and the COVID variants are still causing great havoc in Europe and elsewhere.  Governments and business around the world need to come together to help the entire world get vaccinated and this has not yet been accomplished nor is their certainty that this will happen this year.

Conversely to Kirby’s glass mostly full perspective, there are other industry leaders who do not share his prediction.  While the Airlines for America CEO is pleased things are looking up at the airlines, Nick Calio suggests that the finish line isn’t in sight yet.  “It’s an elusive combination of factors that need to align”, Calio says.  Airlines for America argues it will take more than an efficient vaccination rollout to get passenger numbers back to 2019 levels. COVID case numbers need to continue to decline. Travel restrictions, including border closures and quarantine regimes, will have to ease. There will need to be a general economic rebound across the United States. Travel markets will have to bounce back, including the all-important corporate travel market. Right now, most pundits expect the corporate travel market to be among the last market segments to recover.

Let us all hope that Kirby’s prediction proves accurate and our business travelers are back in economy plus receiving their complimentary snacks and drinks, but that’s not yet a certainty for this year.  Kirby has largely predicted and navigated our airline’s best path forward thus far, and we have faith that he will continue to see us through to the finish line.

Hotel Layover Safety – Don’t Post on Social Media

Recently, we have been made aware of instances where some Flight Attendants have been posting information about layover locations or hotels on social media.  More specifically naming the actual hotel location or asking specifically how/where to access it. As we’ve said many times before, we cannot nor should we have any expectation of privacy on any social media platform, even if we are in a “closed” group.

Flight Attendant hotel security is something we all need to take seriously because it affects all of us.  We have only to look around us, as events unfold in the world to understand that safety needs to begin with our own individual choices and actions. We should not be posting any hotel or transportation information anywhere on social media; likewise, we should not be soliciting specific hotel information from fellow crewmembers on this platform either.

If you need to know a hotel location, the pairing information in CCS has the specifics you need, or if the hotel is not yet provided, you can get the information by calling the crew desk. For details on how to find it (i.e. - go through the airport parking lot), you should contact the hotel directly at the number provided with the hotel information in CCS to get the information you need.

We understand social media is not going anywhere, and will continue to be used by Flight Attendants, but we must be judicious in our usage.  If you are looking for restaurants, activities or events in a general city or location using social media is one thing, but specific hotel information should not be discussed outside of our official United information or Union channels. We also encourage you to review an AFA Layover Safety article for additional precautions to keep us all safe.

System Transfers Awarded Today

System transfers with a June 2021 effective date were processed today to the following bases:

Txfr To:

DEN

DEN - GER

EWR

HNL

LAS

SFO

Awards:

110

3

160

20

20

2


These transfers can be seen in the transfer request screen in CCS.  Flight Attendants must accept the transfer award in CCS in order for the transfer to become effective.

Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver for COVID-19 Vaccines

Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property, universally known as TRIPS, is a multilateral agreement under the World Trade Organization (WTO). It was the first such agreement to treat so-called intellectual property (IP) rights, most notably copyright and patents, as a global trade issue, on the theory that one country's failure to protect another's IP creates a barrier to trade between those countries.

The agreement on TRIPS became effective in 1995 and mandates that all 164 World Trade Organization members provide a certain level of Intellectual Property protection for copyrights and patents. This would apply to COVID-19 vaccines developed such as Astra Zenica, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and any others being developed.

India and South America have proposed a temporary waiver to the TRIPS treaty. The waiver would allow production of a generic COVID-19 vaccine at plants around the world.

At the current rate of production, developing countries are not expected to get access to the vaccine until 2024. This allows the virus to continue to mutate and create new variants. The risk may be a new vaccine-resistant variant that may shut down the global economy and delay the recovery of the aviation industry.

What TRIPS means to Flight Attendants:

Flight Attendants know our jobs depend on a strong global network.  For a full recovery of the aviation industry, we must work to ensure that people around the world have access to the vaccine.

That is why AFA-CWA is urging President Biden to support an emergency and temporary WTO “Waiver from Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of COVID-19”. AFA-CWA has joined over 400 organizations calling on the Administration to support waiving the WTO IP rules so that greater supplies of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests can be produced in many places and as quickly as possible. Public pressure on the Biden Administration has grown and the White House is now considering the TRIPS waiver.  Stay tuned for how you can take action to support this initiative next week.

Passport Renewal Procedures

Please be aware that passport renewal procedures are frequently changing because of the COVID pandemic.  As a result, Flight Attendants are urged to visit the following link on Flying Together

My Work>Policies and Procedures>International Information>Passports and visas>COVID-19 Passport Documents before beginning the process.  The below procedures are current as of today but are subject to change without notice.

Because of the COVID pandemic, airline flight crews are currently instructed to mail passport renewal applications to the National Passport Center (NPC).  The Department of State Passport Services no longer permits flight crews to schedule an appointment at a passport agency to renew their passports.  Only passport books will be issued.  To be eligible for renewal, your passport must be expiring within seven months or less.   

Application and mailing instructions:

  • DS-82 application (available at travel.state.gov)
  • Your current passport
  • A passport photograph
  • A company letter that includes your name, reason for the urgency, statement of need for work-related international travel, supervisor details and the date the letter was issued (obtainable via Help Hub)
  • A check or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of State.  For information regarding passport fees, please visit travel.state.gov

In order to receive a reimbursement, flight attendants will need to take a picture of their check or money order or you may use a copy of the processed check/money order from your financial provider (as you will not receive a receipt from the USDOS).  United reimburses for the cost of the passport, expedite fees, passport required photo and until further notice, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, overnight delivery fee.  Submit your request for reimbursement via Concur.

Additional information can be found online at Inflight>Policies and Procedures>Passports & Visas

Please note that after mailing your passport, you must notify United that you have surrendered your passport.  Go to CCS>Schedule>Passports>Passport Surrender Information.  Upon receiving your new, updated passport, you must return to CCS>Schedule>Passports to input the information from your new passport and notify United that you are now in possession of a valid passport.

Wear Your Union Pin – Solidarity Matters

Did you know that United management notices every Flight Attendant who crosses their path who is wearing their AFA pin?

Your AFA pin is not simply a decoration - it is a statement of solidarity and an indication to the company that Flight Attendants, despite any individual differences, stand together behind one voice to speak for them: Our Union. 

Just as we may not currently favor one political party over another, and we may not always agree with each other or every decision our Union makes, we must always stand together for what we collectively believe and support. 

Be a part of a chain that cannot be broken, our Union begins with “U.”

Protecting our Democracy — Preventing Voter Suppression and Protecting Union Rights

Voting rights are under attack nationwide as states pass voter suppression laws. These laws lead to significant burdens for eligible voters attempting to exercise their most fundamental constitutional right.

In 43 states across the country, there are at least 250 proposals that would, in one way or another, limit mail, early in-person and Election day voting by requiring stricter ID requirements.

On Thursday, March 25th, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law an overhaul of state elections that includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater control on how elections are run. Almost immediately, lawsuits were filed in federal court challenging the new law.

The war over voting access that has roiled Georgia is headed next to Texas, where Republican legislators are working through an omnibus elections overhaul package that would dramatically change the way some voters cast a ballot in future contests. The measure has been labeled a priority by both Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who controls the state Senate. It follows on the heels of election overhauls that passed in 2017 and failed in 2019.

Legislation passed in the House this past January that seeks to protect voter rights: H.R. 1 For the People Act of 2021.  This bill addresses voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics for the three branches of government.

Specifically, the bill expands voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (vote-by-mail and early voting). It also limits removing voters from voter rolls.

The bill requires states to establish independent redistricting commissions to carry out congressional redistricting.

Additionally, the bill sets forth provisions related to election security, including sharing intelligence information with state election officials, supporting states in securing their election systems, developing a national strategy to protect U.S. democratic institutions, establishing in the legislative branch the National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions, and other provisions to improve the cybersecurity of election systems.

H.R.1 also addresses campaign finance, including expanding the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals, requiring additional disclosure of campaign-related fundraising and spending, requiring additional disclaimers regarding certain political advertising, and establishing an alternative campaign funding system for certain federal offices.

The bill addresses ethics in all three branches of government, including by requiring a code of conduct for Supreme Court Justices, prohibiting Members of the House from serving on the board of a for-profit entity, and establishing additional conflict-of-interest and ethics provisions for federal employees and the White House.

A second piece of legislation that passed the House in March is H.R. 842 Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021 – The PRO Act. This bill expands various labor protections related to employees' rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace.

Among other things, it (1) revises the definitions of employeesupervisor, and employer to broaden the scope of individuals covered by the fair labor standards; (2) permits labor organizations to encourage participation of union members in strikes initiated by employees represented by a different labor organization (i.e., secondary strikes); and (3) prohibits employers from bringing claims against unions that conduct such secondary strikes.

The bill also allows collective bargaining agreements to require all employees represented by the bargaining unit to contribute fees to the labor organization for the cost of such representation, notwithstanding a state law to the contrary; and expands unfair labor practices to include prohibitions against replacement of, or discrimination against, workers who participate in strikes.

The bill makes it an unfair labor practice to require or coerce employees to attend employer meetings designed to discourage union membership and prohibits employers from entering into agreements with employees under which employees waive the right to pursue or to join collective or class-action litigation.

The bill further prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against an employee, including employees with management responsibilities, in response to that employee participating in protected activities related to the enforcement of the prohibitions against unfair labor practices (i.e., whistleblower protections). Such protected activities include:

  • providing information about a potential violation to an enforcement agency,
  • participating in an enforcement proceeding,
  • initiating a proceeding concerning an alleged violation or assisting in such a proceeding, or
  • refusing to participate in an activity the employee reasonably believes is a violation of labor laws.

Finally, the bill addresses the procedures for union representation elections, provides employees with the ability to vote in such elections remotely by telephone or the internet, modifies the protections against unfair labor practices that result in serious economic harm, and establishes penalties and permits injunctive relief against entities that fail to comply with National Labor Relations Board orders.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States each year, or 261 deaths per day. These deaths shorten the lives of those who die by an average of almost 29 years, for a total of 2.8 million years of potential life lost. It is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States and costs the nation $249 billion, Criminal Justice -$25 billion, Collisions-$13 billion, Healthcare-$28 billion and Workplace productivity-$179 billion, all of which is a drain on the American economy as reported in 2010 Center of Disease and Prevention Cost of Excessive Alcohol Use on the Economy.

SAVE THE DATE
Flight Attendant Drug and Alcohol Conference
August 17-19, 2021
Baltimore, MD

"Wings of Sobriety"
Meetings are open to all Flight Attendants who are exploring their need for or seeking recovery from substance use disorders.
Meeting times are scheduled on Wednesday at 3:00 pm EST and Sunday at 5:00 pm EST.
Each meeting will last between forty-five (45) minutes to one (1) hour.  The conference call in number is 1-855-544-2320.

 >> For more information: Flight Attendant Drug and Alcohol Program

Association of Flight Attendants Scholarship Fund Deadline April 10

The Association of Flight Attendants Scholarship Fund is intended to provide financial assistance to dependents of our active members who will be attending a college or university. Applications must be postmarked by April 10, 2021, with 3 written references attached and transcripts, grades and SAT/ACT (if available) included.

To qualify you must be: a dependent of an active AFA member in good standing who is seeking to further her/his education at an accredited college or university.

A recipient of this scholarship will receive the cost of tuition, room, board and reasonable book expense, up to a maximum of $5,000 for one year.  Any recipient may reapply for this scholarship each year until graduation up to a maximum of four years.


Reminders and Quick Links

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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