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MEC Reserve Report – January 2024

Date: January 31, 2024

MEC Reserve Report – January 2024
MEC Reserve Committee

January 31, 2024

The January System Reserve Meeting with management was held on January 24th, 2024. 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, 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 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.

Personnel Changes

Before starting the meeting, Samantha shared that they had filled the remaining open positions on the Process Quality and Training team. Working with Manager Martha Juarez are now four (4) specialists: Justin Furbush, Amy Garmon, Nicole Hester and Gonzalo Montes.

February Move-up Outlook

Matt McKenna provided an update on the February Move-up outlook. A total of 93 Move-up lines have been requested systemwide with an expected 84:00-hour line average.

  • DEN, EWR, IAD, IAH, & ORD all have 1 purser request, SFO has 2 requests
  • ORD has a German line request based on reserves & open time volume
  • Additionally, if purser or language lines remain unfilled those allotments will be moved to general FA population

Delayed February Reserve Pool Levels

We asked management to explain what caused the delay in February Reserve Pool levels being loaded into CCS prior to the open trade windows on the 23rd. They explained that the person responsible for setting and sending the numbers had recently changed and that there was also an error in the name and formatting of the file that was sent. This caused the file to be rejected by the system. To avoid future issues, moving forward the numbers will normally be sent with an additional one-day buffer (21st and 22nd). Despite the delay, management stated there was no understood advantage or disadvantage to individual Flight Attendants as the levels were updated for the entire base at the same time.

Update on Open IT Automation Issues

Management stated they had met with the Automation team about prioritizing the open items from our last meeting. There are currently two (2) items in the test environment that are FAR related which must be moved out before any of the below items can be moved in. This is expected to occur in the next load period which will be in the spring.

  1. Work to Fix 35-in-7 Application in COSMOS:. This is one of the items that will be included in the next load for the test environment. Depending on how it tests, it will likely take another couple of weeks to a month before it is loaded into production. 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.

  1. Unassigned Pairings “Frozen” for Reserve Preferencing to be Released to Open Time at 1930: The COSMOS team continues to investigate this issue. As previously mentioned, it has been difficult to track due to the inconsistent nature of the occurrences. We will continue to follow up. Please report any additional cases to the MEC Reserve Committee.
  1. Difficulties Reported When Assigning Reserves Newly Transferred to GUM: This is the other item to be included in the next load for the test environment. Depending on how it tests, it will likely take another couple of weeks to a month before it is loaded into production. We will continue to follow up. Until then, affected Reserves will be bypassed with an electronic record made in the Master Schedule. We will follow up.

Reports of Time-Accrued (TMAC) Not Updating in Real Time

In late December, the Local Council in GUM began noticing that the time-accrued (TMAC) shown on the CCS Reserve Availability list and in Reserve Preferencing Reason Report was not being updated in real time. Instead, it appeared to update at around 1800 HDT each evening. This was reported to the IT Automation team at the time it was identified, and we requested an update from management at the meeting. They reported that the Automation team is still researching the issue to determine a fix. We will continue to follow up.

Follow-up: Reserve Day Off Improperly Moved by a Scheduler

We provided management another example where it appears a scheduler improperly moved a Reserve’s day off without notice or contact with the Flight Attendant. Management committed to follow up with the scheduler.

Assignment-from-Standby Reminders

Although addressed in previous meetings, we brought forward two (2) issues related to assignments from Standby that have recently seen reoccurrence, as reported by Local Councils.

  1. Assignments from Standby Must Comply with ‘Scheduled’ Duty Maximums: Based on a couple of examples provided by Local Councils, we reminded management that pairings assigned to Standbys must comply with the “scheduled” duty maximums, as provided in Sections 6.S-U. of the Contract. It appeared in these cases, the scheduler may have forgotten to update the report time to the time the Reserve had checked in for the Standby period. Management committed to follow up with schedulers.
  1. Standbys Must be Assigned Within the 4-hour Standby Period: Section 8.N.2. of the Contract provides Reserves shall be released from Standby duty no later than four (4) hours from the time they reported for said duty. This means the Standby must either be assigned to a pairing or pre-board by the conclusion of the 4-hour period or they must be released to legal rest. We shared examples where Standbys were improperly assigned after the end of the Standby period. Management stated this issue will be addressed in an upcoming briefing item for schedulers.

Improper Assignment of Special Qualification Reserves to ‘FA’ Pairings

Over a weeklong period at the end of December, several locations reported International Purser (FML) Reserves were being improperly assigned to non-special qualification (FA) pairings. Section 8.I.1.h.(2). of the Contract provides special qualification Reserves may only be assigned to non-special qualification pairings in the geographical base if there are no legal and available ‘FA’ Reserves, including Ready or Standby. Management reaffirmed our shared understanding of the provision and shared that this was a recent “hot-topic” among schedulers. They will be addressing the issue in an upcoming briefing item, along with the reverse (i.e., ‘FA’ Reserves should not be assigned to special qualification pairings if there is a legal and available Reserve of that qualification).

Reserve Pairings Improperly Extended

We brought to management’s attention a few examples where Reserve pairings were improperly extended to include layovers at the home domicile before continuing on the following day. Reserves released to a legal rest period at home are to be returned to the Reserve Availability list where they will be placed in the proper day-of-availability/TMAC/FIFO and seniority order for further assignment. To be clear, Reserves may be second-assigned upon their return to base to avoid drafting, as provided in Section 8.I.3.b.(2)., but the second assignment must be within the same duty period. Management concurred with our assessment and committed to follow up with the schedulers involved, as well as the broader team.

Incentive Flags and Moving Flying

Based on questions from Local Councils, we asked management why they don’t always add incentive flags (White/Purple) to open time at locations before deciding to move the flying out of base. Management stated that they follow the provisions of Contract Section 7.G.2. when deciding to move open time from one base to another. It is their position that there is no Contractual requirement to first offer incentive flags before moving flying.

Improper Work Position Change

We shared with management an example where a scheduler appears to have manually traded a Flight Attendant’s assigned work position from FA02 to FM01 when the Purser position remained open on the day of departure. Management stated there is no process for a scheduler to do this. They requested additional information so they could follow up with the individual.

Reserve Days Off Commence at Midnight

We provided management an example where two (2) Reserves on the same pairing were denied the restoration of a minimum Reserve day off because the pairing debrief time was exactly midnight (0000). Management shared our understanding of Section 8.I.1.m. of the Contract which provides, “Reserve calendar days off are from midnight to midnight.” Management speculated the confusion may have been caused by a limitation in the COSMOS system that shows calendar days as 0001-2359. As such, the minimum day off violation was likely not “flagged” for the scheduler for the scheduler to see.

While there was some discussion about seeking an eventual programmatic fix, given the likely turn-around time of such a fix, management expressed a view there would need to be a process fix in the interim. They committed to take the issue back for review. We do not expect this to be a common issue for Flight Attendants, however, please report any further cases of a midnight debrief and denied day off restoration.

Pre-boarding Standbys Must be Assigned Pairing Before Door Closure

A Local Council reported an issue where Standbys who were initially assigned to pre-board a flight were told they would actually be working the flight, even though they had not yet been assigned a pairing. When the gate agent attempted to close the aircraft door, the Flight Attendants voiced concern they had not yet been assigned to the flight as a working crew member. The gate agent wrote a complaint that they delayed the departure of the flight and the Flight Attendants were given discipline by local management based on the complaint.

Scheduling management confirmed our mutual understanding that pre-boarding Standbys must be assigned a pairing prior to aircraft door closure if they will be working the flight. While pre-boarders are added to the gate-reader in order to gain access to the aircraft and fulfill FAA minimums required for boarding, this does not add them to the working crew list or General Declaration Form (“GENDEC”), if applicable. Scheduling management stated their process is to note in the Volare system (i.e., “flight feed”) who the pre-boarders are and whether or not it is likely they will ultimately be working the flight. It is also noted when a pre-boarder is only legal to pre-board but not legal to work the flight. Providing this information in Volare is intended to keep all of the flight stakeholders apprised of any potential scheduling issues.

Scheduling management committed to follow up with their counterparts in corporate safety and security as well as Airport Operations to avoid any potential safety and/or regulatory violations. The Local Council will be following up with local management to resolve any improper discipline incurred by the Flight Attendants involved in the initially reported event.

Note: While pre-boarders must be assigned a pairing prior to door closure, it is NOT required to have hotel information included in the pairing prior to this time. Section 5.B.9. of the Contract provides, “if this cannot be accomplished or in the event other layover accommodations are used, the company will reimburse the Flight Attendant for up to a five (5) minute telephone call to inform someone of the hotel actually being used.”

2023 Reserve Christmas Wish List (RCWL) Review

We ended the meeting by reviewing the 2023 Reserve Christmas Wish List (RCWL) period. Everyone agreed overall that the new process was a vast improvement over past years. We discussed specific areas that went well while acknowledging areas that could use improvement. To that end, we will begin to explore options for automation improvements in the coming months, with increased efforts to begin in early summer.

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