What is Pairing Optimization
Now that we have a little over a year in PBS we thought a note to you on how the AFA Scheduling Committee's focus has changed from bid line development to pairing development (trip building) within the pairing optimization process.
Simply put, your AFA local base scheduling committees and the AFA MEC Crew Planning Liaison chair person (Callie von Borstel) no longer need to spend time on developing lines for Flight Attendants to bid but can now spend much more in depth time on how the actual trips get built from the flying schedule that Alaska Airlines sends to Horizon each and every month.
It starts with the Alaska scheduled flying being entered into a pairing optimizer. This is a computer model that is highly adaptive to meet the goals of the end user (think management). Management has set goals to maximize pairing efficiencies within the restrictions of the crews collective bargaining agreement(s) and to reduce soft time (crew sits, overnights or overnight lengths, etc) and AFA is now involved to ensure that cabin crew needs are being addressed while blending management's needs of efficiencies. (see your collective bargaining agreement Article 6 B., 3., b)
While you would think that management and AFA have competing needs (and they do to an extent) there are many different ways to influence the optimizer as it runs different (trip) solutions based on user input. The final (trip) solution that is selected from the optimizer (the trips you bid on in PBS) is not always managements solution but can be and has been either a pilot generated solution or can be an AFA solution.
This article is not meant to give you a full understanding of pairing optimization but to inform you that we now have a seat at the trip generation table that we never had before (Inflight management has been very supportive of our involvement in pairing optimization). It is our opportunity, through your AFA base scheduling committee members and with our AFA Crew Planning Liaison chair person to add influence on how pairings (trips) are built.
AFA is still in learning mode with the pairing optimizer and it will take at least another calendar quarter until we have a greater depth of knowledge on how best to generate pairing solution(s), but it is a start. As soon as Callie Von Borstel, AFA MEC Crew Planning Liaison is fully trained and confident in the process we will be re-initiating scheduling notes for you to read. The notes will focus not on how bid lines were generated as in the past but how the parings (trips) in a specific bid and by base were generated and why.
We are excited by this initiative and if you are interested in becoming involved in your local base AFA scheduling committee please drop a email to your local officers for more information and consideration. You can find a list of local executive council (LEC) officer contacts on www.qxafa.org. LEC 16 provides support to SEA/BOI/GEG and LEC17 provides support to PDX/MFR.
Recently we informed you of a SideLetter to your AFA contact that allows a Flight Attendant to exceed the contractual 14-hour duty hard stop on a rescheduled trip when requested by Crew Scheduling on the last leg of a trip to when returning to domicile and the Flight Attendant gives their permission.
We want to clarify that this Sideletter also applies to exceeding the maximum scheduled duty period when on the last leg of a trip to domicile. Your maximum scheduled duty period can be found within Article 5 A (see the table; depending on what time you start duty and how many flight legs are schedule for the day then determines the maximum scheduled duty for the day) of the contract and on your trip key. Remember, your trip key indicates not only the maximum scheduled duty for each day of your trip it also indicates what your scheduled duty is for the day. Each day of a trip is always scheduled to have less duty then the maximum duty allowed but there might be times due to strong headwinds, ATC or a mechanical where you might exceed the maximum scheduled duty as noted on the trip key and as checked by you against your AFA contract Article 5 A (the AFA contract is on your IMD under AFA links).
Should you believe that due to late flights or a mechanical issue that you may exceed your maximum scheduled duty period for the day, and the flight has not launched, then you are not legal to proceed. If you exceed your maximum duty period, a contractual violation would exist. Crew scheduling should be calling you to inform you that you are either close to exceeding or you would exceed your maximum scheduled duty period if you launch. If you don’t hear from crew scheduling, you should be calling them to inform them of the issue. Either way you are not allowed to exceed the maximum scheduled duty without a contract violation existing. The one exception is if it is your last leg of your trip to domicile and then the Sideletter would be in effect, you would have to agree, and the associated pay would be triggered.
If you have any questions, please contact your LEC officer for further clarification.
Here is the side letter, in part, that contains the change in language in the contract that allows the possibility of exceeding the maximum scheduled duty period on a trip or on a rescheduled trip:
Article 5.C of the collective-bargaining agreement is amended to read
C. Actual Duty Limitations
The federal regulation governing duty times and rest periods for Flight Attendants will apply to Flight Attendants, provided that a Flight Attendant’s actual duty period will not exceed fourteen (14) hours except that a Duty Period may be rescheduled up to sixteen (16) hours for a Duty Period only to accommodate a deadhead to a place of rest. At her/his option, a Flight Attendant may exceed fourteen (14) hours by agreeing to work (not deadhead) a flight(s) on the last day of their schedule or rescheduled trip. However, such flying may not exceed sixteen (16) hours and, the Flight Attendant will be paid two (2) times her/his hourly rate as measured from break release (E175/jet) & door closure (Q 400/turboprop) for any working leg(s) that includes any time over fourteen (14) hours to block in. This will be paid above guarantee and in addition to the credit value of the trip as calculated per the applicable driver
As management continually views and evaluates increased productivity, they have decided to take a closer look at “soft time” (time in which an FA is not actively working a flight; including DHs and airport sits). On February 5, 2018, AFA was involved in an SRM (Safety Risk Matrix) evaluating the option of cross-type pairings. Cross-type pairings are pairings which include flying on both the Q400 and the E175. These pairings would be included in PBS for bidding. Currently, these pairings only happen during irregular operations and most often impact our reserves. At this time AIMS and PBS require customization and are not able to build cross-type pairings. It will most likely take approximately two months for AFA and the Company to see examples of what these trips may look like.
During the SRM meeting, AFA presented several risks associated with making this change (FA injury, FAs wanting to avoid AC type, and more crew swaps being amongst the biggest). At this point however, we are only in the preliminary stages and no final decision has been made. Your union is very much involved in these discussions, and I, as your new MEC Crew Planning Liaison, will personally be making sure the FAs voice is heard. As this process continues I will provide you with further updates as needed.
Callie von Borstel, MEC Crew Planning Liaison