The AFA Alaska Master Executive Council (MEC) has received numerous requests from Membership for us to respond to the latest communications from management regarding pairing construction and schedules (April 27 “Division Communication: Staffing & Scheduling Info” and May 7 “Division Communication: June Schedule Summary”). The MEC completely understands how upsetting these communications are to Flight Attendants. Your AFA Alaska officers and committee members have also been extremely frustrated.
Management has produced a lot of statistics in the past month and a half trying to convince you that staffing levels and the pairings really aren’t that bad. Management has even made (not so?) veiled suggestions in various forums that staffing would be okay if sick leave utilization would just go down. AFA could waste a lot of words picking apart the numbers and critiquing management’s approach, but really…what’s the point?
The MEC is just as done with the charts and graphs as you are, and we’re tired of Flight Attendants being blamed for using their earned sick leave, which is a negotiated benefit. It’s as simple as this: Summer staffing is a mess and the pairings really have been that bad. ‘Nuff said, right?!
For those of you who want more detail, here is the “straight scoop” from AFA’s perspective:
- Management grossly overestimated the impact of the new contract on staffing requirements during the budget-planning season last year.
Based on staffing projections made at that time, several classes planned for 2016 were put on hold. Consequently, management hired many less Flight Attendants than originally planned, which caused a domino effect. In constructing a staffing model for the upcoming budget year, it probably would have been more prudent for management to use a rolling average using several years of data rather than less than a full year of experience under a new contract.
- After many updates to eMaestro, Open Time programming was finally corrected early this year to the negotiated OT Trial.
During this past fall and early winter, Open Time was mis-programmed with more liberal trading rules than negotiated, which led to a false sense of trading flexibility.
- Line averages started creeping up at the same time as Reserves numbers were lowered.
Staffing, fairly rapidly, went from personal drops being offered on most days to Premium Open Time being offered on most days and much higher Reserve utilization. Flight Attendants became increasingly reluctant to pick up, started holding out for premium, and during this time Open Time was more restrictive than in the previous months.
- During this same period, management selected pairings solutions for several months based more on lower cost and better statistics (from their perspective) than on Flight Attendant satisfaction.
To be fair, lower costs will always be a primary driver in pairing construction, but AFA strongly believes management could have been doing more to achieve both.
- In response to a grass roots letter writing campaign by Flight Attendants protesting the poor quality pairings, management wrote some communications that in AFA’s opinion were extremely “tone deaf” to our group.
Flight Attendants don’t want to be told that they are being asked to work “less than one extra day” per bid month. What does that even mean, anyway? Plus, don’t provide us with statistics based on duty periods rather than calendar days. Flight Attendants bid and trade based on calendar days, and we know when numbers based on duty periods don’t match up with our everyday experiences.
Finally, don’t throw the Negotiating Committee under the bus by making it seem like they signed off on more 4-day pairings in exchange for Minimum Pay Rules. Yes, the possibility was discussed that achieving MPRs could lead the pairing optimizer to construct more 4-day pairings. However, your Negotiating Committee knew Flight Attendants want it all and said as much to management: We desire more productive pairings (using our definition of “productive” not management’s) and a mix of pairing lengths that suits the needs of our diverse group.
So where does this leave us?
The good news is management has come to the realization that we are understaffed. Vice President of Inflight Services, Andy Schneider, recently sent out a communication and produced a video that went a long way towards taking ownership of the situation. She authorized spending a decent amount of money in order to select AFA’s one-position and three-position pairings solutions for the month of July with the hope of improving quality of life and Flight Attendant satisfaction. She also approved hiring several more classes this year.
The bad news is that adding new classes now is too little, too late—at least for this summer. The flight schedule is ramping up to maximum block hours very shortly, so any additional Flight Attendants on the rosters will not significantly lower the ever-increasing line averages or reserve utilization system-wide for several months. In fact, the line averages are not expected to start coming down in any noticeable way until fall—and this is mostly likely true for reserve utilization as well.
AFA will continue to advocate to management that constructing and selecting pairings solutions with a reasonable emphasis on Flight Attendant satisfaction is money well spent. The MEC is also open to exploring mutually agreeable creative solutions with management in order to improve the summer staffing challenges. Finally, your AFA leaders are actively following your feedback regarding the Open Time Trial.
The MEC applauds Andy’s recent efforts to turn around the summer staffing challenges, and we are hopeful she will continue the trend.
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Brian Palmer, Yvette Satterlee, Lisa Pinkston, Laura Masserant, Cathy Gwynn, Sandra Morrow, Stephen Couckuyt; LEC Presidents-elect Tim Green, Brice McGee; MEC Scheduling Committee Chairperson Jake Jones and Scheduling Committee