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A Reality Check and Solutions

Date: August 18, 2022

In our ongoing efforts to help management make good decisions and find solutions to their problems, you have made your voices clear. Through messages to your Local Council Leadership, to the letters to John, to reporting call hold wait times, to sending screenshots of your hold time, and through participation in our Flight Attendant Promoter Score – it is clear that management continues to fall short on addressing issues that are important to Flight Attendants.

Let’s be crystal clear on something. It’s you who are driving this conversation. Our Union Leadership is channeling your voice directly to management so they can see it’s the Flight Attendants who demand change, not just the Union Leadership who represents you.

To recap:

  • Over 9,000 letters were delivered to John, signed by you.
  • Over 1,000 call hold time reports have been logged from you.
  • Screenshots showing how long you have been on hold to crew scheduling, which provides a very clear, visual image of what hold times you’re experiencing.
  • And, of course, an FPS score, including a breakdown of the promoters, passives, and detractors, shows just what areas management needs to improve upon.

All of this is not an effort to bash management; it is an effort to show management, in the clearest, most possible way, just how badly their choices are impacting their Flight Attendants.

If Good Leads the Way, and management cares about Flight Attendants as much as they claim, then why are your messages falling on deaf ears? The solutions are not elusive, they’re right here in front of everyone, and we’ll talk about a few.

One area that has been a large focus this summer is the call hold wait times. In management’s most recent response, they talk about the challenges of a 7-week time period to get new crew schedulers trained. That’s fine, but time and again, management have offered excuses instead of actual solutions to the problem; more about that below. Did you know that if you hang up or your call gets disconnected, your call hold wait time is not included in the company’s calculation of how long the wait times actually are?

To be fair, management has offered a few solutions, most of which would require change in our contract outside of the section 6 negotiations process. But the fact of the matter is, the United Master Executive Council unanimously rejected their proposals because they are concessionary.

As an example: last week management’s latest response to our advocacy includes a new video series. During John’s discussion, he mentions the requirement to call the crew desk to be “horse and buggy,” and wants to address it with automation.

First and foremost, automation isn’t a point of contention in and of itself. Without debating the merits of the way John characterizes the requirement to call; the fact is: that language is in our Contract.

A contract that management agreed to.

And if a change to that language is to be considered by our Union, it must happen within the context of our Section 6 negotiations process. Giving up our hard-earned and well-defended Contract language to solve management’s problem of not being able to find and train enough people to answer the phone, is not on the table; plain and simple.

And let’s be equally clear: this is not all about weather or ATC staffing which has been an excuse for going on for 4 years now. Scott Kirby has said he wants United to be: “the biggest and the best airline in the history of aviation.” No disagreement there. However, any airline can operate well when things are on schedule. A great airline, being the biggest and best, should have the ability to adapt and support the operation when things to go off track.

Looking back to the beginning of our Focus on Us campaign last Spring, we’d like to remind you of some of the issues you identified that negatively impact Flight Attendants and need to be addressed. The focus lately has been on call hold times, and that’s definitely one of the most pressing issues, but it’s not the only one.

  • Call Wait Times at the Crew Desk and Flight Attendant Support Team
  • Joint Contract not fully implemented to include piggy-backing
  • Layover hotel and quality issues
  • Reserve Pool numbers restricting trading and schedule flexibility
  • Rescheduling issues resulting from aircraft schedule changes
  • Catering Issues
  • Reciprocal Cabin Seat Agreements

So, let’s talk about solutions.

Reciprocal Cabin Seat Agreements

  • Working with the Union to establish additional Reciprocal Cabin Seat Agreements doesn’t require hiring and training anyone for 7 weeks.
  • It’s an option on the table right now that could be addressed and actioned quickly to improve Flight Attendant quality of life.

Catering issues

  • Catering issues likewise don’t require learning our Contract or additional training.
  • Management has supervisors in every base that could be utilized to address immediate catering concerns.
  • Having local management involved in the process to coordinate getting what’s needed on the plane from where it’s sourced is a real-time solution to missing items.
  • Think about it, Flight Attendants are advocating for being fully and properly catered so that we can provide the experience United Airlines has promised. We want the same thing here.

Joint Contract not fully implemented to include piggy-backing

  • This is not a new issue at all. It’s a years old problem, that is simply being ignored.
  • Make the choice to have it be the focus of United’s programmers to fix this issue. Now.

Layover hotel and quality issues

  • Working to find hotels in the operation when needed, does not require a 7-week trained crew scheduler.
  • Management has a diverse group of established employees, in many departments, who don’t need to be hired. When the operation requires help in obtaining hotels, have management employees in menu planning, Bonus Bucks and any other area pick up a phone and call for hotels. We’re all in this together, right?
  • Especially, but not only in times of inclement weather, change the focus of supervisors and repurpose their efforts towards a greater good.
  • Have them equipped with a list of hotels in locations throughout the system and a company credit card on hand.
  • Alleviate the strain on the system by taking care of issues that don’t require intervention by other professionals.
  • If there is weather in EWR and crews are getting stranded, have the Inflight base team in EWR, or even throughout the system, all work together to coordinate and find hotels, so the crew desk has more time to answer calls.
  • Similarly, when crews need to self-help and obtain lodging on their own, supervisors can phone the hotel where the Flight Attendants are staying with a company credit card and cover the cost of the room. In doing so, our lodging needs are met, and Flight Attendants aren’t faced with the uncertainty and financial burden of being reimbursed.
  • Perhaps a white-flag incentive pay.
  • We support management being required to work overtime during inclement weather or other system disruption to better staff and handle issues.
  • And speaking of local management supporting Flight Attendants, these professionals could manage Flight Attendants calling on/off FMLA and returning to work from sick leave instead of needing to call the Flight Attendant Support Team in times of high call times.

And let’s talk about Reserve Pool numbers.

  • In this area, management could literally wave a magic wand, and those numbers could change to be more realistic and offer Flight Attendants greater flexibility and improve their quality of life.
  • This change requires no training, no cost, and no time to implement.
  • Imagine what a gesture of Good Leads the Way this would make to Flight Attendants.

Pairing Quality

  • Aside from the issues we’ve been discussing and addressing all summer from the list above, management also has the ability to create less painful pairings, by mitigating some of the productivity they build into their optimization process.
  • Imagine if although Contractually legal to build an all-night pairing with another segment if they just …. didn’t do that.

Sit Times

  • What about reducing long sit times, especially in locations that don’t have crew lounges?

On Hold

  • And finally, it never hurts to throw a little money at the situation.
  • Until a more permanent solution is in place, negotiate to pay Flight Attendants for the time they are required to remain on hold.

The good-will many of these simple concepts would generate would be meaningful. They would be reflected on the more rested faces of Flight Attendants and our ability to better deliver on management’s expectation of excellence.

You asked for solutions, well here are just a few. From all of us at the Union, when Flight Attendants are supported, Good really can Lead the Way.

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