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New Equipment Domiciles! 

by Richard Lung,

Director - Flight Crew Resourcess

The Pilot Schedule,  June 1999
As I mentioned in an earlier Pilot Schedule article, the company and ALPA use the following objective guidelines for opening new domiciles:
  • Schedule Efficiencies (Best Flown): Contribute to reduction in flight time credit and hotel expense in a best flown schedule.
  • Permanence: Stability of route and/or equipment assignment.
  • Critical Mass: Ability to build at least 30 lines for efficient reserve coverage.
  • Domicile Stability and Human Factors: Ability to keep line levels stable to reduce manpower dislocations.
  • ALPA Input: Typically seniority considerations.
Based on this framework, we recently issued Notices of Proposed Decision Making (NPDMs) to open two new equipment domiciles: SEA B777 and HNL B400. ALPA already has endorsed the opening of SEA B777, but would like the company to open a B777 base in DEN as soon as practically possible. We are still awaiting input on HNL B400.

The SEA B777 base will open Dec. 1, 1999, to support the SEA-NRT-BKK B777 route. An official announcement and contingency bids were posted earlier this month.

While the base will fly DEN-SEA-NRT-BKK with only 17 lines (34 Captains and 48 First Officers), the schedule efficiencies more than offset the additional reserve costs from having a small base. The base will remain viable as long as SEA-NRT continues to exist and flies as a B777.

The HNL B747 base is planned to close effective Jan. 1, 2000, driven by the retirement of B747-100 aircraft and the resulting elimination of B747 flying from HNL to the mainland. The remaining B747- 238 flying will be served by the SFO B747 base until the B747-238s retire in March 2002. An official domicile closing letter is planned to be issued Oct. 1, 1999.

A HNL B400 base is planned to be opened effective March 2, 2000. With the B747 equipment domicile in HNL planned to be closed by year end, a new B400 equipment domicile is required to maintain the pilot base. The decision to open a new equipment domicile is driven by a desire to maintain domicile stability coupled with relatively neutral economics.

The base initially will fly HNL-NRT with 8 lines (16 Captains and 32 First Officers). Over time, there is potential for the base to expand to 15 lines with additional NRT-tag flying, and to more than 30 lines if Asia improves and HNL-Japan flying returns to its historical levels. As base size increases, the relative economics also are expected to improve.

The company also had considered a HNL B777 new equipment domicile. While the B777 appears to be the “ optimal aircraft” long term for HNL, the current Asian crisis and imbalance in our fleet plan (too many B400s, too few B777s) drive a need to maintain the B400 in HNL-NRT. HNL-NRT is able to support a B400 without much revenue/fleet penalty, freeing up a B777 to do much more valuable service on lower-demand international missions. We expect the B400 to stay on HNL-NRT for at least the next five years. An official announcement with contingency bids posted is planned for September/October.

Progression Within Home Domicile
When we plan where to put manpower, we try to consider what factors are important to the line pilot. What we’ve heard is that pilots would like to stay and progress within their home domicile rather than commute to another domicile for a promotion, and have to make the age-old choice between money and lifestyle. To that end, our fleet simplification plan -- where over time we go from nine fleet types to five fleet types -- sets up the real possibility that we could have a narrowbody B300/A320, a mid-size B767, and a widebody B400/777 at each one of our eight mainland domiciles. We recently took a significant step that way with the SEA B777 opening. A MIA A320 and a DEN B777 base could be the remaining openings that would make the goal a reality.

MIA-LIM/CCS routes are currently flown with JFK A320 crews, with fairly high flight time credit. A MIA A320 base would create significant schedule efficiencies, but we do not want to open a base, at a minimum, until MIA-LIM proves to be successful economically. The LIM route is payload restricted and has struggled to make money in a B757. We should know an answer later this year, after a six-month trial period in the A320.

A DEN B777 base would require long-haul flying such as DEN-LHR and DEN-FRA to give it enough mass to build close to 30 lines. We moved one step closer by filing for DEN-LHR route authority for startup next spring. If we get that authority and have enough other flying such as DEN-FRA and/or domestic flying to build up to 30 lines, a DEN B777 base could be a reality.