Self Help – It’s about taking care of yourself
June 3, 2022
The challenges of the past several days have magnified the inability of Flight Attendants to reach Crew Scheduling & the Hotel Desk to secure overnight accommodations. It has been brought to our attention that, in some instances, an insufficient number of rooms have been contracted for by United’s Crew Accommodations Department largely due to the last-minute addition of flight frequencies into those cities.
In other instances, the demand for hotel rooms as a result of the resurgence in travel demand is making it nearly impossible for Hotel Operations to secure rooms in these sold-out cities. While it’s important that we understand this is happening, it is nonetheless, unacceptable.
Our Contract provides protection to ensure when things go wrong that, we have solutions at our disposal to place our needs, safety, and rest first. Unfortunately, we have a long history with United often being “caught unaware” and understaffed at Crew Scheduling and/or the Hotel Desk. Then we’re forced to endure excessively long wait or hold times after an already long day. While everyone needs to work together in these scenarios, Flight Attendants out on the line, waiting at the airport for hotel information or delayed transportation when they already have minimum rest, may need to intervene on their own behalf to provide for their own needs.
And yes. We get your frustration at hearing us talk about self-help when there are no rooms available in the city where the irregularity is occurring. We continue to remind management of their obligation under our Contract, to secure safe, clean, quiet and comfortable hotel accommodations for Flight Attendant layovers.
Keep in mind, Section 6.W. of our Contract provides two components of our legal rest – a period of time free from duty as well as place of lodging minimum. In these instances where the company has not secured a hotel room or when prompt transportation is not available, our place of lodging does not begin until arrival at the hotel to which we are actually laying over.
Transportation: Section 5.D.4. of our Contract requires layover hotel-operated transportation to be available to pick up Flight Attendants within 35 minutes of block arrival. In those circumstances where transportation is contracted independently (“public limousine service” – in other words, not a hotel van), the cut-off time is 45 minutes after block arrival. If these wait times are exceeded, Flight Attendants may use other means of transportation to the place of lodging, i.e., self-help, and seek reimbursement.
Hotel: If, as a result of irregular operations, you arrive in a city where a hotel was not planned but becomes necessary, after first trying to reach the Hotel Desk, you may find yourself needing to use these Self-Help procedures to secure a hotel room for the night.
Additionally, Section 5.B.5. states if you arrive at a layover hotel and your room is not ready within 30 minutes after arrival, you may use Self-Help and obtain other accommodations. There are certainly other times you may also use Self-Help, such as: no hot or cold water, no power, no heat or air conditioning, broken door locks, bugs or vermin of any kind in your room, no food availability whatsoever, noise that prohibits legal rest or any situation that threatens your safety or well-being.
If you encounter these or similar issues, take the following action to correct your experience:
- Calmly attempt to resolve the issue with the people providing the services – the hotel or transportation company. Always ask to speak to a manager on duty.
- If this fails to fix the problem, call the Hotel Desk (Crew Accommodations) and ask for their assistance.
- If you do not get a resolution to your situation through these two avenues, go to another hotel and take a taxi, if necessary. Ensure that you have the names of the hotel and company representatives with whom you’ve spoken. Get receipts for all of your expenses and submit a company expense report for reimbursement.
- Once settled into a different hotel, call Crew Scheduling and let them know where you are. Be aware that the Hotel Desk is not Crew Scheduling.
- Before you check out of the hotel after a legal rest, you may call the Hotel Desk and request their assistance in providing the hotel you use with payment for the accommodations. Often times it is easier to reach the hotel desk the next morning when the demand for assistance with hotels has been reduced. This is an effective way to avoid having to process a request for reimbursement with the company.
If one of your flying partners is in trouble and doesn’t have the expendable cash or a credit card to take care of it, help them out if you can.
When you return from your trip, remember to file the appropriate expense (Concur®) report, and attach your receipts for reimbursement.
To be clear, if any Flight Attendant feels they are unsafe to perform their Flight Attendant duties efficiently and safely due to a lack of adequate rest, they are encouraged to review the company’s Fatigue Risk Management Program and act accordingly.
Ultimately it costs United less to adequately plan for a correct number of hotel rooms than it does to reimburse us for hotel costs that we must secure at market rates, which may be seasonally high this time of year. While we shouldn’t have to self-manage this part of our job, we have the ability to do so, when management fails to provide for us, or when irregular operations create unforeseen circumstances.
The last thing we need from you is to make our Union aware of the problem and report it.
Our AFA MEC Hotel and Transportation Committee meets with United Crew Accommodations monthly, to address problems and seek positive resolution. Our advocacy is strengthened when problems are documented and trended through our Hotel Reporting Form.
Help us help you. File a report every time you experience a problem, conversely, or a positive experience.