Dear Flight Attendants,
AFA has recently received a variety of questions and concerns with respect to Section 8.I in Hours of Service of our Collective Bargaining Agreement, or what’s commonly referred to as the “Night Rule.” It states the following:
“If a Flight Attendant is on duty at 4 AM (except for an APSB who has not had a flying assignment prior to the APSB assignment during the same duty period), s/he will not be required to remain on duty beyond 8:30 AM. The Company many build single-duty period sequences with one (1) return to domicile outside these parameters, but the Flight Attendant will not be scheduled for additional flying after the return to domicile.”
This language is important because it ensures that if you are on duty at 4AM (except when on a single duty period turn, i.e. SEA-ANC-SEA) you cannot be scheduled to remain on duty beyond 8:30AM. The language was incorporated into the contract in 2006 and was designed to address concerns with additional scheduled flying following an all-nighter.
With the changeover from the former AOS pairing optimizer to the current Jeppesen pairing optimizer we started seeing pairings that have an additional leg following all-nighter flying. This was as early as July 2013. AOS was programmed to prohibit any additional flying if on duty at 4am. Jeppesen operates using a different algorithm that more closely mirrors the contractual language. Consequently, the Jeppesen solutions will contain sequences with a leg added to flying following an all-nighter. The only caveat is that these pairings must release prior to 8:30 AM as measured from the timezone of the initial departure station in that duty period. (More on that shortly.)
Example: Seattle pairing #9695 from the August 2013 bid packet departs on day two from OGG at 10:15 PM Hawaii Standard Time (HST), lands in PDX at 6:22 AM Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) the following day and then departs to SFO and releases at 9:35 AM PDT. Days 1-3 of this 4-day pairing are illustrated below.
867 SEA 18:20 OGG 21:15
822 OGG 22:15 PDX 06:22
244 PDX 07:35 SFO 09:20
The reason this pairing is legal under the Night Rule is that the 8:30 AM release restriction is based on the time zone in which the duty period starts (i.e. the initial departure station time) and not local time. The release time is 9:35 AM PDT which is actually 6:35 AM HST (as Hawaii does not observe DST) and is therefore legal because release is before 8:30 AM HST.
AFA is very much aware that the language is silent in regards to the time zone. Management asserted that they should not “lose” one or more hours of scheduling availability simply because a Flight Attendant is advancing through time zones by flying east. After extensive research into the bargaining history from that period we were able to confirm that it was not the intent of either party to apply additional “artificial” restrictions on the Night Rule due to changing time zones.
Otherwise if the parties agreed that the Night Rule was based on local time, the opposite argument could be made. That is, management would gain one or more hours of scheduling availability if a Flight Attendant was flying west and obviously AFA is not going to agree to that interpretation. The reality is that the ability to create these types of pairings while complying with the Night Rule was not anticipated by either party in the mid-2000s.
There are a variety of factors that have changed since those negotiations which have made it easier for the pairing optimizer to build this type of pairing:
Shorter block times, which allow for new combinations of segments to be legally scheduled within the 10 ½ hour duty day;
A dramatic increase in Hawaii flying; and
An expanded route structure with more flying across the system.
When AFA first became aware that the new pairing optimizer was creating these types of pairings, a meeting was held between representatives from Alaska Airlines Scheduling & Planning and AFA. At that meeting AFA expressed concern that although the pairings were technically legal, additional scheduled flying following all-nighters was too hard on the crews working them.
Management informed us of their intent to continue building these types of pairings. However, management did offer to voluntarily place some additional restrictions into the pairing optimizer:
No additional flying would be scheduled following an all-nighter on the last day of a sequence (so that a Flight Attendant would not be released to drive home at domicile after additional night flying); and
If an additional leg were to be scheduled following an all-nighter, the ground time would not exceed eighty nine (89) minutes.
AFA continues to be concerned about the health and safety of the Flight Attendants working these trips due to fatigue. Despite the voluntary restrictions being in place for over a month now, it is clear they are not helping. The example pairing above is often hit with long ground times and block delays due to air traffic control (ATC) delays into SFO.
We need assistance from Flight Attendants who are flying these trips or who have flown all-nighters in the past to send us feedback detailing the impacts to crews who are forced to fly under these conditions. The AFA Alaska Safety, Health and Security Committee (SHSC) is helping our effort by providing information regarding the overall impact of fatigue and the interruption of the circadian rhythm. However, having first-hand accounts from Flight Attendants will have the greatest impact in convincing management to change these pairings.
Please send your comments to MEC Grievance Chair Jennifer Wise MacColl at email@example.com.
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Terry Taylor, Yvette Gesch, Melanie Buker, Laura Masserant, Cathy Gwynn and Sandra Morrow; and MEC Grievance Chair Jennifer Wise MacColl
“Five Bases, One Voice”