The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) has issued a detailed response to a memo issued by a United Airlines Senior Vice President, who accused the union of “political opportunism” in failing to give United credit for working on a solution to long hold times for crewmembers.
AFA Pushes Back On United Management Memo In Outreach To Flight Attendants Over Long Hold Times
For background and the United memo, please see this post.
John Slater, United’s Senior Vice President of Inflight Services, argued United is working hard to reduce wait times when crews call the scheduling desk and that it has proposed solutions which the union has rejected. Specifically, United proposed allowing electronic acceptance of certain schedule modification, eliminating the need to call the crew scheduling desk.
But apparently the devil was in the details. The AFA responded:
We want solutions. This is not a problem that flight attendants who make up our union created. Simply because we didn’t accept the first solution proposed by management that meets their immediate needs and that impacts our contractual reassignment language, does not mean we aren’t solution oriented. Last week, we engaged with management in trying to find solutions and it should be clear – management could not find a way to meet any of the priorities identified in our response to them. Read our response to management to learn more about what we proposed as solutions.
Digging deeper, United’s proposed solution required two contractual concessions, according the AFA:
- United would have six hours to provide the flight attendant with a replacement pairing instead of four
- However, the notification of loss of flight time would occur at the time of cancellation rather than when the flight attendant is actually notified, which could work out in the flight attendant’s favor
- When a notice of cancellation occurs more than five calendar days before a trip, a flight attendant would have to wait for United to respond electronically if invoking contractual rights to be re-assigned (United’s flight attendant contract guarantees a minimum number of contract hours each month)
- During that waiting period, preferred routes could be taken by others
As a result, the AFA concluded:
After lengthy discussion, the MEC determined we could not agree to the proposed terms, in large part, because we do not believe it resolves the call wait time issues and only amounts to a series of contractual concessions.
It did offer counterproposal which would automate a number of functions to reduce wait times, including:
- calling off sick leave
- reserve block-in
- trade reversal/pick-ups within one hour of original transaction
- trading of positions to allow for trades up to check-in time of the flight
United did not agree to all of these changes.
The AFA memo further pits management against flight attendants:
The communication from John is a reaction to our solidarity. It is clear that management is feeling the heat from our continued insistence that they fix the problems that are their responsibility and within their power to address. Regardless of the reasons for these challenges, we want and deserve meaningful solutions and accountability, not excuses.
There is significant frustration and anger resulting from the extended period of irregular operations and aircraft schedule changes to which flight attendants have been subjected. What seems to be missed is that frustration and anger is the focus of our membership and, as a consequence, is the focus of the leadership of this union.
United insists it is taking the matter seriously.
Why Does This Matter?
Both United and AFA have taken the unusual move of airing their grievances in a very public way, with harsh words exchanged by both sides. While the relationship between AFA and United management has always been on the contentious side, hopefully the latest round of rhetoric does not suggest a more combative phase, which customers may feeling if flight attendants
Speaking as a frequent United traveler, I do find the rhetoric a bit disconnected from what I have experienced onboard, with generally cheerful, friendly, and attentive service onboard. I applaud United flight attendants for not taking out this apparently longstanding problem on passengers.
The union representing United flight attendants has pushed back, offering a counter-narrative to Slater’s scathing memo to employees. The union, at this point, is unwilling to offer any contractual concessions, even if doing so may eliminate the long hold times. It says United must solve the problem without any concessions and has had long enough to do so already.
> Read More: United Airlines Chides “Grandstanding” Flight Attendant Union For Choosing “Political Opportunism” Over Teamwork
I say just terminate them all!! They’ve gotten lazy, entitled and rude. Not that they weren’t already . They do you a favor and act up all in the name of “COVID” c,’mon!! Even a “progressive liberal “ like me doesn’t fall for their B/ S. Add insult to injury, their soft product sucks, their catering is vomitive and they still wonder why I switched over to AA?? Hmmmm….
In the largest labor struggle of the century you want to fire thousands for not acting like slaves to your basic economy ticket and demanding fair wages and responsibilities….why do your type of people not demand that Shareholders pay for the actual value of labor?
Your contempt for the union and labor force at United is more like a maga like than a progressive liberal. The catering is either good or bad because of corporate decisions. The flight crews wish they always had great products to please customers but they don’t. United employees are trying just as hard or more as other airlines. I’m glad you’re taking your bad attitude to American so my wife doesn’t have to deal with you on one of her trips.
Negative,Negative,Negative on both counts!! That’s not true and you know it!! What they do inside the cabin is neither management’s fault or on their control. The level of service they provide and attitude isn’t management’s fault. The number of smiles they give you isn’t management’s fault either. How proactive and professional they are isn’t management’s fault. The numbers of refills they provide in first class isn’t management’s fault either and YOU know it!!! Cmon man!! Stop blaming everything on management. That simply isn’t true. And to the transbrainalized moron before you, I do not buy basic economy fares, ever!!unlike you, I’m sure!! I always fly PAID business class, he’ll I don’t even use upgrades now that I think about it. So shut up!!
Customer Satisfaction 101:
The way in which customers are treated by employees is an EXACT reflection of how employees are treated by management.
It’s that simple
Flight attendants in the United States are the epitome of female entitlement.
In response to the comment above, I say just terminate United’s management. They’ve gotten lazy, entitled and rude. Not that they weren’t already.
The issues United is facing aren’t the fault of their workers, they’re caused by decisions taken by management. In spite of this, the union has engaged on these issues, only to be met by a managent team that prefers to issue diktats.
United really should be able to fix their own problems. Since they’re not, maybe going far out of their way to publicly antagonize their employees might be a poor decision. Why start a war you’re not going to win?
As someone who’s only ever voted for Democrats, screw this union. The fact that you’re experiencing “generally cheerful, friendly, and attentive service onboard” is because this union is so far removed from the rank-and-file employees who are able to do their job. United employees would be better served by not having the AFA meddling since it is clearly incapable of representing them well. Unions have a place but definitely does not seem United (or other flight attendant) unions serve their members well.
Gotta agree as a fellow black democrat. People crapped on folks on a different blog for saying that Euro J beats US domestic first class, but it’s true based on my experience. I’ve been flying due to my new job and service has been terrible regardless of the cabin. FAs do one meal service and one drink service in first class and then they are either busy on their phones or talking with other FAs and become very rude if you ask for something like a coke.
Sure, there are FAs out there who try to provide good service, but I haven’t met any and I fly a lot.
Anything, any management does, not just United Airlines is done deliberate. With the sole purpose of improving profit, at the expense of thir labor force, and also customers. Managements can not ever be trusted.
Matthew, I’m a United FA. There’s still a lot more to this story that you haven’t included. United has been actively working to improve crew scheduling phone call wait times for weeks now, and has been extremely transparent about it to the FA work group and union. In my own experience, the wait times are improving. I got through to a scheduler yesterday in just a few minutes. While there is a lot of work left to be done, I think you’re leaving out some important details.
Here’s what’s being done by the company now, even though the union doesn’t want to admit it. (Spoiler: the company needs/wants shorter wait times for FAs too, as it improve the overall operation).
1). There’s an increased number of scheduling trainers on the floor at the NOC. Job openings have been posted and they are currently accepting applications.
2). Agents are being cross-trained with other departments to reduce crew scheduler work loads.
3). Multiple automation enhancements are in final development now: the virtual chat feature will process transactions such as deadhead deviations and open time trade reversals.
4). Automation will soon allow flight attendants to call in “well” after a sick call, and use FMLA.
5). A reserve coverage dashboard is being developed to free up planners so that they can assist with incoming calls.
6). The next class of 15 new hire crew schedulers will start in the beginning of August.
7). Self-help options are ALREADY available for airport standby check-in, trip deviation, and reserve block-in.
The only thing of actual merit in this article is that the company proposed an additional 2 hour window that would extend the amount of time an FA would need to wait for a reassignment. I’m glad that this was shot down, as I don’t want to be subject to reassignment for longer than the current 4 hours in our contract. BUT- The union is giving the company ZERO credit for the many things that they are already doing to solve these issues.
The union doesn’t represent me when they start heated email wars over problems that are already being worked on. I appreciate United’s transparency and continued admission/acknowledgment of the problems facing FAs this summer. This is the first summer back from Covid, and we all need to give credit where credit is due. The union is definitely trying to make a political statement and create discord among FAs.
I’m a UA FA and I have never seen management so incompetent to be able to handle this situation. Prior to Covid we had more flights, more storms, more things actually impacting our operation however you never waited hours on the phone for a simple contractual response. I have the screenshots of waiting hours now for things that used to be accomplished within a microsecond on the computer system. The truth is the company is engineering a system that locks down the operation a causes unpredictable absences and reliability problems.
Speak with the scheduling department and those in charge of it they have literally no clue how to do their jobs. Many of the schedulers are working from home and they learned this job remotely which isn’t the same as doing it in person. We are a 24/7 365 operation the people who work in scheduling should be in the office in collaboration with each other. UA is a mess and it’s only going to get worse and worse because management is in negotiations over a new contract and they don’t understand the operation or the lifestyle that is being a crew member at UA. Pilots already shoved their TA back for renegotiations, the vast majority of FAs at UA are now pushing back in solidarity.
Customers don’t deserve this employees don’t deserve this. It’s very simple if you respect your frontline employees they will make your business prosper, they are your brand ambassadors.
Fair points. Appreciate your comment.