MEC Reserve Report – December 2023
December 19, 2023
MEC Reserve Report – December 2023
MEC Reserve Committee
December 19, 2023
The December System Reserve Meeting with management was held on December 4th, 2023. The meeting was held in person at the Network Operations Center (NOC) in Arlington Heights, IL, with some attendees joining via Microsoft Teams™. Present for AFA were Matt Stegehuis, MEC Reserve Committee Chairperson, Rene Trujillo, MEC Reserve Committee Vice-Chairperson, Christopher Clarke, MEC Secretary-Treasurer, and Federico Masias Munoz, MEC Electronic Communication Coordinator. Present for the company were Martha Juarez, Manager – Inflight Scheduling Process Quality and Training, Samantha Washington, Matthew McKenna, Erick Diaz and Jeff Moore, Senior Managers – Crew Scheduling Operations, and Ammar Ikanovic, Manager – Inflight Crew Scheduling and Reserve Christmas Wish List Lead, along with other Crew Scheduling representatives.
Before starting the meeting, we were introduced to a couple familiar faces who have recently moved into new roles:
- Martha Juarez is the new Manager of Inflight Scheduling Process Quality. We have previously worked with Martha as part of the Inflight Automation team.
- Jeff Moore is a new Senior Manager of Crew Scheduling Operations. We have previously worked with Jeff in this same role. He has since spent a few years working outside United before returning to Inflight this month.
December/January Move-up Outlook
Matt McKenna began the meeting by providing an update on the status of the December Move-up process, as well as the current outlook for the January process. For December, 70% of the expected Move-up lines have been awarded so far; that is, 159 built out of 201 requested systemwide. During the process, it was realized not all of the requested International Purser (FML) Move-ups at EWR and ORD would be able to be awarded. Management was able to then shift some of those allocations to become additional Move-up lines built for the ‘FA’ groups at each location. Overall, there will be about 30 less Move-up lines built in December as compared to November; mostly due to the holidays in the back half of the month.
For January, management is still awaiting information on expected COLA numbers. There will also be a focus on protecting the first part of the month. That said, they stated there would likely be more awards possible than there were in December, with numbers closer to what was seen in October and November.
Follow-up: Update on Work to Fix 35-in-7 Application in COSMOS
We again asked for an update on the work to correct how the 35-in-7 calculation is being applied in the COSMOS system. Management stated that, unfortunately, the expected January deployment of a fix is no longer on track due to reprioritizations with COSMOS work. Although development of the fix is complete, they are awaiting availability in the test environment. We will continue to follow up.
Until we receive confirmation the programmatic updates have been successfully deployed, it is imperative Flight Attendants and Local AFA representatives remain vigilant in monitoring the 35-in-7 requirements. A Reserve’s time remaining before a potential 35-in-7 violation can be tracked using the “Avail 35/7” column found on the Reserve Availability list in CCS (see page 28 of the Reserve Survival Guide for more information). If a Reserve is improperly assigned over 35 hours, they should contact Crew Scheduling to get the legality resolved.
Ensuring Alternatively Covered Pairings are Removed from Open Time
There were several instances noted in November where trips at a given location had been covered using alternate means (e.g., moved flying, reassignments, etc.) but were never “canceled” and removed from the Open Time display. This caused an inaccurate calculation of the open trip liability shown in the Reserve Pool calendar for each day the trip would have operated. When brought to the attention of management, these instances were immediately corrected. During our meeting, management confirmed the issue had been included in the scheduler daily briefings and reinforced with reminders by the Assistant Managers. If you note any future occurrences, please reach out to an Assistant Manager and follow up with the MEC Reserve Committee.
Unassigned Pairings “Frozen” for Reserve Preferencing to be Released to Open Time at 1930
A Local Council reported several cases where pairings that had been “frozen” for the Reserve Preferencing process and remained unassigned were not properly released back into Open Time at 1930 HDT. This primarily consisted of Special Qualification pairings for which there were no legal and available Reserves of that qualification, as all known open trips should otherwise be assigned during the 1930 process. Of concern, when Scheduling was contacted by the Local Council in the moment, schedulers reported the trips in question showed in Open Time in the scheduler-facing COSMOS system.
During our meeting, management stated an IT ticket and incident number had been created for this issue and they are still investigating. It appears to be a messaging issue between COSMOS and uCrew, which provides the data shown in the Open Time Market of CCS. There is clearly a disconnect, but it is difficult to track as it occurs inconsistently. We will continue to follow up. Please report any additional occurrences to the MEC Reserve Committee.
Additional Pay and Credit for Pre-boarding That Extends Beyond 4-hour Standby Period
After reports of inconsistencies among some schedulers, we confirmed with management our understanding of Section 8.N.7. of the JCBA. This Section provides that a Standby who’s pre-boarding assignment extends beyond the end of the 4-hour Standby period will be paid and credited an additional 1:00 hour toward their line value. Management committed to follow up with the individual schedulers involved, and have since updated the schedules and credit of Flight Attendants for whom this provision had been misapplied.
Timing of Pre-boarding Assignments
Following concerns raised by a Local Council, we asked management about an instance where Standbys were assigned to pre-board over 2:00 hours prior to the gate report time. Although conceding an assignment that far in advance seemed unnecessary and unusual, management stated that the decision is left to scheduler discretion and expressed a view that there is no Contractual limitation on providing such notice. We stated that our concerns stem from potential changes in the operation during an extended period between assignment to pre-board and gate report, as Standbys assigned to pre-board are no longer considered available. More specifically, we objected to a possible scenario where an inbound Reserve could be second-assigned (or “turned”) because the available Standbys had already been assigned to pre-board.
Management seemed to understand our position, and stated there is always an “awareness” of Standbys who are waiting to pre-board. In a situation where there is a change in need, Standbys assigned to pre-board can be reassigned to cover other departing flights that are below minimum crew; especially when the assigned pre-board is not determined to be a “possible go” (i.e., when it is likely the late arriving crew will still be able to make the flight departure). They stated, in fact, they are not aware of any cases where an inbound Reserve has been “turned” due to the described situation. Moving forward, if you become aware of an inbound Reserve being “turned” when Standbys awaiting pre-board are available, please contact the MEC Reserve Committee immediately.
Discussion Regarding JCBA Section 8.K.4.
JCBA Section 8.K.4. provides that Reserves may call Scheduling once a day about their status and/or to request a release from Reserve duty. We shared with management reports that Reserves who call to inquire about release are sometimes told to “call back in an hour” but when they do, they are told by a different scheduler they should not be calling more than once. In some cases, they are told the instance will be “reported to local base management.”
Management is aware Reserves making such inquiries are sometimes told to call back later when the Reserve need for the remainder of the day is better understood. Management stated it would be helpful for Flight Attendants to note the name of the scheduler who asked them to call back and use it as a reference if they later speak to a different scheduler. Management did note that they are also aware of cases where Flight Attendants, without being told to do so, will call back continuously in an apparent effort to “shop” for different answers. These are likely the cases that would be flagged for escalation as inconsistent with the spirit of the Contractual provision.
Difficulties Reported When Assigning Reserves Newly Transferred to GUM
The Local Council in GUM has reported an issue whereby new transferees on Reserve are unable to acknowledge assignments in their first days of availability following the transfer. Additionally, it is reported schedulers have been unable to manually assign certain Reserves in this circumstance. Management confirmed there is an open IT ticket on this issue. Development of a fix has been completed, it is just awaiting availability in the test environment before it can ultimately be deployed. Unfortunately, there is no manual work around. Affected Reserves must be bypassed and an electronic record is made in the Master Schedule. We will follow up.
Auditing End-of-Month Lineholder to Reserve Coding
As you may be aware, pairings that carry-over from a Lineholder month into a Reserve month bring with it the Lineholder coding (L) for each calendar day it operates in the new month. If the pairing is subsequently dropped as part of a trade, the vacated days will retain the ‘L’ coding. If the coding is not returned to ‘R’ status on days of Reserve availability, the Reserve is excluded from the Reserve Preferencing process as the system does not see them as available.
In September of 2021, a manual process was established whereby Scheduling personnel will run a report to find Flight Attendant schedules that have vacated ‘L’ days in a Reserve month. They will then return the coding to ‘R’. Over the past several months, there have been increased reports of cases where this has not occurred, prompting us to inquire about it with management. We were surprised to learn this manual auditing process had become lost over time as people transitioned in and out of various roles at the Crew Desk. We are told they have found the process and tool used to complete the audit and will begin training the new work force. Assistant Managers (ASMs) will be trained in December, and it is anticipated the process will be in place for the January bid month.
Reports of Calls to Crew Scheduling Not Being Recorded
We asked management in what circumstances a phone conversation between Scheduling and a Flight Attendant would not be captured in the call recording system. Management stated they changed phone systems a few months ago and did an audit on recordings. An IT issue was found to exist with the recording of new hire schedulers, and it was fixed. When recordings do not work, we are told it most often occurs for schedulers who are working from home. When found, an IT ticket is immediately opened for resolution.
We shared that it was rumored the domicile phones used for Standby are not recorded. Management told us emphatically that calls from these phones are, in fact, recorded. Calls to the FAST team are also recorded. Calls to the IFDM, however, are not recorded.
Follow-up: 2023 Reserve Christmas Wish List (RCWL) Readiness
We had a brief follow-up discussion regarding readiness for the upcoming Reserve Christmas Wish List (RCWL) period. There were a few open process questions answered, as well as a discussion about test runs leading up to the live process. The Automation team will be available during the first couple days of the period to ensure all is working smoothly. Matt and Federico will also be available throughout the period to monitor the new RCWL preference portal and award process. A commitment was made to hold a “debrief” meeting in early January to discuss the 2023 process and whether there are other improvements that could be made for 2024.
As a reminder, please use the following email addresses for issues related to RCWL: