Sunday, June 6, 2021
July 2021 Allocations
Good Day CLT Flight Attendants,
We had our monthly allocations call with the Company to discuss the trips for July. There were very little changes to the actual trip construction and things look very much the same as they do in June. Our man hours slightly increased from 113,184 in June to 114,759. Over 19,000 hours were added to the entire system for July. While we had a slight gain in “man hours” due to longer flights, our number of actual trips declined. Some bases saw real gains while others actually saw a decrease to the flying in their base. This shows the strength of our domestic network in Charlotte, but it may be the high tide mark until we see the return of IPD flying later in the year.
The numbers for Charlotte break down as follows;
- Active headcount – 1,965 (June had 1963)
- Lineholders – 1,420 (June had 1,423)
- Reserves – 545 – 27.7% (June had 540 or 27.5%)
- The line average is set for 85.4 (June was set for 81.2 and ended up at 79.8)
The Company has offered vacation buyback for July. Based on the number of people who take this option, the line average may be lowered. The company may also use the Flex option outlined in the JCBA if they anticipate having a shortage in staffing. This allows the Company to raise the MAX window of 90 hours. This option is only available to the company a few months out of the year, and they have noticed the Union of their intent to use this in July. Here’s the basics of how it works: Once they close the vacation buyback and set a line average, they will flex the max over the line average to about 7 hours. This could raise the max to 92 or 93 hours in Charlotte. The important thing to remember here is to set a target credit range when bidding in PBS and make sure you have enough trips in your layers to cover the amount of time you are bidding and allow for a higher line average. For those of you who do not set a target credit range and are used to getting the line average around 80 hours, you may find you now have 90 hours, and the system went out of your layers to assign trips to raise your hours closer to the Flex Max. If this is used in Charlotte, the reserve call out of time of 85.01 will also be raised by the additional flex amount. (For instance, if the normal Max is 90, you can call out at 85.01. If the Flex Max is 92, you won’t be able to call out until 87.01).
There will be no VLOAs offered in July.
The trips break down as follows:
1-days will make up 15% of our trips. This is down from the 19% we had in June. The Company sets a target for the distribution of trip lengths each month. When they were making the trips for July, there were more overnights to cover and the optimizer wasn’t spitting out the target they had set for 1-days and began creating more 4-day trips (the system is programmed to lean towards 4-day trips, they have to place penalties/bonuses into the system to adjust this). Much like Christmas, when there is more time added for a holiday period, they allow the optimizer to build more 4 days over the holiday. This is not the desired flying we want over a holiday so be careful with bidding trips over the holiday that align with your overall targeted credit range. These factors lowered the number of 1-days and built the extra overnights into 4-day trips. The 4-leg one days are still there but the number of them were cut drastically. 4-leg days in general have been cut by 57%. The usual Island/NIPD turns include AUA, SJU, PLS, CUN, SJO, LIR, STX, SKB, PUJ and MBJ. There are also high time trans-con turns.
The 2-days remained about the same and will make up 41% of the trips.
The 3-days will make up 9% of the trips, down from the 12% we have in June. A good portion of the actual 3-day trips include a pink eye as the last duty period. We have advocated to separate this behind the clock flying into stand alone trips, but the Company sees these as productive and has no plans to change this type of construction in the near future. There are a good amount of 2/3 day trips (7%) with 30 hours in JAX, SYR, CLE, ORF, MSP, BNA, DTW, TPA, MEM, ILM, IND.
The 4 days will make up 15% of our trips. Last month, we saw almost half of them were not commutable and that number has dropped to 37% as not commutable. This is good news for commuters, but our goal remains the reduction in 4 days overall and that all of them be commutable. There are some good 4-day trips in the package and worth a look. We did not see any 3/4-day trips.
ODANs had an increase in numbers, but fewer positions as they are scheduled for smaller aircraft. ODANs will make up 8% of our trips. One of the obstacles to making more ODANs for the other bases is the number of banks of flights (we are strong at 9 banks) and the priority of the Company to make productive trips with little rig or synthetic time. ODANs are pure synthetic. In order to cut the synthetic time in the system, the optimizer wants to spit out quick turn- short rest ODANs. Until the priorities change in trip construction, these will make up the bulk of the ODANs and we remain one of the few bases to have them.
There were the traditional 3-day red eyes to the usual cities (about 3% of the flying). Most of the mid-con city red eyes are either built into the 3 days or stand alone as pink eyes or bullets. Both of these types as stand-alone trips make up about 1% of the flying.
IPD still has the LHR daily flight and NIPD still has HNL. (FYI- the SEA LHR flight has been suspended for July with no word on when it may resume)
The sit or connection times are still being set at a MAX of 3+45 and a minimum of 80 minutes. We saw very few sit times over 3 hours with many of these happening in outline cities where there is no aircraft change, the next flight isn’t scheduled for 3 hours. This is semi good news as the 2+30 hours sits are still there in almost 30% of the trips. The sits were originally scheduled to take place before noon if possible and the crews would keep moving in the later part of the day. This allowed for the crews to make up any delays that usually happen because of afternoon weather events. It also allowed for scheduling to track legalities earlier in the day and make changes quicker. What we have seen since October is the sits happening at all times of the day. This is part of the fragile trips system they have built that has longer duty days and shorter overnights. With the afternoon sit time, the system breaks down with no room to correct itself. We have told the Company this was a concern, but the priority is productivity and cutting costs, not adequate rest for the crews or a more reliable flight network for our passengers. Ultimately, we would like to return to staying with the aircraft for an entire duty day as the benchmark for productivity. We believe in doing this the natural order of rest breaks would be restored and improve the safety of our operation as a whole.
RDU- The satellite in Raleigh had some real problems with the high reserve counts in Charlotte reducing their numbers. We asked the Company to work with us to ensure the operation in RDU would remain strong and intact. They have reduced the hours for RDU and eliminated the 4-day trips to help. The hours for RDU will be 1,976 in July- down from 2,795 in June. No one wants to see a satellite dip below 2,000 hours, but for the short term this may be necessary. As a result, the NIPD trips out of RDU have all but disappeared and the choice layovers have been reduced. There are still a few 0400 check ins, and we are trying to see if those particular flights can be worked into 1-day trips. RDU saw a reduction in the 1-days as did all the bases and we advocated for more variety to make it easier to pick up the RDU trips by both the lineholders and the reserves. RDU did get an ODAN, something most satellites never see. We are interested in seeing how this plays out with building schedules in RDU. Everyone knows RDU is all about the one LHR flight and while we see the Company advertising and selling the flight, the exact date of its return is not set in stone. We are confident it will return and thank the RDU Flight Attendants for their commitment to the success of the satellite by doing their best to pick up the open time even when there may be better options picking up trips in Charlotte. Thank you.
The largest issue we had for July was the absurd reserve numbers. 545 or 27% is way to high for the needs of our base. The Company maintains we have a high sick rate for our reserves, and they are using the reserves at a high rate. We asked for a reserve utilization report, and they provided the numbers through March in a cryptic format that required an explanation on how to read it. We set up our own usage chart and monitored it through the month of May. Our numbers showed very mild usage of reserves in the month of May. The largest usage came as expected when there were weather events, about 4 days out of the entire month. Standby shifts are included as usage even when no trips are awarded off the shift. We saw several days where scheduling added extra standby shifts and did not use them. We saw where systems trips were created and at what rate, this shows us that the fragile trips are breaking, and they are using the reserves to pick up the pieces. The bottom line was there was no justification for the number of reserves they had in May. The sick rate has not been much higher than the base average and when we looked at the rates provided by the company, this was consistent through March as well. We have been warning about the high numbers in March, April and May having a boomerang effect and driving up the seniority for rotation in July and August. This is exactly what we are seeing now with March of 1985 being the cut off for reserve in July.
The usage numbers show that they use more reserves the last few days of the month. If the Company is putting on more reserves for an entire month just to cover the last few days (similar to what they do the first few days of January), this is unacceptable. Looking at the usage chart day-by-day, the only real reason for heavy reserve usage was weather events. We have argued this was not a significant reason to beef up the numbers as the weather is unpredictable and it is unfair to place a large number of employees at a financial disadvantage simply as a “just in case”. Adding standby shifts that show more usage is not acceptable either. May of 2019 had several weather events and we had high reserve usage. When the company factors on what they will need for reserves, they factor in what the usage was the previous year. We had asked in 2019 that those numbers for May not be used against us because the weather was so abnormal that month, they agreed. Last year they did not use this against us, but it looks like they pulled up those numbers from 2019 to justify high numbers in 2021.
When we took this to the Company, they simply stated July could have been worse. They wanted higher numbers than 27% and they backed off. At a time when they are offering vacation buyback and utilizing the Flex option, it would appear they are shorthanded. It would reason that more lines would be needed and hence fewer people available for reserve. The reality is they insist on having high numbers of reserves to cover a flawed system and will cram in more flights into the trips and more trips into the lines just to protect a fragile system that is dependent on reserve Flight Attendants to staff the operation when and if weather happens. The reserve system has become the crutch to support a broken system.
APFA Charlotte will continue to track reserve usage on our own and will provide this data to you directly so you can see exactly what is going on. The lack of transparency with the reserve system in general frustrating enough, watching the reserve percentage climb month over month and not being given a solid reason why is unacceptable.
The timeline for July is as follows:
The system is basically peaked on the domestic end and our numbers in Charlotte reflect this. The return of international flying will most likely be the next big leap of time that is added to the system. There are some flights scheduled to return in August, and we can see the Company is marketing these flights on their website. Most of these have yet to be added to the official system, so the verdict is still a wait and see approach. There is good news coming out of Europe and more and more restrictions are being lifted. We remain optimistic that the system will return, and all indicators point we will be getting stronger as the year progresses.
APFA would like to thank everyone for the continued commitment and sacrifices you make everyday keeping this airline running through this difficult time. With everything we have gone through in the last year, it would be nice to actually hear good news and share in the recovery. Instead, we constantly face failures in the IT department with crashes to TTS, INOP Lineholder/Reserve designator tool, UBL failures, “System Down” messages. Being shuffled into an unwanted 4-day, coverage needed – in May!, cryptic pay claim responses, 50 codes to determine pay, mandatory 35Rs, gate checks by FSMs with scruffy beards asking about grooming requirements, early boarding, assaults at work, schedulers who hand out MTs like candy, FSMs who can’t answer a question but point out the size of my earrings, Judge Roy Bean inquisitions by HR, 7 year old tablet technology, dysfunctional training operations, an extra punitive sick system for reserves, confusing communications, displacements, intoxicated passengers we are forced to take because of their status, non-compliant passengers who know arguing and complaining will get us fired, lack of support from management and the FAA, a culture of mistrust and pitting employee groups against each other, Silos that have gotten taller while there is a commitment to eliminate them and last but not least, being called a Team Member and told we are in this together.
Take care of yourselves and each other. ~The Charlotte APFA Team
APFA CLT Base President