4.16.20 – May PBS Bidding Questions and Answers

Thursday, April 16, 2020

May PBS Bidding Questions and Answers

We have heard from many Flight Attendants regarding May PBS bidding. We thought it would be more practical to compile your questions and concerns in a Q & A so that each Flight Attendant receives the information. We have read each of your emails, listened to your voicemails, and recognize that many of you are unhappy with the decision. That is understandable, and you are always free to share your feelings with us.  Many of you were seeking further information to understand how the decision was reached. We have compiled a list of your most frequently asked questions, sectioned by category.

 

PBS/TTS/UBL
  1. I am one of the lineholding Flight Attendants bidding in PBS for May. How much time should I expect to receive in my PBS award?

PBS will run as it always runs. All lineholding Flight Attendants participating in the PBS run will still receive the amount of time for which the contract provides. There is a misconception that there is no requirement for PBS to give you any set amount of flying. PBS will run with all contractual parameters included. Section 10.D.13.d. requires that all lines be built between 70 and 90 hours unless you bid high or low, and Section 10.D.13.e. requires that each base has a line average between 75 and 85 hours.

Flight Attendants participating in PBS will have the option of adjusting their Target Credit Range (TCR), and PBS will still allow low time and high time bidders while maintaining the line average in each base.

  1. Why did you agree to run PBS in reverse seniority order?

PBS is not running in reverse seniority order. It will process in standard seniority order and will respect all contractual parameters, just as it would in a typical bid month. The decision was not about how PBS would process, but rather who would remain in the available bidder pool for the PBS run.  

  1. Why didn’t you make TTS/UBL run in reverse seniority order?

As in the answer above, nothing is running in reverse seniority order. TTS and the UBL will run in regular seniority order. The programming for TTS/UBL was years in the making. Changing the programming is not as easy as flipping a switch.

  1. Why didn’t you just spread the available flying out evenly among all the Flight Attendants?

PBS is not programmed to accomplish an equal distribution of flying. It is programmed to meet a target line average, which must be between 75 and 85 hours, with a range of line values from 40-110 hours.

  1. Why can’t we use the system the Latin America (LAM) Flight Attendants use?

The system used by the LAM Flight Attendants does not comply with our contract. Due to programming constraints, it would not even be possible to load all of our flying into that system.

  1. Why can’t we use line bidding?

There are multiple reasons why line bidding will not work. First and foremost, there is no contractual provision to allow that. The line bidding program that was formerly used by the LAA Flight Attendants is closed. Further, even if we could blow the dust off the Line Bidding system, it would not be JCBA compliant, and we would still have the same issue- we could not meet the line averages with the staffing overage. Additionally, line bidding included the award of AVBL days to supplement low lines or the award of an all AVBL line. AVBL days are no longer a part of FOS and cannot interact with TTS/UBL and ETB.

  1. Why are you letting the ‘no schedule line holder’ (NSL) Flight Attendants pick up over 70?  That’s not fair.

This is contractual. Every month, there are a few Flight Attendants who receive infeasible line awards. Those Flight Attendants are credited up to 70 hours, and anything they pick up goes above that. There are going to be significantly more of these Flight Attendants for May. This is the first time that many Flight Attendants are being made aware of this contractual provision.

  1. Why don’t you block the NSL people from picking up so the junior Flight Attendants who need more money can pick up?

This would violate our contract.

  1. If I’m a lineholder, why don’t my pick-ups go above guarantee?

Lineholder pick-ups do not go above guarantee. It adds to the line value, which can fluctuate due to drops, cancellations, etc.  The 70-hours the ‘no schedule’ Flight Attendants receive is “credit” to reach the value of an infeasible line award, not a “guarantee.”  It just happens in most cases there is nothing else in the line that could potentially reduce the value below 70. For example, the time from a carry-over would be part of the 70-hours. If the Flight Attendant were to drop that carry-over trip after the bids finalized, the 70-hours would reduce by that time. 

In a typical month, an infeasible line award would be a line value of 70 hours, consisting primarily of trips with the balance being a “credit” to get to the minimum of 70. For example, let’s say the line had two trips worth 25 hours, which is 50 hours, and there were no other trips that could be placed in the line to bring it up to 70. A 20- hour credit would be added to bring the value of the Infeasible line up to 70. In such cases, any of the trips that were dropped or canceled without pay protection would reduce the line value. If the Flight Attendant dropped one of the trips, her/his line value would now be 45 hours. If the remaining trip canceled without being pay-protected, the Flight Attendant’s line value would be down to 20 hours, the amount of the “credit” placed in the line.

  1. Wouldn’t a better solution be that only those included in the PBS run be able to pick up on TTS/UBL?

While some might view that as a better solution, it would not comply with our contract.

  1. Will TTS run in inverse seniority order?

No. All systems, PBS, TTS, and UBL, will run in their regular seniority order. ETB will remain first-come, first-served.

  1. Can PBS parameters be altered temporarily? What about placing a special assignment on everyone’s schedule, or training or anything that “looks” like additional hours have already been awarded, then running PBS, and then removing the special assignment. We were told that the “programming doesn’t allow dropping below 40 hours”, yet now the 40-hour scheduling limitation is being lifted. Surely there is a fair and creative solution?

Changing the parameters of PBS is not simple. While PBS parameters could be altered temporarily, it would require extensive programming and testing. We explored the idea of placing “false” credit in the bid packet, either as trips or SA days or some other means, but also ran aground on the rocks of time and programming, at least for May. You are correct that the programming does not allow a Flight Attendant to drop below 40 hours. There are, however, several ways a Flight Attendant can wind up with less than 40 hours during a month, such as unpaid sick leave, cancellations, etc.

 

Contract
  1. Why didn’t you follow the contract?

We sought to follow the contract to the fullest extent possible. The contract clearly states in Section 10.D.16.a.,”If, during the actual PBS run, it becomes apparent that the PBS system will result in an infeasible solution or the solution is processing too slowly that it may not comply with the applicable time requirements, the company may discontinue the PBS run. In such instances, the company shall notify the National Scheduling Chair of each situation as soon as possible.”

In the current situation, APFA was notified well before the actual PBS run that it was going to produce an infeasible solution. It wasn’t going to create a solution at all because the imbalance of available flying and available bidders was so great. We had to find a more palatable solution, but the programming issues and time available limited the viable options for solving the problem.

There was no benefit to waiting until the PBS run failed to take action. This would have resulted in further delaying the process for May, and still would not have provided sufficient time for other solutions to be developed. Waiting would have been irresponsible and would have served no useful purpose.

Further, Section 10.D.13.a. states, “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. Such parameters may be altered by mutual agreement as outlined in Paragraph A.1.” This follows the contract because PBS will run in seniority order among those Flight Attendants in the bidding pool.

  1. Why did you allow the company to violate the contract?

As stated in the answer above, we did not allow the company to violate the contract. The company complied with Section 10.D.16.c. by notifying the appropriate Union individuals of the situation and allowing them to provide recommendations for methods to complete the PBS award process effectively.  The matter was presented to the full APFA Board of Directors for consideration. Only after exploring and exhausting all possible options for completing the PBS process did your leadership make a decision. 

  1. Why has the contract bidding system been completely disbanded?

The contractual bidding system has not been disbanded. It will run according to the contractual parameters.

  1. Will this mean anything in the contract moving forward will be null and void?

No. Our contract remains completely intact. That was one of the guiding principles in looking for solutions.

  1. Can you explain to me why any trips picked up on top of an open schedule get paid above guarantee?

This is consistent with the infeasible solution provision already contained in our contract. Also, see previous Q&A regarding 70-hours not being a “guarantee.” Because of the extreme overage of Flight Attendants for May, we have a much larger pool of infeasible solutions for the May bid month. Hopefully, more flying will return to American as the pandemic curve flattens.

 

Vacation
  1. Why isn’t my vacation paid above the guarantee?

Vacation is always considered “existing credit” in any bid. Whether you are a lineholder or a reserve, your vacation credit counts toward any award or guarantee you may receive. This has always been the case, and there was no change made in the current situation.

  1. Are the people on the VPLOAs going to get their vacation above the 19 hours?

All the Flight Attendants who took the VPLOAs will have their vacations canceled, and those periods will go back into the matrix to be rebid by Flight Attendants who did not take the leaves. Those who took the 3- and 6-month leaves will be able to rebid those vacation days in the monthly rebid process for the months after they return to work. Again, when it comes time to bid lines for those months, their vacation will go in as existing credit. If they are unable to reschedule their vacation through the rebid process, they will be paid out for the canceled vacations in February of next year.

For those Flight Attendants on the 9- and 12-month leaves, their vacations will be canceled, and those periods made available for rebid in the monthly rebid process for Flight Attendants that did not take leaves. Their vacations will be paid out in February of next year. 

 

Leaves of Absence
  1. Why are people who took the leaves only getting 19 hours and those who stayed are getting 70 hours?

The company offered leaves to all employee groups, except the pilots, that included 25% of pay. The company refused APFA’s demands to increase the amount of pay.

The Flight Attendants who stayed are getting 70 hours because our contract still covers them, and that is the minimum line value provided for in our contract.

  1. Why did APFA agree to the leaves with only 19 hours of pay?

There is no provision in our contract for paid leaves of this nature. While APFA certainly believes our members deserve more, we do not want to stand in the way of our members having access to some form of paid leave during this time. Many Flight Attendants do not wish to fly at all due to health or personal reasons; therefore, leaves of varying durations are being offered.

  1. Did this decision cause a significant drop in people taking VEOPs and VPLOAs?

While some Flight Attendants may have decided to withdraw their VEOP/VPLOA request based on this decision, the final number of VEOPs and VPLOAs awarded was higher than the number of requests that were on file before the announcement of this decision.

 

Other Alternatives
  1. Did you even consider any other options?

Your APFA leadership, both Base and National, the JSIC, the Scheduling Chair, the Contract Chair, and countless other individuals spent enormous amounts of time trying to acheive a better solution given the time constraints we were facing. If the company had come to APFA six months ago and said the schedule was going to drop by 80% in May, there would have been time to program and test any number of other solutions. This situation unfolded in a matter of weeks, and there simply was no time to write and test new programming in a parallel system.

  1. Isn’t there a better way?  Like guaranteeing every Flight Attendant, on leave or active, 40 hours/month?

Yes, there are better ways. We had contractual, time, and programming constraints for May, since the changes to the schedule were made so close to the bidding timeline.

  1. What proposals did APFA discuss with the company?
  • To not run PBS for lineholders and have all the sequences available in TTS only.
  • Make every Flight Attendant a “No Schedule, 70-Hour Credit” Flight Attendant and leave all the flying in open time.
  • Have some reserves and make all the remaining Flight Attendants “no schedule” Flight Attendants and leave all the flying in open time.
  • To have a platform similar to the LRD Tool to allow FA’s to opt in or out of the bid.
  • Equally distribute the available flying among all the lineholder Flight Attendants.
  • Temporarily return to line bidding.
  • Build “dummy trips” with fake credit for Flight Attendants to bid for in PBS.
  • Create split lines
  • Provide line sharing for two Flight Attendants to divide up a single line.
  • Change the line average programmed into PBS.
  • Change the maximum and minimum line awards in PBS.
  • Eliminate the 40-hour scheduling limitation.  
  1. What proposals were rejected, and why?

All of the rejected proposals failed for one of three reasons:  Programming constraints, time constraints, or cost.

  1. How was the vote on the accepted proposal recorded?

Note that this was not a vote on a proposal. We had to make a decision. That decision was made on an APFA Board of Directors teleconference using the normal polling and recording procedures of the Board of Directors.

  1. If the proposal accepted and sent to the membership was one made by the company, why was it accepted without further negotiations?

The solution was reached, not just presented and accepted. There were extensive discussions on how to solve the problem. These are unprecedented times- our airline has never experienced something as devastating as this in our history.

  1. Why didn’t you just build “dummy trips” with fake credit for people to bid if they wanted them?

This was one of many solutions explored. Ultimately, there was not sufficient time to test the option to make sure it would work.  The JCBA provides for a great deal of flexibility during the bidding process that would have to be resolved as well before this option could be implemented, even if it would be a possibility.

 

Non-Passenger Cargo Charter Letter of Agreement
  1. Why are you holding the Non-Passenger Cargo Charters out of the PBS bid run to be picked up only through TTS/UBL?

The Non-Passenger Cargo Charters are not being withheld from the PBS bid run. These sequences have not yet been constructed and therefore, cannot be included in the PBS bid run. These sequences are likely not going to be known very far in advance, and we are told there will be very few cargo charters staffed with Flight Attendants. The company has assured us that in the unlikely event these sequences are known in time to be included in the PBS bid package, they will include them. 

 

Miscellaneous
  1. We should get hazard pay.

Agreed! Flight Attendants are essential workers on the front lines of this pandemic and should be included in the group of essential workers around the country that deserve hazard pay. There is currently no provision in our contract for hazard pay, but we would support any additional compensation, and will not stop asking.

  1. Why am I not guaranteed the value of my line for May?

The existing contractual pay protections for lineholders are still in place for May. We are working with the company to try to provide a higher level of protection than provided for in the contract, as we did for March and April.

  1. Why did you choose to punish one group and reward the other?

This decision was not about punishment and reward. This decision was about how to make the PBS process function. For May, the only way to do so was to significantly reduce the number of available bidders to align with the available flying more closely. With the tight time constraints, there was no way to let Flight Attendants individually indicate their preference to either opt-in or out of the bid run, so a decision had to be made. At APFA’s request, the company, at the last minute, developed a way for Flight Attendants who were knocked out of the bid run to opt back in. We will continue to seek better solutions going forward. 

  1. Why are you doing this when the CARES Act grants cover 100% of payroll?

The CARES Act grants are designed to cover 100% of actual payroll from April through September. They are not intended to guarantee every Flight Attendant her/his historical level of pay.

  1. How do you sleep at night?

We accept, as leaders, that occasionally we must make a decision for our members that will be unpopular with one group or another, or even the entire group. We do not make these decisions lightly.  We thoroughly explore all available options. At some point, a decision must be made. It is what you expect us to do, even if not everyone is pleased with the outcome of the decision.

  1. How could a Union decide to subject some of its members to exposure to disease?

Every person in the world is subject to this particular disease. We have chosen careers in an “essential” industry, just like doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, and the military. With that choice is the fact that we will be, at times, put in harm’s way. APFA’s Safety and Health department, along with your National and Base leadership, have been working nonstop to make sure those who did not want to subject themselves to increased exposure had a way out through various leave and VEOP options. We will continue to explore all options for additional pay and protections for those that continue to fly through this pandemic.

  1. Will junior union dues be decreased due to a lack of representation?

No. It is important not to confuse an unsatisfactory outcome with a lack of representation.  Representation does not only occur when the result is favorable. Representation occurs when your issues, interests, and preferences are considered equally along with everyone else’s, just as they were in this situation. Your Base Presidents were very vocal about representing and trying to balance the interests of all of the membership. Ultimately, they recognized that in this situation, there was not going to be an outcome that everyone would like, but that does not mean that there was a lack of representation.

  1. What groups were represented in this decision? Did you consider those of us who are HIV- positive, have diabetes, asthma, or any other underlying health condition which made it difficult to work?

Every Flight Attendant working at American Airlines was represented in the decision-making process. The result of the decision does not please everyone or give each individual the option to decide whether or not she/he wanted to participate in the PBS bid run. We will continue to represent each Flight Attendant, including those that need to remain and fly to receive pay and those that would like an option for a leave due to health or personal reasons. 

  1. Is everyone willing to throw in the towel so quickly without thinking outside the box?

As shown in some of the previous answers, there was no shortage of outside-the-box thinking in this situation by all APFA leadership. If a better solution were possible, then it would have been chosen, whether it was in the box or out of the box. 

  1. I would like someone to outline what our rights are as junior Flight Attendants to strike or stage a walk-out.

In short, there is no right to engage in a strike or walk-out in the current situation. The Railway Labor Act (RLA), which also governs airlines, sets the terms as to when a group of employees is free to engage in a strike or other form of self-help. There are very few circumstances when a group can take such action without exhausting all the steps contained in the RLA, and the current situation would not rise to that level. If a group engages in such activity without exhausting the very lengthy process required, then the action is no longer protected, and the workers can be subject to consequences, including termination. They can even be sued for financial damages.

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us. We hope that these questions offer a better explanation of the obstacles associated with the May bid. We know that this was an imperfect solution to a very difficult situation. Things continue to change daily.  You have our commitment that we will always work to protect your health, safety, job, and earning potential to the best of our ability.

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