Pilots pressed to fly more

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
US Airways says it needs more efficient work rules; talks with union starting today

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
By Dan Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Perhaps the most critical talks in US Airways history begin today as pilots and
management sit down to discuss how US Airways plans to survive and what it
needs from the pilots to do so. Pilots expect to hear details of the company's
long-awaited restructuring plan and to discuss work rules -- complex
contractual language that defines what a pilot can do and when he or she can do
it. US Airways wants to change some of those rules to make the airline more
productive by getting pilots to fly more.

Whether pilots agree to those changes could determine the airline's fate.

"I think we will cut to the chase," said pilots spokesman Jack Stephan.

Won through decades of bargaining by the powerful Air Line Pilots Association,
the work rules govern how pilots are paid, how many hours they fly, how much
vacation they can take, their sick leave and how their weekly and monthly
schedules are set.

They guarantee pilots certain number of paid hours per month (as few as 72 and
many as 85) whether they fly or not, and a certain number of paid hours per
work day (at least 5). Untangling these rules will be complicated and
politically difficult, since pilots have already granted the carrier $565
million in annual wage-and-benefit cuts, signed off on major pension benefit
changes and called for the resignation of US Airways Chief Executive Officer
David Siegel.

But US Airways says changes are needed to get its pilots in the air more hours
every month. Observers say the airline would like to push the average to about
65 hours a month, from about 52 hours now. As a carrot, management has
indicated it could add 60 new planes to the fleet.

But the pilots have a different view of the situation. If pilots are not flying
enough, they say, it is the company's fault, not theirs.

"We don't control that," said Bill Pollock, chairman of the US Airways pilots
union. "We would like to, but we don't. We are saddled with the scheduling we
get."

This week's talks in Arlington, Va., a possible prelude to formal negotiations,
could be the beginning of yet another classic conflict between two familiar
antagonists.

"Management wants to paint the bleakest picture imaginable of the pilots," said
George Hopkins, a Western Illinois University professor who has studied and
written about the pilots union. The company's goal, he said, will be to make
them "look as greedy as they can." But pilots also "want to get what they can
get."

Next to wages, the "work rules" dispute is one of the oldest in the airline
industry, and it is traditionally an argument over "who should prosper from
increased technological productivity," Hopkins said.

The first test came in 1946, when Trans World Airlines moved from flying DC-3
planes to the larger DC-4 with four engines. The new planes had double the
capacity and traveled twice as fast, and thus pilots wanted to be paid double
to get their share of the increased productivity. Management refused and the
pilots union staged its first national strike.

The pilots, in the end, got their increase, although not as much as they
originally sought. But, "the pattern was set," Hopkins said. "Over time, each
contract always improved upon the contract of its competitor," thereby "jacking
up the house, one corner at a time."

Following are some rules that are likely to come up in the days and weeks
ahead:

The amount of time pilots spend in the cockpit.

US Airways pilots average between 52 and 55 "hard" or "block" hours in the
cockpit each month, well below the numbers at low-fare competitors Southwest
Airlines and JetBlue, where pilots fly as many as 67 and 73 hours per month,
respectively.

There is a device in the cockpit that records the start and finish of the
so-called "block" hours, which begin when chock blocks are pulled from the
plane's wheels and end when the plane pulls into the gate and the blocks are
replaced on the wheels.

Raising the hours would allow the company to narrow the gap between what pilots
are paid and what they actually fly.

How many hours pilots are paid each month.

The key to increasing the pilots' time in the cockpit is fiddling with the
total number of hours for which a pilot is paid each month and how each hour is
accounted for. While pilots may fly only 52 to 55 hours a month , they can be
paid for up to 85 hours of "work."

Pilots can get to that total through hours spent in the cockpit, training
sessions, vacation time and "deadheading" -- a term describing the transfer of
a pilot from one place to another, by plane, to position him or her for a
flight from another airport. Pilots counter that by saying that training is
mandated by the federal government and that during the training sessions,
pilots are paid for only a half-day's work. The same is true with vacations,
when pilots receive pay for three hours and 45 minutes per day.

Observers expect US Airways to ask the pilots to raise their monthly maximum
from 85 to 95 hours of work a month. The company, in return, could offer to add
60 new Airbus A320 planes to the mainline fleet -- and thus more jobs for
pilots.

"Being able to have 10 or 12 free days each month at the end of the month has
always been an important element of [pilots'] career choice," said local
analyst Bill Lauer. "What you see happening is because of [low-cost carriers],
that lifestyle is under siege. If the company is successful in pushing them to
work 95 hours, it will have impact on the total amount of monthly free time
these guys have."

How pilots are paid.

Pilots' hourly pay is set according to experience, rank and the type of plane
they fly. Many make more than $100,000 a year and some make close to $200,000.
But airline observers do not expect Siegel to go after wages. Instead, they
expect him to ask for changes in the way workers track their time while on
"duty."

Pilots are often scheduled on blocks of three- and four-day trips that may
involve a lot of flying on one day and little on the next as the pilot rests
for the return trip. For each day, pilots are paid according to a complex
formula that takes into account three work rules: minimum duty credits, duty
rigs and trip rigs.

The trip and the duty period start at the same time -- one hour before the
first flight on the first day of the trip. The duty period ends 15 minutes
after the last flight for that day, and the trip "rig" ends 15 minutes after
the last flight on the last day of the trip.

A pilot is guaranteed a "minimum duty credit" of five hours of pay per day, but
he or she can earn more if forced to wait for long periods of time between
flights. Thus, time spent in hotels or airports in between flights often counts
as time on the clock.

This system of duty pay dates back to the beginning of air travel, when pilots
delivered mail, not passengers, and as a result would sit for long periods
between deliveries. The pilots asked for duty rigs as a way for the company to
pay for the pilot's time even if the pilot was not actually flying and to force
the carriers to use their pilots more efficiently.

It "is an ancient complaint of pilots -- put us to work," Hopkins said. "If you
can't keep us flying as much as you want us to fly, that is your problem, not
ours. You can't treat airline flying like you can a factory job."

The pilots' reserve system.

If a pilot calls in sick, it is up to the company to find a replacement crew.
For that, it turns to the "reserve" pilots who wait to be called into action.
Reserves are guaranteed 72 hours of pay per month, even if they fly only 20.

Last year, though, the pilots agreed to changes in the way reserves are called
up, ensuring that replacements are picked according to the number of hours a
pilot has flown that month as opposed to seniority. That agreement narrows the
gap between how much a pilot actually flies and what he or she is paid, but it
has taken almost a year for it to become effective. It starts Feb. 1.

The change will save the company lots of money. Still, the pilots chairman
argued that being a reserve pilot is demanding work. "These are guys who are
called out when an airplane breaks or somebody gets injured or calls in sick or
an airliner is hit by lightning," Pollock said. "It is certainly not money for
nothing."
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
Isn't there a saying ...

You can't squeeze blood from a turnip?

I guess U.S. Air's management has never heard that one ...
 

mpenguin1

Well-Known Member
Sure you can, adjust the work rules, the pilots say that they only fly the schedules that they are given, well the schedules are created by the contract.

Which comes first the Chicken or the egg?
 

chperplt

New Member
If they are building lines with 55 hours of block time and 85 credit hours, they need to go back and learn how to schedule more efficiently. Don't ask me to fly a 1+45 block day with a 5 hour sit in the middle of two segments and not get paid for that sit.

In the 33 months I worked at Colgan, I can only remember one 3 month span were I had a schedule that maximized my in air time with total credit hours. I had a 3 on 5 off schedule, with a 10 hour duty day blocked at 7 hours 52 minutes each day. I flew 90+ hours each month and got paid for not much more than what I flew. I got a great schedule and the company got great productivity out of the crew.

I loved it that summer.. PWM-BOS-RKD-BOS-ALB-ISP-ALB-BOS-PWM each day...
 

davetheflyer

New Member
I talked to a UAL 767 FO last summer who said that they were flying four trips worth 28 hours. That's more than we do as a regional carrier. That was on top off taking massive pay cuts.
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
What's killing me are 4 day trips worth 20 hours, full of 'credit'.

I'd rather fly my tail off in four days rather than fly a block of 2 hours, and get paid 2 hours of credit because of variable minimum.

Enabling a company to reduce variable minimum is just going to mean more inefficient scheduling like sitting around the pilot lounge for 4.5 hours.

Plus, if we're not paid for deadheading, I can virtually guarantee you that trips would start in ATL, you'd deadhead for free out to LAX, then fly LAX to SLC for 1.3 hours of pay, and then deadhead for free back to ATL the next day.

So basically, you might have a two day trip worth only 1.3 hours of pay.
 

Soonermurph

New Member
Here is the rest of the article:

AP: A team of marriage counselors are being driving to the scene in an attempt to assuage the anguish of pilot spouses. "With this contract we will never see our husbands," said the wife of one pilot.
 

av8sean

New Member
What's so bad about doing a trip worth 1.3 hours of pay, you still get the 75 hour min at the end of the month, and you're getting paid to take a 4 hour snooze/flight...
 

IrishSheepdog

Sitting in the median
chprplt said it. They need to build lines more efficiently.

How do other peoples lines look? For February, mine is:
DY OFF 12 - DT 137.37 - BL 74.00 - CR 78.15 - TA 328.00

For January:
DY OFF 10 - DT 151.14 - BL 49.36 - CR 65.55 - TA 206.37

DY OFF = Days off
DT = Duty time
BL = Block time
CR = Credit time
TA = Time away

For February I get paid for 78.15 hours, for January I get paid for 75. I actually will have flown about 50 hours in January. (Would have been less, but I did a 5-day trip worth 24 hours of flying at the beginning of the month. The rest of the month was standup overnights.)
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
[ QUOTE ]
What's so bad about doing a trip worth 1.3 hours of pay, you still get the 75 hour min at the end of the month, and you're getting paid to take a 4 hour snooze/flight...

[/ QUOTE ]

Actually no.

We do not have a monthly guarantee.

So if I have a two day 1.5 hour trip, I can fly 27 days in one month an only get 41 hours of pay and three days off.

The example is a little extreme, however.

Personally, I want to fly the most in the shortest amount of time to maximize the nights that I spend at home in my own bed.

I'd like a 25 hour four day trip so I can work three trips and have more days off. I think the general public doesn't realize that living in hotels, in uniform and out of a suitcase is way harder than I thought it would ever be.
 

av8sean

New Member
DL has no monthly min? Why is that? The 75 hour min seems to be standard, even on regional contracts..
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
[ QUOTE ]
DL has no monthly min? Why is that? The 75 hour min seems to be standard, even on regional contracts..


[/ QUOTE ]

Nope, no monthly min. Like this month I'm only getting paid about 60 hours beacause of commuting/trying to get certain days off/event changes/etc.

And then there wasn't much left in open time so oy vey!
 

mpenguin1

Well-Known Member
Remember this is US Air that we are talking about, so I can only guess what goes on at US Air.

When dealing with pay & credit you certainly have to look at what the rest rules are or how many landings/takeoffs per day the pilot is allowed? This impacts the schedule as well.

At US Air, the schedule is probably done by a computer, which maxmizes the schedules the pilots can fly, in accordance with the work rules.

Do away with the pay & credit and go with hard time, the pilot becomes more efficient, big difference between 55 hours hard time & 85 hours pay/credit. Come up with a min. days off, to protect the pilot.

What are the legal rest rules? Not saying to go with the standard FAR's, but get close, find a happy medium.

What hotels are the crews staying at? Is it a "5" Star hotel? Are there other options that can save the company money? Courtyard is an option.

Use US Air contract instructors for crew training rather than line pilots, this will certainly save the company some money. A retired US pilot would be cheaper than an active US Air pilot.
 

chperplt

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Is it a "5" Star hotel?

[/ QUOTE ]

You said it..remember.. This is US Air we're talking about. No 5 star hotels for them. The courtyard would be an improvement over many of the places they stay.
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
Not to pick at ya, but I can answer some of these on my behalf!


[ QUOTE ]

When dealing with pay & credit you certainly have to look at what the rest rules are or how many landings/takeoffs per day the pilot is allowed? This impacts the schedule as well.

[/ QUOTE ]

We're allowed as many takeoffs/landings as we can schedule under the FAA max duty limits.

[ QUOTE ]
Do away with the pay & credit and go with hard time, the pilot becomes more efficient, big difference between 55 hours hard time & 85 hours pay/credit. Come up with a min. days off, to protect the pilot.

[/ QUOTE ]

Credit time actually protects because if we were straight hard time, it would create an incentive to save time/money creating schedules because there is no longer a 'penalty' of sorts for inefficient scheduling. Like I have a minimum 5 hour (I think) of pay per day.

Now if the company could schedule hard time only, I'm sure I'd see a lot more 2 hour days or no pay at all if it's a long layover on days the outbound flight doesn't operate.

[ QUOTE ]
What are the legal rest rules? Not saying to go with the standard FAR's, but get close, find a happy medium.

[/ QUOTE ]

We're probably within an hour of the FAR's. Of course which JBLU is trying to stretch for their own benefit.

[ QUOTE ]
What hotels are the crews staying at? Is it a "5" Star hotel? Are there other options that can save the company money? Courtyard is an option.

[/ QUOTE ]

Courtyard would be an upgrade compared to a lot of hotels that I stay in! Good thinking!


Seriously, the costs between el cheapo holiday inn versus a much nicer hotel are negligible because they prenegotiate rates a year at a time.

Like it might cost 45 at the negotiated rate for a holiday inn in BOS for a short layover, but the long layover at the Park Plaza with better facilities and transportation may be 65 for a longer layover. A cheap hotel can cost an airline a lot of money with transportation problems, late pickups, substandard rooms, etc.

Plus fatigue. Stay in a roach motel near a crack house and you're goign to have a lot of crews fatigued, making mistakes and getting sick from not getting proper rest.
 

mpenguin1

Well-Known Member
Doug

Were you talking about US Air or Delta?

I agreed with you on the inefficient scheduling nightmares, I said that right away. A min guarantee/min. days off will protect the pilot and force the planners to create efficent schedules using hard times.

If you really want to see some really efficient scheduling, come up with a min. day guarantee. You get X number of hours per day, up to the company to find you something to fly.

Curious to see how they had 55 hours of hard time VS 85 hours of pay/credit, that is loads of penalty time.

Most of US Air flights are out & backs, with daily flights to the same cities, should not be any reason to have crews laying over toooo long.

My buddy used to fly for US Air, I will ask him to share some information with us.
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
Nah that was Delta!


A lot of our short-haul flying went the way of the CL-65 so in DFW there were lots of days we'd fly from LAS to SLC, sit for 4 1/2 hours twiddling our thumbs off the clock and then onto SAC.

So more or less we'd sit thru a 12 hour duty day and only end up with 2 1/2 hours of flight time, but we'd get paid 2 1/2 hours of credit to make up the 5 hour daily minimum.

I'm sure most pilots would agree that if we're going to be away from home, we'd rather work for 7, get paid for 7 and maximize days off rather than sitting around the lounge.
 
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