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MEC Reserve Report – September 2023

Date: September 30, 2023

MEC Reserve Report – September 2023

MEC Reserve Committee

October 4, 2023

The September System Reserve Meeting with management was held on September 26th, 2023. While some company representatives joined via Microsoft Teams™, the meeting was held in person at the Network Operations Center (NOC) in Arlington Heights, IL. Present for AFA were Matt Stegehuis, MEC Reserve Committee Chairperson, Rene Trujillo, MEC Reserve Committee Vice-Chairperson and Christopher Clarke, MEC Secretary-Treasurer. Present for the company were Tina Austin, Manager of Inflight Crew Scheduling Process Quality and Training, Samantha Washington, Senior Manager of Inflight Crew Operations, Bob Krabbe, Managing Director of Inflight Labor Relations, along with other Crew Scheduling representatives.

September Move-up Line Outlook

Matt McKenna provided an overview of the company’s Move-up Line projections for September. While they are still awaiting additional quota from network planning which could lead to minor changes, he stated the numbers will likely remain stable compared to the 31 system-wide awards last month. They intend to maintain a conservative approach as departures will only be reduced by about 2%. Although there are about 200 new hires coming on the line, those numbers were offset by network planning and the award of additional COLAs; approximately 50 more than August.

Mia explained they will have a better outlook following the Vacation Relief award process. They are also starting to see the level of sick calls trend downward, so they believe there may be opportunities for minor increases once the Move-up build period begins.

Follow-up: All Open Positions Are to be Assigned Prior to 1930 HDT

We followed up on an issue brought forward last month where it was found schedulers were not assigning all possible open assignments prior to 1930 HDT. Although management had committed to review the issue with schedulers, it appears to have since occurred on several more occasions.

Tina said they will continue to bring the issue into the scheduler briefings. Mia also stated they are hiring for additional leadership positions intended to assist in ensuring these processes are occurring regularly and as required.

Discussion Regarding the Application of 35-in-7 Language

We recently reported an example of a Reserve who was improperly assigned into a 35-in-7 legality. We were surprised to learn the COSMOS system is currently not programed to flag the legality as long as international flying is assigned at the end of the seven (7) consecutive 24-hour periods. This is not correct.

We provided management a copy of the JCBA Legalities Guide where the application of this language is explained as mutually understood when implemented (see attachment). Although international pairings alone do not count toward the calculation, when there is a mix of both domestic and international flying in the period, the international hours are included.

Other scheduling systems, such as Jeppesen and CCS, appear to be calculating the 35-in-7 correctly but operate independently of COSMOS. This is likely how the issue has only now become known. Management stated they have had an initial conversation with United Labor Relations to confirm how Section 6.O. of the Contract is applied. They are 90% sure there will need to be a programmatic update to COSMOS. We will continue to follow-up.

Local Base Management Improperly Contacting Reserves Who Have Not Acknowledged

We shared with management a report from a Local Council where a Reserve who had not acknowledged their 1930 assignment the night before was improperly contacted by a local base supervisor. This contact interrupted the Flight Attendant’s legal rest period. When the Local Council inquired with the base, they were informed a list of Reserves who had not acknowledged their 1930 assignments had been sent by Scheduling.

We asked management why such a list was sent to the base, given Reserves are not required to acknowledge 1930 assignments; they are only required to ascertain these assignments and report at check-in time. Tina stated the company has recently noted an increase in “no-shows” of Reserves who do not acknowledge the night before and surmised the intent of the scheduler may have been to provide visibility to the local base. She explained, however, this is not a normal process and committed to follow up with the scheduler. It was also suggested an educational article and/or CCS message may help to remind of the requirement to ascertain assignments.

When asked why the Reserve’s rest was not reset, management expressed a view that the local base has the ability to contact Flight Attendants for various reasons, which is considered outside the scope of Crew Scheduling. In our view, however, the local base still bears a responsibility to be aware of and not interrupt a legal rest period. Please report any legal rest interruptions by the local base to the MEC Reserve Committee.

Confirming Availability of Open Positions for Reserve Preferencing

We followed up with management regarding a recent report that no assignments were available for the LAX Reserve Preferencing process. Upon review, it was confirmed there were legitimately no trips in Open Time prior to 1500 HDT that would have been included in the process that day. However, management found the Standby positions normally built in advance were, for some reason, not built until after the preferencing run. They committed to ensure the Standby team proactively builds known positions further out so they are included.

Ensuring Use of ‘OSB’ Code When Releasing Standbys

We have gotten several reports from Flight Attendants who have not had the “Off Standby” (OSB) code properly placed on their Master Schedule once released from a period of Standby. The omission of this coding keeps the Reserve off the availability list and prevents their ability to preference and be assigned.

Management confirmed the OSB code should be placed on the Master Schedule at the time the Reserve calls at the end of the standby period, and will remind Schedulers in their briefings. We asked if there is a way to audit this process to identify when it does not occur. Tina stated they are looking into it.

Improper Reassignment into Reserve Days Off

We reviewed with management the schedule of a Flight Attendant who had several improper reassignment issues occur within the same block of days. In one case, they had a day off involuntarily moved without an assignment, resulting in an improper second-assignment when returned to base. In another, they were improperly reassigned into days off while away from base, which is not contemplated under the provisions of Section 8.I.1.f-g.

Management agreed with our assessment and stated they had followed up with the schedulers involved. We will send it back to the Local Council to complete the NOD process.

Ready Reserve Contact and Notice of Assignment

When attempting to contact Reserves, it has been our long held understanding that each of the three (3) possible telephone numbers listed in CCS will be tried three (3) times over 30 minutes. However, we shared with management that a Local Council recently reported Absence Supervisors are telling Reserves this is not the case. To our surprise, instead of confirming our understanding, management presented a new and alternate view. Tina explained they have been seeking ways to improve operational efficiency. She stated that, although schedulers have been “proactive” in calling a third number, the Contract provides for “one (1) alternate contact at a time.” They will, therefore, be calling only the first and second numbers listed in CCS.

We expressed our disagreement and voiced a number of concerns. Tina informed us this change is still “in the works” and a specific start date has not been established, although Mia stated a communication would likely come this week. We will take the issue back for review by the MEC Officers.

Post Meeting Addendum: The company released a Scheduling Alert on Thursday, August 24, detailing the above process change. It is set to take effect August 31, 2023. After consulting with the MEC Officers and MEC Grievance Committee, it was determined an MEC grievance would be filed in the coming days. Please see the article published in Debrief (and attached) for more information.

AFA Guest Questions

We concluded the meeting by giving our guest and CSC member, Kelby Nichols, an opportunity to ask questions of the management representatives present. Part of Kelby’s focus on CSC is Reserve schedule planning issues, so it was a unique opportunity for him to gain insight on Reserve from an operational scheduling perspective. Kelby inquired about the best ways to communicate variable staffing concerns, how moved-flying is tracked, and about Reserve staffing levels at several locations.

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