The holiday spirit isn’t decking the halls of Virgin America, it’s more like the Grinch that stole Christmas! The company is forcing their flight attendants and pilots to re-bid their December schedules in a hasty bidding period because “there was a recent change to the FLICA software, that we were not made aware of by the vendor, which changed how your “Unstack Options” were saved in this December bid cycle,” according to email sent by the company.
News of the re-bid, the first in the airlines eight year history, came 12-24 hours after final December schedules were published granting ample time for crewmembers to make holiday arrangements with friends and family, schedule their second jobs and set other appointments only to have their schedule stripped and re-done. ALPA and the TWU signed off on the re-bid to protect seniority.
In a message to flight attendants the TWU said:
If the ITM [flight attendant] did not notice it, the vast majority of their schedule was not awarded as it was bid. This affected the entire work group.
In holiday and high flying months the company “unstacks” their pairings on the most junior crewmembers. As bidding crew, you can have an “unstacking” bid sheet which conveys your preferences for pairings/trips should you fall into the range of seniority in which you would be “unstacked.” After that bid sheet is run, the system should revert back to your original bid sheet to fill the rest of your schedule. However, the company is claiming that didn’t happen. Instead, FLICA selected “All Remaining Pairings” and filled the remainder of the crewmembers schedule with any and all trips that were still left in the open time pot, ignoring the crewmembers preferences.
ALPA issued the following to their pilots:
We were told that another airline recently discovered a fault in the Flica software that was causing the unstacking process to not work as it should. They claimed Flica apparently “fixed” the problem but didn’t tell Virgin. (This may or may not be true).
Their email continued:
After talking it over we agreed that there was really no option but a re-bid if pilot seniority was to be respected as it should be, but that at least a 3 day window would be best. We also wanted a full explanation to the pilot group on what had changed, how it affected the bids, why this failure happened and what would be done to prevent it from occurring again. The email we all received today from Crew Planning fell well short of the mark where transparency and ownership of the problem is concerned…once again our crew planning department and Flica have let us down.
Though FLICA processes and runs the bid in seconds, Virgin takes three days to alter the company’s parameters within the bid and reruns the process multiple times before publishing final schedules. The company’s median credit target is adjusted, how many crewmembers are unstacked, etc., to find a sweet spot of reserves vs trips in open time. This hasn’t changed with this bid, and a final schedule was published.
At this point with December schedules deleted, the lineholder and reserve border being redrawn and crewmembers holiday plans influx crews are left hanging until November 17th to find out what their future holds. Staffing holiday months are always tough on airlines as sick calls rise and weather delays cause irregular operations but what are flight attendants to do if their new schedule now conflicts with plans they’ve already made? Calling in sick is still a touchy subject. The airline still, requires Doctor’s notes for any and all sick calls, trading and swapping trips has always been a challenge because of a low reserve threshold, personal days are based on staffing and vacation has already been bid. I guess they can only hope for a Christmas miracle.
How would your airline handle a bidding situation like this — keep the schedules as they were awarded or delete them and rebid?