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System Schedule

Ed Gorman, Chairman

The Leading Edge, Spring 1999

 

Comments on Vacancy Bids

With the soft Asian economy, along with last summer's build up of the ORD 400 domicile, an excess of 400 crews had been created and there was a backlog of crews awaiting training.  This caused an absence of widebody captain bids for a couple of months.  The SSC had requested that consideration be given to posting some widebody bids for those who become eligible for bypass pay each month.  A long discussion was conducted as to the impact of the use of Section 8-N for the surpluses in equipment domiciles that will soon be closed.  The manpower planners were directly asked if the absence of B400 or B777 bids for two months were caused by its use.  They said 4 6 no," that the primary reason for the lack of bids was the imbalance caused by the shift in marketing plans for the use of the B400 and backlog of pilots awaiting training.

Additionally, the proposed reduction of training capacity for the summer further limited available training capability.  It was indicated that widebody bids would return to being posted soon and would probably continue for the foreseeable future.  Barring any unforeseen economic disasters or aircraft delivery problems, both B400 and B777 bids should become a monthly event through next year.  Changes in fleet options might impact which fleet gets the most bids.

After further questioning, the manpower planners researched the B400 captain needs and bids posted since they began surplusing using Section 8-N.  There were 112 B400 captain bids posted during that time based on needs.  Fifteen other captains bumped into the fleet during that period, but not at domiciles where coverage was needed.  For four months, training was also restricted by a TK policy of not training two captains together.  When this put TK behind in producing enough captains and created a backlog of pilots awaiting training, it was scrapped.  That policy, combined with the projected reduction in flying in the fall which made TK reduce training again, led to the zero bids for August and September effective dates.
 

Denver B737 Base Closing

The company announced the closing of the B737-200 domicile at Denver effective June 1, 1999.  Training for those pilots surplussed is expected to start in May.
 

ORD-HKG

Time has come for a decision on the schedule of the ORD HKG trip.  The SSC has been closely monitoring this trip since its inception of year-round operations, and more closely since the percentage of trips under 16 hours dropped below 50% last September.  While we have received many briefings and hopeful projections, the trip has had a record over the last 10 months of only about 47% under 16 hours.  Unexpectedly light winds in February allowed a record of about 63%, however, March was again poor.  Strong winds reappeared and were not able to be avoided.

An improvement in the acceptance rate by Anchorage Center that allowed nine aircraft per hour rather than three was made possible by establishing a reliable link to Russian ATC that had been the bottleneck.  The Russian center now has an "IRIDIUM" telephone that allows for voice contact to effect air traffic handoffs.

The SSC continues to stress to the company the urgency that they must place on resolving this problem.  We cannot tolerate approaching another fall and winter season without definite assurances that either the routes will allow for a consistent operation under 16 hours, or the company will seek the necessary waivers and contract language to schedule the segment over 16 hours.  Waivers and contract language modifications will require time to accomplish and must be begun immediately.  If changes can not be made, then the operations would have to demonstrate the ability to remain under 16 hours by a buffer of 30 minutes for 90% of the time during the summer months using routing or Mach No. adjustment.  That could provide a reasonable expectation of remaining under 16 hours on those routes during the winter.
 

777 Line Levels

The line levels in the Los Angeles B777 domicile will be growing as previously anticipated.  Growth to the earlier projected 30 line levels was always expected to be by summer 2000 and had included the hoped-for LAX-GRU flying.

The Chicago to Buenos Aires flight changed to B777 from the B767 in May.  The equipment was swapped with the New York  Buenos Aires flight.  JFK B777 crews now operate a "W" LHR to ORD pattern to replace the lost flying.
 

A 320 Routes

The changeover to Airbus equipment in the MIA-LIM (Lima, Peru) market is causing some very inefficient pairings.  When the JFK- and MIA-Caracas trips begin in May there should be some improvement as more domestic legs can be included and other domiciles can be used.
 

Fleet and Route Plans

Bob Merz, United's Network Planning Director, presents monthly plans update briefings.  This frequent review of corporate plans is better than the less frequent and therefore less reliable, strategic plans briefings previously given to ALPA on an annual basis by marketing.  The points covered were:

IAD Increase
The company plans a buildup to 119 daily departures from IAD beginning in May and currently expects that level will be a line level floor for the foreseeable time.  No additional B400s are planned for Europe markets other than the two already announced to LHR and FRA.

IAD-MUC (Munich) will shift into B777 equipment for five months starting in June.  Additional domestic B767 flying will be made available for the interim.  The narrow body projection of 140 departures will be delayed slightly to use new aircraft deliveries to feed the growth rather than moving planes from other west coast markets.

B767 to Hawaii
This is still a possibility for sometime later this year.  Demand remains strong and B747s and DC I Os are being retired.  No B777s are expected to the Islands until next year.  Initiation of either type equipment into that market would signal a need for discussions on the domestic contract augmentation issue.

B400 Plans
The LAX-KIX route cancellation was confirmed.  The aircraft will be utilized domestically.  Some crews will be used to augment SFO for the SFO-HKG added flight planned to begin in June.

ORD-DEL is still being considered but no mention was made of ALPA's concerns about the contract restrictions preventing ORD crews from operating the flight, nor the need for language to allow beyond 16 hour operations.  It is not likely that the flight can return non-stop from DEL or if they plan to, there are many operational concerns dealing with Polar flights over Siberia.  If a fuel stop is required, that further complicates the scheduling problem.  Startup date is projected for this October.

Caribbean
A small initiative into the Caribbean will begin in June on weekends.  In addition to the JFKSJU weekend trip built by the JFK pilots, the company will start weekend service between ORD/IAD and St Thomas, V.I., (STT).  The routes will be flown year- round but the equipment will shift between B757 and Airbus seasonally.  The 757 will require a stop in San Juan on the return ORD leg because of the short runway in St Thomas.
 

Hot/Cold Reserve Test

A second reserve test began in April using the SFO B767 captain fleet.  A version of a hot/cold (or short/long notice) system is being tested.  One third of the reserve lines, the so-called "hot" reserve lines, will function just like present reserve lines, except 13 days off will be scheduled.  The other 2/3 of the reserve lines, or "cold" reserve lines, will provide 18-hour minimum callout.  Provisions are included to convert cold reserves to hot, or to temporarily suspend the test to avoid trip cancellations.  Floater reserve lines will be the same as presently constructed, with 12 days off and the usual callout responsibilities and will also be "hot" reserve lines.
 

HNL 747

Marketing has committed to a third daily B747-100 between Honolulu and the mainland until September, then they will revert to two entries until December.  The additional entry to the islands should allow the level of flying at Honolulu to match the rate that captains are retiring.  The company insists that a proper balance between first officers and captains is being sustained.  Future equipment plans for that domicile are being reviewed.
 

Captain Langer's ID Review

In response to the SSC's request, Capt.  Langer reviewed the objectionable pairings submitted.  He agreed to change the policy to not schedule all night duty periods after a daytime layover effective with the May 1999 schedule change.  Capt.  Langer requested to meet with the SSC to discuss what he anticipated would be a major shift of flying to West Coast domiciles.  While we have seen some shifting of this sort in the past when red-eye flying was locked into West Coast domiciles, the company's examples and independent studies have shown that this does not necessarily have to happen.
 

Two Leg All Nighter Clarification

The agreement by the company as to the scheduling of all-night flights needs some clarification.  From the beginning of our discussions on this topic several years ago, we were concerned with those flights which operated overnight, within a pairing, arriving after about 5 a.m. local time at the destination, and where the duty period was begun after a layover.  We did not address one duty-period two-leg pairings as it was indicated that many pilots preferred them.  Besides, those pilots could probably control their rest before such a duty period, whereas pilots in a hotel might not be able to.  Also, we did not include duty periods that were all deadhead (for obvious reasons) or had a deadhead leg as the last leg.
 

"Langer Guidelines"

     Because the Red-Eye Guidelines have not been published in a while a restatement is needed of what the SSC and the company concur are the values for these guidelines.  It has been agreed that, whenever possible, pairings will not be constructed during the scheduling development process, which have a duty period longer than nine and one-half hours (9+30), nor contain an intervening period between segments (sit) of more than one and one-half hours (1+30).  As stated above, these are "guidelines" and not hard limits.  Slightly exceeding these values is usually not considered a violation worthy of strenuous objection.  While these numbers have not been codified in writing, they have been in place and acknowledged by both the company and ALPA long enough to fairly well establish that they are acceptable to both.  Besides, they also conform fairly closely to the doctrines of the Doctors' Panel under which we schedule Central and South American flying.
 

Sick Leave Charge for OE Line

It came to the SSC's attention that the company had been applying a questionable method of charging the sick leave debit for a pilot who had been awarded and then subsequently removed from an OE line.  If that pilot is sick on the reserve days he is serving, the hours debited are based on the actual hour value of the bid line, plus any carry-in, divided by the work days in, or remaining in, his/her line.  The SSC thought the debit should simply be the reserve day credit of 4:20.

After further discussions it was determined this is the fairest interpretation.  Some pilots could be debited more sick leave as those who would gain by using a reserve day value for an OE removee who subsequently uses sick leave.  For example, if the trip removed from the line was a three day, two duty period trip, the pilot would be charged 13:20 hours for three reserve days, whereas the trip dropped might only have about 10 actual hours.
 

Black Out Days on Bid Package Cover Letter 

The company is publishing the Embargo and Black Out dates on the bid package cover letter.  Also included is a DIS* page number to check for changes to the blackout dates.
 

S.A. Debrief Time and Meal Expense Calculation 

Programing problems keep cropping up in unexpected ways with the various programs used to build our schedules.  A question raised about why the printed DSL did not appear to show the required :30 debrief for a domestic ID, which ended with a leg from Mexico City.  Checking the PLTID showed that it was calculated correctly by the CMS program.  However, another error was found by the inconsistency in the expenses between the published ID and PLTID.  It was determined that ACRUZER had an incorrect value for meal expenses in that fleet only.  The other values will be checked, but CMS is the final filter for all pay calculations and it seems to be correcting all these glitches.
 

Military Charters

A series of last minute military charters was flown in February with the IDs being hand built by the crew desk.  The resulting pairings were absolute sunrise service trips.  The pairings were built under charter rules, which do not fully address all practices where we have agreement as to scheduling philosophy.  The crew desk committed to include these concepts in trips of this sort in the future when they can.  These unwritten agreements should be made a part of our basic contract and applied to all flying.
 

SHUTTLE ISSUES:

SEA-SFO Closed Loop
The company expressed interest in exploring the feasibility of flying SEA-SFO in a closed loop where the same crew flies repeated round trips between those cities.
However there are significant differences between this and the SFO- LAX closed loop.  The southern loop deals with a higher frequency and mainly inter-loop passengers.  Between SEA and SFO the majority of the traffic involves either connections or through passengers.  Due to the potential to adversely affect the flying in the SEA domicile, the SSC recommends no change to the present operation.

LAX and SFO Turn Times
Due to the inability of the SFO and LAX stations to turn Shuttle aircraft in less than :30 minutes the company will increase all turn times to a minimum of :30 minutes in those stations.  Part of this is due to the return to a "bank" concept in the LAX hub.  This creates more work in certain banks during the
day and more opportunity for delays of flights with short turn times.  The IDs have increased penalty time and some inefficiencies in the utilization of pilots.  In order to match inbound flights and outbound flights with the appropriate turn times, some longer workdays may be seen in the IDs beginning in June.

Open Time
The SSC noticed an apparent lack of open time prior to the May Big Pick for SFO and LAX captains.  This was followed closely during and after the Big Pick to determine whether adequate trips became available.  The open time for SFO captains prior to the Big Pick was 246 hours, which increased to 356 hours with a much better mix of one, two, and three-day trips.  The SSC would prefer the mix to be more one and two-day trips available during the month for pick-up.  This appeared to work itself out during the Big Pick process.

Excess Shuttle Pilots
The company advised that they expect to have a surplus of Shuttle pilots system wide starting in the fall.  Several route frequencies have been reduced and no new flying has been added to Shuttle.  The company does not plan to take action on the surplus at this time as it is expected to solve itself with attrition.  This will cause less time to be available in the open flying.

Preferential Bidding Test Development
A meeting was held at WHQ on May 11 to view the presentation by ADOPT of their Preferential Bidding System (PBS).  While this presentation was far more developed than one the SSC received in 1995, and the presenters' claim to have far better capability now, many problems were not fully addressed.  The biggest unanswered questions were whether the system would handle stacking and whether senior pilot would have choices altered to satisfy more junior ones.

Discussion at the SSC meeting centered around the manpower impact of a PBS system.  It was acknowledged that, with any such system, there would be a need for fewer pilots due to the reduction in reserve needs and the elimination of secondary lines.  The company pointed out that with PBS there will be less open flying as the system is designed to put most of it into the lines of flying.  Another concern was providing adequate open time to allow for pilot pick-up to make crossover, which is a problem other airlines using PBS programs do not have.

The company advised that they hoped to begin a three-month parallel bidding test of the PBS this September.  It will be a parallel test for bid results comparison purposes only.  They also stated that the surplus of pilots would be even more apparent under the PBS bidding.  The SSC stated our requirement to maintain adequate open flying for pilots to pick up to attain crossover pay.  We anticipate there will have to be a vote taken of the Shuttle crews before any permanent program is begun.  The MEC, with input from the SSC, will need to approve any full use of a PBS,

U30 Line Level Average
At the February meeting it was noted that DEN Shuttle lines missed the 15 day off average.  The company does not "round" the numbers.  This was an error and the program will be corrected.  All Shuttle domiciles should be extra vigilant to insure that this is accomplished.

SFOEG Operated Ferries
In accordance with an MEC resolution, the SSC is receiving from the OPBCM Pay Desk a summary of the program to recompense crews when SFOEG pilots operate a ferry flight which could have been flown by line crews if there had been any available.  The primary effort was to convince the company that they should use line crews to the maximum extent possible when the ferry flight did not require an EG crew for maintenance purposes.  It is only intended to apply to ferries conducted for paint or entirely cosmetic modification that do not require any structural or electrical component removal or installation.

FLODAY Requests
The FLODAY requests are taken into account in the awarding of floater reserve lines.  They are then analyzed via a computer program.  Floater reserve lines by their very nature do not usually have weekends off, unless the need for reserve pilots requires lines with weekends off to fill the gaps.  This is also true for holidays.  The parameters listed by each pilot are not weighted as in secondary line criteria.  Each item is treated equally.  However, unlike secondary lines, the reserve patterns are developed first, based on coverage needs, then attempted to be matched to individual requests.  To enhance the possibility of receiving a schedule to the pilots liking, it is better to limit the number of parameters listed to those really important ones. #