Wednesday, April 8, 2020
May PBS Bidding Update
As had been previously reported in last Sunday’s hotline, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, American Airlines has pulled down approximately 80% of the scheduled flying hours as compared to a year ago. No one could have foreseen a situation where an airline would pull down this much flying in less than a month while still maintaining full employment. This presented many challenges for monthly PBS bidding and awards.
For May, PBS doesn’t have enough flying hours to build legal lines. In short, PBS has been programmed for the contractual language in the JCBA to achieve a line value between 75-85 hours for each domicile. With such a reduction in flying hours and an overage of available Flight Attendants as programmed, PBS would be unable to achieve the line average and ultimately not award any sequences, putting us back to square one. On the surface, it would seem that PBS could just award the hours available evenly so that all Flight Attendants were awarded the same hours. However, that takes us back to the contractual line average. If the line average is not between 75-85 hours, the math does not add up and the program will fail. Even if there would be an agreement to change the line average for a month, it would require re-programming of PBS which does not happen at the flip of a switch. It would also require additional time for testing, which we simply do not have.
So the problem becomes how does PBS build legal lines with the limited flying. Both APFA and the Company began discussions on possible solutions that could be achieved in time for bidding for the month of May. Discussions included countless options, including adding a certain number of hours to each schedule, and also the possibility of line sharing to achieve the line average. Ultimately, it was determined that for the month of May, PBS could only process bids by removing the number of Flight Attendants from the equation. APFA was faced with who should be removed from the equation to allow PBS to create legal lines. And while your leaders made a decision about the direction in which the line should be drawn, the line between “junior” and “senior” will ultimately be determined by the amount of flying available in each base.
While we can and will continue to look for better solutions going forward, for May, with very limited time available, the only viable alternative was to reduce the number of available lineholders so that awards could be processed. With that, the challenge became what would happen to the remainder of the available lineholders? The federal grants applied for by American will hopefully ensure that furloughs are not an option at this time, which is obviously a good thing.
APFA leadership was presented with the issue of having to figure out this problem. APFA decided that the contractual provisions for the non-bidders and infeasible solutions should be used to deal with the overage. The next question was to determine who should be considered a ‘no schedule’ line holder, knowing that those individuals would be given a pay and credit of 70 hours after the PBS award. All of this was detailed in Monday’s hotline.
Following the decision, a great number of Flight Attendants have written us with concerns that the JCBA language has been violated- specifically that PBS shall construct lines in accordance with the global parameters as defined in Paragraph 13. Bid awards shall be made in seniority order and in compliance with the global constraints of the system. (Sec. 10.D.13.a).
PBS will award in seniority order. For those lineholders that are bidding in PBS, it will award the available trips in seniority order. PBS will process the bids as in the previous months. For those that are considered non-bidders or “no schedule” lineholders, they are not included in the PBS run for processing.
The JCBA does address this situation in Section 10.D.16.c ‘Infeasible Solutions’. The Company did notify the Union that with the overage of Flight Attendants and the limited flying hours, there were no viable solutions for bidding and awards, thus the discussions began on trying to find solutions.
We are fully aware that these were difficult solutions and decisions but given the limited time, we had limited choices for May. We do not know what June looks like as of yet. So much is predicated on the impact of social distancing and the containment of the virus. Hopefully, distancing will help to control the spread. Another unknown is when the demand for air travel will return.
There are no simple answers to the situation and no simple choices- we have never seen anything like this in the airline industry. Nobody, neither APFA nor the Company could have ever imagined that the airline would suddenly pull down 80% of the schedule over the course of a couple of weeks while still maintaining almost full employment. Even in the days after 9/11, as soon as the skies were opened, airlines were flying more than 25% of the pre-9/11 schedules.
We will continue to explore every alternative for managing the overage in the months ahead.