A meeting of the ALPA National Jumpseat Committee this past August included representatives from more than 60 airlines and an opportunity for us to exchange information and ideas on just how to further our agenda of increasing jumpseat opportunities for our respective airline's pilots. Needless to say, there are many different philosophies but what comes as no surprise is that United, Delta and the other major carriers' jumpseat representatives have a similar view that our jumpseats are not a tool for other carriers to use to enhance their earnings.
The message concerning jumpseat abuse has been heard throughout the industry. Because of the lead taken by Delta and United, many smaller carriers and freight operators are now providing tickets to their pilots. Numerous testimonials from jumpseat representatives attest to the dollars now being spent to reposition airline crews: My only question with this is: Why wasn't this being done all along?
The answer lies in a lack of communication and line pilot involvement. All jumpseats are local and with proper information, I believe most pilots welcome the task of extending their jumpseats to qualified riders while still taking the extra moment to assure all jumpseat rules and regulations are adhered to.
The UAL Jumpseat Task Team has gone to great lengths to create an OMC
policy that allows for maximum flexibility and off-line jumpseat opportunities
while still protecting our interests: security, safety, legality, and economic.
It is incumbent upon each one of us to be continually vigilant when determining
OMC eligibility. is the rider on our reciprocal list? If not and you do not have personal knowledge of the individual and his intended purpose for travel, the request should be denied. Jumpseat fraud and abuse in the airline industry is ever increasing. Not one other airline polices their jumpseat policy with the scrutiny we do at United. This has lead to a large number of ineligible riders who have honed their approach to cheating the system. While several of the other major carrier's jumpseat representatives acknowledge this reality, they are a long way from convincing their managements that by working collaboratively, their jumpseat policy would be a better and safer product for everyone.
I believe most airline managers would be as upset as we were to learn
several carriers have negotiated agreements with their pilots that allows
them to ride on a United jumpseat and have a percentage of the ticket savings
be credited to an account for that pilot's future use. Or how surprised
they would be to discover more and more carriers (including scheduled passenger
operators) are moving toward "out-station basing,"a money saving strategy
that only works because of the hospitality of the major carriers. As the
UAL-MEC Jumpseat Coordinator, I cannot control who American or Northwest
allow to ride on their jumpseats: However, I do often express my frustration
to them when a United pilot is squeezed out of a ride by one of these abusing
carrier's pilots or bumped from the jumpseat by an Air Traffic Controller
on a FAM ride. All we can do is continue to monitor our OMC
policy and hope that the other airlines will follow our lead.
I had hoped to have some more information on additional cockpit observer
seat installations by this report but have been extremely busy this past
quarter. Electronic OMC (E-OMC) has forced United management into categorizing
every UAL employee into one of three classifications for OMC - yes, no,
or maybe. Maybe are those people who would be authorized for educational
purposes in order to improve their job performance. These people would
require an assigned cabin seat throughout the flight in order that the
captain may exclude them from the flight deck in the interest of safety
(FAR 121.547). United management had become so lax on this classification
of OMC, some divisional employees and their managers had assumed the cockpit
observer seats were simply an extension of the cabin and were disappointed
to find out they were never authorized to OMC by FAR. All jumpseats are
local and the pilot in command of the flight is tasked and accountable
for determining the eligibility of all cockpit observers. A non-certificated
airman must have documentation sufficient to allay any doubt you may have
concerning compliance with FAR.
E-OMC came on line Aug. 5. Although it had been discussed in meetings
as far back as 1996, the final product was developed without the input
of the Jumpseat Task Team. This is not to say I'm opposed to E-OMC, quite
the contrary. Since I first began hand sorting the thousands of OMC
coupons over two years ago, I have said there must be a way to computerize this process and ease the manpower requirements to determine who is riding on our jumpseats. With this consideration as one of our prime objectives, Apollo support services began the task of writing the E-OMC program. The problem with our newly implemented E-OMC is that it does not have the capability to track usage and thus has no auditing or information retrieval system, similar to our old system with the paper OMC coupons. The larger portion of the new E-OMC coupon is placed in the ticket lift report (TLR) and sent for sorting at Hamilton Lakes (office complex near WHQ). After the initial sort of the TLR, the OMC coupons are discarded and no record is available should a question arise concerning the validity of an OMC.
The good news with E-OMC is that it does not diminish the role of the
captain as the only person authorized to deny or accept any individual
qualified under FAR 121.547 to OMC and does several things to assist him
in making that decision. The most important enhancements are in the areas
of security and regulatory compliance. When an other-airline (OA) OMC's
name is entered in the Apollo computer, the program searches the database
that contains the same names found in your FOM on page 01-94 (formerly
01-93). This lists people specifically not authorized. If a name is entered
that is on that list, or is similar to a name on the list, the E-OMC ticket
will have the words SEE FOM clearly printed above the individual's name.
This is an indication to the captain that the rider may not be authorized.
If the ticket is devoid of this specific wording, there is no need to go
to the FOM before determining eligibility. Pilots should be aware however,
that the CSR will not deny access to the aircraft if the ticket has this
specific wording. In one known instance, a
legitimate Northwest Airlines captain has a first and last name identical to the name of an individual appearing on our unauthorized list. The E-OMC will also print OA pilot's boarding priority provided the OA pilot's airline official identifier is entered correctly. For example: if the CSR enters a Delta pilot as "DL", the E-OMC will print with priority L- 1. However, if the CSR enters "DELTA" as the employer, the E-OMC will designate the pilot as L-3. Until OA OMC's become familiar with this, you may see a number of tickets with boarding priorities inconsistent with our published list in the FOM. Nothing has changed with regard to policy or priority and pilots should be reminded to adhere closely to our strict requirements for authorizing an L-3 rider to OMC.
United employees who are not authorized to OMC will not be issued an E-OMC pass. The program will not allow a ticket to be generated. Other UAL employees who may be able to access the flight deck but must still have a cabin seat assigned, as mandated by FAR, will be issued an E-OMC ticket with the cabin seat requirement clearly indicated.
Because E-OMC does not allow us to easily retrieve data, it is important
to have the OMC sign the small portion of the OMC ticket and forward this
ticket stub to me if you suspect any wrongdoing on the part of the OMC.
Although we are able to track down the TLR portion of the ticket, the process
is very time consuming and would only be done in an extreme instance. As
with the old paper coupons, the captain may retain or destroy the smaller,
signed portion of the E-OMC coupon at his discretion. It continues to be
imperative that the captain check the credentials of the OMC and be certain
the information on the OMC ticket matches
the carrier's name on the airline ID badge. There are still many people misrepresenting themselves in an attempt to have you associate them with a carrier on our reciprocal L-1 or L-2 list. (i.e., A DHL subcontract carrier's pilot identifies himself as "DHL" while his airline ID indicates a carrier other than DHL.)
United pilots need only present their FO Airline ID card for cockpit
and aircraft access. If you are still receiving a paycheck, you're entered
in the database and all the CSR must do is enter your file number to print
an E-OMC boarding pass. The demonstration I witnessed, with two CSRs who
were not comfortable with the new system, took about eight seconds. They
marveled at the ease of the new system. If a CSR claims access has been
denied, it's most likely because your file number was not entered correctly.
If you continue to have a problem, speak with the captain of the flight
and send me an e-note explaining the difficulty. You may OMC without an
E-OMC ticket but must be certain a hand written boarding pass is included
in the TLR. Non-pilot employees should never be authorized without an E-OMC
ticket, as this is the authority from flight operations. "HOW OMC" in APOLLO
also explains the entire process and step-by-step instructions on generating
an E-OMC coupon if the CSR has time to troubleshoot. This help page is
available to the CSR at the gate and may also be accessed in basic APOLLO
with your sign-in.
Features of E-OMC:
E-Ticket and E-OMC are realities. If E-OMC problems develop, it's important
to communicate them to me as quickly as possible. If you experience a situation
where someone is given access, and such access or boarding priority is
suspect, I want to know about it as soon as possible. The captain will
always be the final authority on determining flight deck access eligibility
and may exclude any person from the flight deck in the interest of safety.
The UAL-MEC will defend this FAR mandated authority and responsibility
OA Pilot Boarding Priority
The UAL-MEC unanimously approved the policy we have regarding offline pilot boarding priority on United. L-1 has been extended to our exclusive UA Express carriers and other airlines offering a significant benefit to the greatest number of United pilots.
L-2 is reserved for other carriers who have a reciprocal agreement with United. Several L-2 carriers have requested inclusion on our L- I list. Now that the four wholly owned regional carriers of AMR have merged into one airline, American Eagle, I recommended to the MEC that they be moved from the L-2 to L-1. American Eagle has hubs at four of United's larger domiciles and operates more than 1,400 daily departures with nearly 2,000 ALPA pilots. Delta Air Lines has the same boarding priority system as United and does include American and American Eagle on their F-1 (UAL L-1 equivalent).
I explained our boarding priority to a large contingent of airline jumpseat representatives at a recent National Jumpseat meeting. ALPA National Jumpseat Policy allows us to prioritize carriers if it will benefit United's pilots; however, policy forbids the practice for punitive or political action against another carrier. I believe the other carriers are satisfied with United's policy and understand our reasons for establishing an off-line priority. Several pilots from one of our L-2 carriers did attempt to influence our decision for L- I inclusion by denying jumpseats to United pilots. After speaking with their jumpseat coordinator and the airline's director of operations, the airline acknowledged that our agreement with them was satisfactory and they would not condone any of their pilots taking action against United pilots. (The irony, as I indicated to them in our conversation, was that by denying jumpseats to the United pilots, they were alienating those United pilots most inclined to help them jumpseat on United!)
Our priority system benefits United pilots. We could return to a first
come-first served for all off-line pilots, but this would fail to recognize
the value we place on our exclusive code share and feeder carriers,
as well as the greater opportunities United pilots have on other large,
national carriers. A United pilot on a Delta jumpseat can only be bumped
by a Delta pilot. That's a nice benefit.
FOM Jumpseat Policy
The July 24th FOM revision included an entire new section in 01 entitled Flight Deck Authority. Absolutely nothing was included to make OMC more restrictive or to diminish the authority or responsibility of the captain. In fact, a great deal of wording was removed in order to clarify the program and eliminate the redundancy in the old policy. Although Steve Forte and I were able to reach consensus on the narrative portion of the policy, we could not come to terms on several employee groups' authority to OMC. As I have stated before, ALPA is not opposed to non-certificated airmen observng flight deck procedures as a familiarization ride. The FAR does allow this limited access but stipulates very clearly that a seat must be available in the cabin. Unfortunately, the "FAM" program evolved into a liberal interpretation of the FAR and many, many employees were jumpseating and on priorities above certificated airmen. The bale of hay that broke the camel's back was management's new policy, unveiled in March, which extended pleasure travel jumpseat to all flight operations employees as well as a large number of other clerical and administrative personnel.
After a meeting with management and ALPA National Attorney Jim Johnson, Flight Operations agreed to limit unrestricted flight deck access to the few groups of employees listed in my report to the MEC and published in the spring issue of The Leading Edge. A week after this meeting Steve Forte contacted me and advised the company had received approval from the POI to include several other categories of employees to our list of those authorized without a cabin seat requirement. The MEC was concerned with many aspects of this overly liberal interpretation of FAR 121.547 and requested ALPA Attorney Jim Johnson contact the FAA Standards Branch in Washington, D.C. requesting a specific interpretation of the FAR. The FAA quickly ruled in favor of our interpretation and flight operations management has since revised the list of unrestricted OMC authority.
Why did we have to pursue this? Because management does not know how
to explain to employee groups who request flight deck access that they
are simply not authorized by FAR. Management was quick to self-disclose
to the FAA and take forceful action against a United captain who, on his
flight just prior to retirement, had his wife ride in the cockpit. I received
a report two months ago that flight managers are authorizing OMC and issuing
meters to employees of the LAX Airport Fire Department. Where is the self-disclosure
on this violation, or any of the other questionable meters issued with
Flight Operations approval? I wrote about this some time ago and stated;
all jumpseats are local. What does this mean? It means that management
can authorize jumpseat to anyone they choose. But you, the captain of the
flight, are held responsible for ensuring only authorized individuals have
access to your cockpit. If the request to OMC does not come from a certificated
airman (pilot, dispatcher, mechanic, ATC) or a technical representative
whose ability to perform his job requires him to be on your flight deck,
that request should be denied unless there is a specific meter authority
and an assigned cabin seat for use by that rider in the event of an emergency.
A United pilot contacted me after he had been denied a jumpseat on one
of our express carriers because he was not wearing a tie. I explained that
this had been discussed and I had written in previous articles to "wear
a tuxedo" if you were not familiar with a specific airline's jumpseat dress
code. I agreed with his comment that such a statement was facetious and
unclear to many of you. I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused
you but would like to remind everyone that each airline has specific jumpseat
policies including dress code. Anticipate the most restrictive and wear
a sport coat and carry a tie in your bag. (We are working on an off-line
jumpseat guide to be available at each domicile with airline specific policies
I look forward to being able to return to dealing with issues that most affect you in your jumpseat pursuits. I mentioned the second OMC seat installations and will be reporting to the MEC on this matter in January. I am also going to refocus my efforts on several other concerns including international OMC and the Alaska Airlines jumpseat embargo from SNA airport.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge and thank Captain Warren Villareal and F/0 Erin Kullander for their involvement on the OMC Task Team. Between Warren's proof reading and Erin's communicative skills through CompuServe, I've been able to fool many of you into thinking I can write and communicate effectively. Look for additional improvements to our OMC policies and procedures in the future.
People keep telling me this ALPA work is a thankless job. I have to disagree. Many of you thank me every day, even when you have a problem or complaint, you're professional and courteous.
Thank-you and please continue to send your comments or give me a call.
Bill Baer, ORDFO