Wednesday, August 4, 2021
The facts are undeniable: Management is failing their employees and customers with their inability to staff the airline adequately. As a result, Flight Attendants and other frontline workers are bearing the brunt of a hostile work environment, dealing with issues ranging from mask non-compliance to the passenger rage that accompanies hundreds of canceled and delayed flights.
Flight Attendants are scheduled and then rescheduled to the max, sometimes receiving multiple reschedules in one sequence. We are exhausted, both mentally and physically. With the resurgence of COVID-19 in the form of the highly contagious Delta variant, Flight Attendants are again testing positive, even when vaccinated. As we have said repeatedly over the past eighteen months, Flight Attendants have been on the front lines of this pandemic. We have moved vaccines and health care workers to COVID-19 hotspots around the globe, and we have done it with selfless professionalism, knowing the potential health risks involved.
Yet, to this day, APFA’s concerns for relief for our Flight Attendants in the form of staffing and trip construction continue to fall on deaf ears. If you did not believe it before, this past weekend should have demonstrated management’s lack of caring and preparation.
Many have asked: What has APFA been doing about this?
There are no words to describe how disjointed and unpredictable our work lives have become. At the onset of COVID-19 and the resulting drop-off of passenger revenue, Crew Planning made it clear that our sequences would become more “productive.” In their view, “productive” means a significant increase in “productivity breaks” at hubs throughout the country, multiple legs, and unsustainable duty days that press right up to the maximum duty allowable, with little room for delays. Their productive sequences have been nothing short of a disaster, quickly confirmed by the number of “FOS” repair sequences created at many bases each day. Looking at the sheer number of “FOS” repair sequences in some bases, it is no wonder that Crew Tracking often exhausts daily Reserve lists before noon.
At the beginning of each month, your APFA Base and National Leadership prepare for and participate in a series of conference calls to discuss staffing and allocations for each crew base. On every single call since Crew Planning began building their “productive” sequences, APFA Leadership has communicated to management that the changes are not working. To be clear, your APFA Leadership does not just come to these calls with pent-up anger and emotion- we join the calls after careful analysis of the bid packages in each base, along with recurring sequence issues from the previous month:
- We track how many “FOS” repair trips are built due to sequences breaking and how many extra Reserves the company burns through just trying to re-crew the broken sequences constructed without consideration for weather or basic human needs.
- We show examples of inefficient use of Reserves, such as deadheading to work flights back to base when there is already a crew at the outstation.
- We use your documentation to point out illegal reschedules and how Crew Tracking blows through Reserve Flight Attendants often by disrespecting our contractual rescheduling language.
- We talk about specific sequences that are troublesome and offer Crew Planning ways to remedy the problems.
- We point out that each base has specific needs and, to the extent possible, ask for sequences that satisfy the differing base demographics.
Each month, our concerns for your safety, health, and well-being have been ignored. Last month, Crew Planning finally admitted that they do not take the bulk of our suggestions back to those that build the sequences. They have created these problems and demonstrate callous disregard for what we have faced during this global pandemic and the rapidly changing airline network. This month, your APFA Leadership refused to participate in the allocations call. APFA National President Julie Hedrick took the issues to the very top level of American Airlines management and insisted they fix the problem.
The American Airlines meltdown this past weekend can largely be attributed to management’s refusal to consider APFA’s feedback on maintaining productive sequences while taking into consideration quality of life issues. Flight Attendants that have been flying through this pandemic are mentally and physically exhausted. The reschedules that we have witnessed over the past week, even before storms moved through DFW this past Sunday, are like nothing we have ever seen. Many reschedules would have been unnecessary had American Airlines Crew Planning partnered with us instead of ignoring your feedback from the line.
Rescheduling: What is the Issue?
As stated above, the primary factor for all of these rescheduling events is that our sequences are built mainly with no room for mechanical or weather delays. Management will one day realize that what they are doing is not working and is abusing the employee group that spends the most time with our customers.
As we all know, the JCBA is a combination of work rules from the legacy airline’s contracts. The Rescheduling language was lifted mainly from the US Airways Agreement because it contained protections not found in the American Airlines Agreement. In the past, American Flight Attendants did not have protections such as using all Reserves in base before rescheduling a crew, a contractual requirement to return us to crew base within the footprint of our original sequence, the inability to ‘tag’ more flying onto a lineholder after their sequence, and crew substitution and last trip pay protection without an accompanying obligation. Unfortunately, Crew Tracking is holding on to the ‘old way’ of doing things because it allows more latitude in rescheduling crews. Crew Trackers, often familiar with the old way of life, continue to ‘save’ Reserve Flight Attendants and force Flight Attendants onto different sequences as if we were living in 2010. The level of blatant disrespect shown to our workgroup has reached unprecedented levels.
Over the past month or so, you have received a series of rescheduling hotlines. The best way to ensure Crew Tracking adheres to our negotiated language is for APFA to educate all Flight Attendants on rescheduling as often as possible. Flight Attendants come from different legacy airlines, so some may be more familiar with the current language than others. We will continue to inform you of these hard-fought provisions in our contract, and management should do the same with their Crew Tracking employees. On the bright side, we hear stories of Flight Attendants standing up for themselves and challenging Crew Tracking when they attempt an illegal reschedule. Keep up the excellent work, and continue arming yourself with contractual knowledge. This language has tremendous value and has been fought for and defended at the bargaining table for decades.
Your Base and National Leadership will continue to fight on your behalf, but the most essential tool is understanding our negotiated language. It is APFA’s responsibility to provide you with information, and that is how we will effect change. Never hesitate to reach out to APFA for assistance if you have questions- your Contract/ Scheduling and Local Base Representatives are line Flight Attendants, and they work hard every day to ensure our language is respected. Stay tuned for more communications as Crew Planning continues to build sequences that continue to fall apart and harm our quality of life.
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