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Allocation 101 

by Richard Lung,

Director - Flight Crew Resourcess

The Pilot Schedule,  April 1999
 

While manpower levels and manpower allocation across United’s 10 pilot domiciles may appear to be a
mystery, our strategy in Flight Crew Resources is to put pilots where Aircraft Scheduling assigns flying.

It may sound easy, but having the right number of pilots in the right fleet, seats, domiciles and at the
right time -- given the fluidity of our fleet and route plan, seasonality, and lead time -- is quite a challenge.
Tools that we use to manage seasonality include the timing of bids, training, vacation and line utilization levels.  To manage the fluidity of our fleet and route plan requires excellent communication between Aircraft Scheduling, Flight Crew Resources and the Flight Center, with the goal that all three parties know what is going on at all times, so that we have enough lead time to execute Aircraft Scheduling’s decisions with the least possible disruption.

The process starts first with Manpower Planning, since this requires a four-to-six-month lead time to bid
and train. We often need to make manpower decisions based on incomplete information, in this case Aircraft Scheduling’s best estimate of their hours plan, international widebody assignment plan and expected best flown line allocations (by domicile/fleet). Within 90 days of flying, a preliminary aircraft schedule then materializes and a first pass of laterals is made. Thirty days later an updated best flown is determined, at which point we allocate 60-day vacation assignments.

The Pairing Building group then takes over and allocates flying where the manpower is available, 45
days before schedule is flown. Also at this time, we do a second pass at laterals, and we determine 45-day vacation allocations to further balance manpower coverage. 

Those are the processes, now here are some of the strategies. One of our biggest goals is to maintain domicile stability. It is costly to the company and disruptive to pilot lives to whipsaw manpower up and down, and to Ping-Pong flying between domiciles. To that end, we avoid surpluses from stable or growing fleets, relying on bid outs and retirements to get the manpower in balance where we have surpluses. Where there are imbalances of manpower in relation to best flown, we reallocate flying between domiciles to use the existing manpower. For example, the Dulles buildup is flown by manpower that had already been bid four to six months ago at the other domiciles. As A320/B300 pilots bid off their equipment at the other domiciles, best flown indicates that we ought to have 25 to 50 more A320/B300 lines, which results in additional bids at Dulles over time.

Also it’s often better given the flip-flopping of our route and fleet plan to reallocate flying rather than reallocate manpower. We did that when JFK-EZE went from a B777 to a B767, which could have meant that B777 lines out of JFK get cut in half, with only the EWR-LHR trip remaining. We decided to give JFK one of the three ORD-LHRs in a “ W” to maintain stable line levels at JFK, since there is a possibility that one of the JFK-LHR trips could get upgraded to a B777 or JFK-EZE returns to a B777. In any event, ORD-EZE going from a B767 to B777 made up for the loss of one ORD-LHR.

Capacity/Bids Update
With the cancellation of LAX-KIX on June 8, the redeployment of B747 flying to domestic missions, and lower-than-expected departure completion in January and March, ASM growth for 1999 is expected to come in slightly below 3 percent. These events however do not materially change our training and bid plans for the rest of the year. We had a fairly large bid of nearly 270 vacancies this month, with 19 B400 Captain bids.

There could be some modest early morning/late night flying reductions on top of this in the fourth quarter, but there could also be some offsetting opportunities to add flying on the West and/or East Coasts. There may be another good vacancy bid next month, but a slowdown for about three months as we seasonally depeak in the fourth
quarter. Any B400 Captain bids during those three months would at most be for replacement of retiring pilots.