AA negotiators kick a pilot anthill

aa73

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http://aviationblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/10/post-10.html

AA negotiators kick a pilot anthill

6:05 PM Thu, Oct 23, 2008

Terry Maxon

Negotiators for American Airlines this week broached a taboo topic in pilot negotiations.

They brought up preferential bidding.

Preferential bidding refers to a way that pilots get their monthly schedules. In brief, a pilot tells the airline his or her preferences -- one-day trips, domestic trips, flights to New York, whatever -- and the airline's computers build a schedule that reacts to the stated preferences. The preferences of a more-senior pilot have priority over those of a less-senior pilot

The current system has the airline's computers building "lines" of flying, basically a monthly schedule of flights that pilots bid on and win based on their seniority. A pilot bids on the line that best suits his needs and desires, and hopes no one more senior wants the same sequence of flights.

If I over-simplify, I'm sorry. I invite 8,000 American pilots to improve on my explanation.

The casual observer who hasn't worked as a pilot may not spot any superiority of one system to another. But the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American's pilots, is strongly on record against preferential bidding -- to the point, I believe, that their negotiators are barred from even considering the concept.

The AA pilots who came from Trans World Airlines worked under a preferential-bidding system, and generally liked it.
Doug Gabel, chairman of the union's St. Louis base, told members in a January 2007 message:

Do I think it would be a great enhancement to our work life? You bet. Will I spend time trying to convince the pilots it will? Not on your life. The hype and spin have risen to levels that make the effort to discuss it not worth my time and energy.

The union's concern is that American would use preferential bidding to schedule its pilots more effectively, eliminating maybe 1,000 pilot jobs.

You can also attribute APA opposition to a general distrust of management's motives -- as in, if management wants it, it can't be good for the pilots.

Here's what the airline had to say about its proposal on its negotiations hotline:

On Tuesday, the company offered a revised Scheduling and Reserve proposal covering a number of topics including the establishment of a Preferential Bidding System (PBS). This, like all of the company's proposals, is not a take-it-or-leave-it offer and was intended to generate discussion about how pilots can have more control over their schedules and a better quality of life, while improving the efficiency and productivity of AA's scheduling operations.

PBS has been discussed several times in negotiations. It has been agreed to by every network carrier and allows airlines to customize the system to their needs. The program uses state-of-the-art systems compared to AA's dated software and is more cost efficient because the software provider can share the systems' costs among multiple companies, not just one airline.

The system offers pilots a variety of significant benefits:

Greater scheduling control. Pilots can input their individual scheduling preferences before their schedules are built. Today, they must choose pre-determined lines and then rely on the availability of open time to meet their scheduling needs.

Improved work-life balance. With increased control over their schedules, pilots can better align their professional responsibilities with their personal lives.

More scheduling options. Today's pre-constructed bidlines offer a limited number of lines to choose from compared to the thousands PBS can produce with pilots' input.

Better predictability. Pilots can use a standing bid and leave their preferences in place, or change their bids as necessary for vacation, holidays, special events, etc. And because pilots can input their scheduling preferences before lines are built, they will know much earlier what their month of flying will look like.

To ensure that PBS balances the needs of the company and our pilots, AA suggests establishing a joint PBS sub-committee of the Joint Scheduling Committee (JSC) to provide input into selecting a program vendor, system customization and training while also overseeing the monthly administration of the process. Pilots will be properly trained and participate in several test bids to familiarize them with the new system before it becomes effective.

Company negotiators have consistently said - from day one of negotiations - that finding ways to make our operations more efficient and productive was a top priority and we would find ways to do so without any pilot furloughs as a result of productivity gained through negotiated work rule changes. PBS is one of the ways the company can do that while improving our pilots' quality of life.

The company hopes APA will thoughtfully review and consider a system that would reduce our dependence on reserves, give pilots more say in the trips they fly and give the APA an equal seat at the table to design and manage the schedule building process.

Negotiations with the APA are scheduled to continue this afternoon and Friday. At their conclusion, the company will provide a full summary of the week's discussions including other aspects of its Scheduling and Reserve proposal such as military leave and the Credit Plan Account.

The airline also proposed raising the work month to 82 hours, with pilots allowed to work to 87 or 92 hours.

--------------------------------------------------

And how has pref bidding been received by the pilots at most airlines? NO THANKS!!
 

hockeypilot44

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Preferential bidding is not a good thing. It lets management manipulate your schedule. I've used it at two airlines now and definitely would prefer the old fashioned way.
 

HalinTexas

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I think that a lot of the rejection of the system is due to the pilots not understanding limitations of the systems as well as its capabilities. This lack of understanding translates into poor contract language regarding these limitations and capabilities.

If you airline has it, fix the problems in negotiations. If yours' is about to get it, look at it long and hard, and don't let your union push it on you. I know a lot of groups gave up some good things, like vacation padding, when they addopted these systems.
 

AA717driver

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I have never trusted AMR not to game the system.

If they let the pilot group run it (AMR delivers the trips, APA runs them on a non-AMR computer and delivers them back to AMR after the lines are built) and had the proper contractual limits, it would be ok.

What Doug said was true. He just didn't explain to the author what would be necessary for PBS to work at AA the way it worked at TWA (and hasn't worked at NWA, UAL and CAL).

TC
 

SpauldingSmails

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PBS = Surprise!
 

Draginass

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The PB system that AA wants is one with high maximum hours and nebulous in it's language so it can be manipulated easily. This management team is the master of tortured logic, twisted language, and absurd interpretations.

They want to cut another 1000 pilots from the company and have the rest working more days for while costing the company less money and making management PUP bonuses even fatter than they are now.

Of course, they can propose anything they want and the APA can respectfully decline.

At the rate AA is stonewalling negotiations, it's quite possible that AMR is in for a really turbulent next summer. In most people's opinions, AMR is out to break the pilot's union once and for all and turn it into a lapdog union like most other major airlines have now.
 
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GCD

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Stay away from preferential bidding!!! It is easily manipulated by the company pre-bid, during-bid, and post-bid.
 

get2flyin

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As far as I'm concerned preferential bidding is awesome. Here's why...

The company is going to build schedules that work best for them...PERIOD. They can either pre-build an entire month schedule up front or cob a bunch of trips together after they get the bidder input. Either way, nobody gets exactly what they want. The difference is, shouldn't you be able to get some or most of what you want?

If I was senior (and I'm not) why should I have a month that has crappy trips but is off for Christmas? If that's they way the company builds the traditional line, and my old company did, you had to choose one or the other. Why can't I have both? If I'm junior, (and in this company I am) and I need one thing, like certain overnight or a day of the week off, PBS allows me to get it. Of course I can't have weekends off and summer trips to ANC, but I'm junior so I wouldn't expect that.

Unfortunately, the PBS system requires a large amount of transparency and oversight by the union to ensure the company isn't abusing it. Ask a TWA guy what they thought of it. They set the bar.

My 2cents.
 

Mkubwa

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Wake up and look reality in the face

AA Pilots,

How can you continue to tolerate the bald-faced deceit of your management? You have a union, you have money - USE IT!

Your management holds the purse strings. Your management has proven time and again they cannot be trusted to do what they say. They will sharpshoot your contract. They will put unrelenting downward pressure on your expectations and wear you down. It's a job they take very seriously and they will never let up - never!

The only REAL solution is to take the company private, purge the BOD, fire the deadwood in management, change the culture and rebuild.

Alas, this will never happen. Please just admit that each AA pilot is just looking to "get his and get out". The majority of your group is just as bad as the management who control your careers, your emotions, your lives.

Expect more of the same. That's not conjecture - that's fact.
 

Freight Dog

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Senior people will love it.

Mid-seniority people better learn to bid or they'll be miserable.

Lower seniority people will absolutely, positively, f**king HATE IT!!
 

aa73

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Senior people will love it.

Mid-seniority people better learn to bid or they'll be miserable.

Lower seniority people will absolutely, positively, f**king HATE IT!!
I think you can revise that to say, EVERYONE will f**king hate it, the way AMR likes to run things. See above posts.
 

AA717driver

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Unfortunately, the PBS system requires a large amount of transparency and oversight by the union to ensure the company isn't abusing it. Ask a TWA guy what they thought of it. They set the bar.

My 2cents.
That's EXACTLY why it won't work with AMR running it.

TC
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JohnQ

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That's EXACTLY why it won't work with AMR running it.

TC
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If you want to see an example of PBS success, look to DAL. Of course DALPA got to choose the vendor, and we get significant input into the monthly PBS process, including a committee that can (and does) reject solutions provided by the company.

With all that oversight PBS has actually worked rather well for us. Absent it, it could have been ugly, as it apparently has been many other places.
 

NuGuy

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If you want to see an example of PBS success, look to DAL. Of course DALPA got to choose the vendor, and we get significant input into the monthly PBS process, including a committee that can (and does) reject solutions provided by the company.

With all that oversight PBS has actually worked rather well for us. Absent it, it could have been ugly, as it apparently has been many other places.
Heyas,

I'm going to throw in with JQ here. NWA was one of the first to implement PBS.

You absolutely MUST give the union the power to accept/reject the myriad parameters of the system with complete oversight of the system. On top of that, you have to have the ability to PULL THE PLUG at anytime, forcing the company back to the old system (keeps them honest).

NWALPA did this, and for many, many years, PBS was absolutely fantastic, with over 95% bid satisfaction (which includes the very junior...most complaints were from the senior).

They lost a bit of control over the process in BQ, and the PBS system RAPIDLY turned into a crapfest, producing essentially random schedules.

I can't stress this enough: YOU MUST control how open time and stacking (time remaining on certain days) are handled. These are the keys to how the entire system works, and what kind of results you will get.

If you can keep those items in check, then PBS can be a real boon to the pilot group.

Nu
 

aa73

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If you want to see an example of PBS success, look to DAL. Of course DALPA got to choose the vendor, and we get significant input into the monthly PBS process, including a committee that can (and does) reject solutions provided by the company.

With all that oversight PBS has actually worked rather well for us. Absent it, it could have been ugly, as it apparently has been many other places.
R u serious? My DAL buddies hate it... they say there is never any open time, very limited trip trading, working up to 90hrs/month, etc. Screw that!

73
Still think a 78 hour month is high!
 

instructordude

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PBS can help the company which in turn might keep your job. Try and keep an open mind guys.
 

Ex737Driver

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PBS can help the company which in turn might keep your job. Try and keep an open mind guys.

Are you grinning like an idiot beacuse you are that stupid or is it beacuse the parking brake is up your arse?

At CAL, most folks don't like PBS. I do like the idea of using it but there are many problems that still need to be fixed. The biggest is the interface. Terrible. FORTRAN programming at it's worst.

The other major problem is vacation. With pre-constructed lines you can bid so that trips touch your vacation. Four-four days in a month that touch two weeks of vacation and you have the entire month off with guarantee pay. With PBS, your vacation will be a pre-conflict and no trips will touch it. The same will generally apply to training, known sick-time, military training, etc.
 

JohnQ

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R u serious? My DAL buddies hate it... they say there is never any open time, very limited trip trading, working up to 90hrs/month, etc. Screw that!

73
Still think a 78 hour month is high!
Well for starters you are spouting a contradiction--"90 hour months" along with no open time. How can you have one and the other. Here is the real story.

You NEVER have 90 hour months with PBS. The most it could ever be (usually in the summer) is 89:30. Of course many times of year it can be as little as 65. My Nov schedule is at 71.

As for no open time...that is the whole point, isn't it? Think about it. If you have a lot of open time left over after the bid run (with line of time or PBS) that is several more regular lines that you could have built, but didn't, thereby relegating a few more guys to reserve than otherwise would have been necessary.

No trip trading? Hmmm. I just traded a trip with another guy last week! (on our Pilot-to-Pilot Swapboard). I also have dropped trips, and picked them up. I also have picked up, dropped, and swapped, trips out of "normal" open time as well as the swapboard.

If your buddies have any complaints about no open time, then that is related more to the time of year (now, with a big drawdown in flying) than the system.

I have yet to meet five guys in the last three years who would want to go back to Line of Time bidding--and we had a good LOT system!

In fact I think if we announced the end of PBS, you would probably get a host of complaints.

Pilots by default are big proponents of "all change is bad, and the good ol' days were always better than now." But remember this: "This week's 'crisis' is next week's footnote."
 

JohnQ

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The other major problem is vacation. With pre-constructed lines you can bid so that trips touch your vacation. Four-four days in a month that touch two weeks of vacation and you have the entire month off with guarantee pay. With PBS, your vacation will be a pre-conflict and no trips will touch it. The same will generally apply to training, known sick-time, military training, etc.
Hey, I want to go to a Mercedes dealer and say "I'll give you $500" and he says "We got a deal."

But I live in the real world. And in the real world, if you have two weeks of vacation, that means you work the other two--not get paid for them even though you DON'T work them.

Our old LOT system was great, with all sorts of nuances that would allow you to combine reserve and regular lines to get a lot of hours for little work. I remember milking the system one month and got 90 hrs for flying 6 days!

Hey, I would love to see those days again...but we live in a capitalist society (sort of; after the recent fiascos and govt bailouts I wonder). If I or you want to get 90 hours pay...then we need to do 90 hours work...or at least 75-80 hrs work with some OT premium pay thrown in. But getting 16 days worth of pay for 6 days worth of work is unsustainable. I enjoyed it while it lasted, but don't obsess over its passing.

Don't get this mixed up with trip guarantees. Trip rigs, duty rigs, Duty Period Average, and all the rest, are vitally important to force the company to schedule efficient and humane trips. Within those constraints, however, I don't think it unreasonable for pilots (not on reserve) to actually be expected to fly the hours they are being paid. (Reserve pilots are different; they are "insurance" for the company and as such, should always be paid a reserve guarantee like they are).
 

HAL

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If you haven't tried it, don't knock it. I've used it at two different airlines, and it works great - if you take the time to read the manual and understand they system!! There is no other way to get the specific days off you want, or the trips you want without a PBS system. Grow up and try something new!

The amount of open time, trip trading and the rest is entirely due to company staffing, not which type of bidding system you have. The two are separate animals.

HAL
 
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