Hello Seattle Flight Attendants,
First of all, I want to thank all of the Flight Attendants who were able to work as scheduled, VJA’d and especially the 11 Flight Attendants who were junior assigned last weekend. Junior Assignments require additional sacrifice to personal schedules and valued time off and I recognize the hardship this may cause.
While many were able to keep their commitment to work I understand the frustration and disappointment in having your weekend plans ruined by Reassignments and Junior Availability. Each of you came to work and performed your duties with exceptional professionalism and the expectation to fulfill your commitment to the operation. We continue to show the company why we excel in the industry for customer service and operational excellence! For those that were out sick or taking care of family members our thoughts are with you and we wish you and your family a speedy recovery.
Junior Assignment is never an easy topic to dissect. What caused it to happen? Does the company have enough staffing? Did the junior assigning procedure follow the contract and assign in order?
These are all valid questions that I have done my best to address this week.
First of all, the sick calls started growing on Thursday of last week. This meant that the reserve pool that covers the weekend is taking a hit earlier than anticipated. On Thursday July, 18th the sick calls reached 83 in Seattle. Normally, Seattle averages about 74 sick calls a day for both lineholders and reserves.
On Friday July, 19th the sick calls remained higher than normal, 80 Flight Attendants.
On Saturday, July 20th the sick calls returned to the normal average of 74 Flight Attendants.
To minimize the need for junior assigning the company offers VJA. On the 18th the company granted 6 VJA. On the 19th 11 VJA trips were granted and on the 20th 27 VJA trips were granted.
Friday afternoon Crew Scheduling starts assigning trips to reserves for Saturday. When they run the number of sick calls versus available reserves it became clear that the numbers were not going to mesh and even with 27 VJA requests granted, the previous 2 days of sick higher than normal sick calls meant the average number on Saturday could not be managed with available reserves.
Keep in mind that the company manages not only sick calls from Flight Attendants at home. They also manage sick calls from on-line illness and injury. Last weekend several Flight Attendants become sick on line which meant scrambling to cover flights out of domicile. In one instance, a PDX FA graciously offered to cover a flight out of Boston or the flight would have cancelled.
In fact, Portland also saw 4 junior assignments last weekend.
Reserve coverage does not only cover sick calls. The amount of reserves on any day must cover the average sick call of 74 trips and minimum staffing of an aircraft if operational issues arise.
This does raise the question that maybe the company should evaluate the number of reserves and the reality of sick leave use. I have discussed this issue with the company on several occasions and the fact is that there is no way to anticipate a high sick call event.
When the average sick call amount is 74 Flight Attendants the company does plan for a higher average of 74 in reserve coverage. Adding any more reserves than this number does two things: (1). It increases the overall reserve positions and (2) Means less flying for the reserves on the majority of days in the month (impacting paychecks).
I have the JA stack of paper on my desk and I have confirmed that Crew Scheduling followed the contract and called Flight Attendants in order. They started with the most junior person available and legal to fly and went up the list from there. There are a couple of reminders I want to offer to you about this:
1. Reserves cannot be JA’d.
2. Any lineholder who traded out of a day of work cannot be JA’d.
3. Crew Scheduling can contact FAs who are coming in from a trip via ACARS if they are next on the list for an assignment.
4. If Crew Scheduling leaves a message on your cell phone, your home phone, or with one of your family members for you to call that you are NOT required to call them back if you are off duty and/or on a day off.
Remember to reach out to any of your Local Executive Council (LEC) Officers if you have any questions on a Junior Assignment and you can refer to Section 9 of the contract for clarification and procedures that must be followed during a JA event.
As I write this today, I have been notified that we are Junior Assinging for this weekend, too. I am actively tracking the JA assignments and have Kieran Whitney, Manager of Crew Scheduling, on speed dial to address any questions or concerns.
I want to thank everyone, again, for their professionalism during this frustrating time.