Archive for crew scheduling

Job Shadowing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 3 March, 2010 by Thomas

About a month ago I made a post about having the opportunity to shadow a crew scheduler.  It’s all part of my airline’s plan to mend the relationship between crew members and schedulers.  Our VP says that of all the airlines where he’s worked the situation is the worst he’s ever seen here.  It’s this whole “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” thing.  I think it’s also a good thing; there is definitely a lot of animosity between the two groups.

Picture Courtesy http://sarahmaidofalbion.blogspot.com/2009_10_01_archive.htmlYesterday I finally got to shadow a crew scheduler.  Thankfully, I had met this scheduler a few weeks prior and she was one of the nice ones there.  Had she not been friendly it most certainly would have been a long 11-hour shift.  I can’t imagine sitting beside someone lame for 11 hours watching click the mouse so fast and barely explaining to me what was being done and then listening to a 30-second phone call about a canceled flight.

Yesterday was a relatively busy day for our crew schedulers.  There was some snow and ice in the Charlotte area, which is where my airline does the bulk of its flying, so of course there was a cluster %#$& at the airport.  People were stranded and misconnected, and luckily I didn’t really have to deal with a bit of it.  However, those schedulers really had to earn their money trying to get people and planes into place to recover as much of the schedule as possible.

I used to joke around that the only thing schedulers did all day was sit around playing solitaire on their computers planning their next smoke break, but that’s not the case at all . . . at least it wasn’t yesterday.  I’d say for the first five hours of the shift there was maybe a total of 20 minutes of downtime.  When the scheduler I was paired with wasn’t making or taking a call from a crew member, she was busy trying to make sure flying was covered.  People were having trouble commuting into base for work because of the bad weather so their flying had to be covered, entire crews were stranded in another city so she had to find another crew to work flights, people called in sick, reserve assignments had to be made, and tons of different reports had to be run and all kinds of things reconciled.

After sitting there and watching these people work for almost half a day I can’t really say that I know what they do.  I can say, however, that they do a lot, and it doesn’t seem to be very easy.  I can’t speak to the level of stress they may or may not feel because nothing that happened was my responsibility, but I can say that were it my job to make sure everyone was in place to keep an airline running smoothly and weather issues arose I’d be stressed to the max.

The training takes about a month to complete, and then it’s about a year before a scheduler really gets comfortable doing the job during irregular operations.  After sitting in on a shift I can say that I learned a lot.  Those people have a tough job to do, and sometimes we as crew members don’t like the message they bring to us, but we need to remember that it’s not always their decision.  It’s a business that’s being run, not a friendly game of “Fly Around the Country.”  That’s not to say that there aren’t some jerks working in there that need to go to nice school and take really good notes, but I just don’t think they’re out to get us.  At least I hope not.

Job Shadowing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 5 February, 2010 by Thomas

I can’t really speak for other airlines, but at my airline crew members do not get along with crew schedulers.  For various reasons we feel like they’re out to get us . . . at least the reserves anyway.  As a reserve flight attendant I’m at the mercy of our schedulers.  As long as they schedule me legally and according to Federal Aviation Regulations then I have to do what they tell me.  That means if they schedule me for six legs and 14 hours of duty with a 9 hour overnight only to work another 6 six legs and be on duty 14 more hours the next day I have to do it; that’s legal.

Also, because I work for a small airline there is more interaction on a human level; our scheduling is system is not done by a computer but by actual people.  A computer wouldn’t allow illegal schedules to be built, but because a human is doing the building “mistakes” can be made.  I use quotation marks because sometimes it’s not a mistake.  Just recently my roommate was assigned hot reserve at 5:00am.  For hot reserve, duty starts at 5:00am so the latest we can be scheduled to work is 7:00pm.  They tried to schedule her until 9:00pm, and when she called them out on it they acted like they didn’t know.  When they finally changed her schedule to be legal and got her back into base, they tried to cut her rest short.  Our contract says that rest in base will be at least 10 hours.  When she arrived in base and checked out of her trip at 8:00pm, they had assigned 5:00am regular reserve.  She called them on this illegality and the scheduler quickly backpedaled (but not without copping an attitude).

The way the schedulers arrive at their decisions when assigning flying is something that boggles my mind, too.  Yesterday was my third day of reserve in a block of six.  There was a four-day trip that started yesterday, but instead of giving it to me (I was legal for the trip) they instead gave it to someone junior to me who couldn’t finish the entire four days; she could only complete the first two days and then had to deadhead back on the third day.  Guess who has been given the rest of her trip?  Yours truly.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Crew Scheduling?  Are you all braindead?

So in an effort to help crew members and crew schedulers understand each other’s job, our management has decided to let crew members shadow schedulers and vice-versa.  From what I hear the schedulers will be following Check Flight Attendants – of which I am one – on trips (with overnights), and these aren’t the nice, cushy, easy trips but the ones with 14 hour duty days with short overnights.  They won’t be allowed to sleep or sit on the flights but must actually help with boarding, beverage service, trash collection, and whatever else may arise.  I hope I get one, but being on reserve I might (and probably) won’t.

I’ve also requested to shadow a scheduler.  I realize that many of them are doing a job and sometimes we don’t like what we have to do.  I also realize that some of them are jerks because they can be.  Maybe by doing this I’ll be able to better understand why junior FAs are given flying that I feel I should get and why I ALWAYS get hot reserve.  We’ll see how it goes.  I just hope those schedulers are given hell when they have to fly and that they are as tired as we are at the end of the day.  Perhaps by putting a face to a name and voice we can better understand each other and not have such animosity towards each other.

Hot Reserve

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 13 January, 2010 by Thomas

As you may or may not have noticed I am posting less and less these days.  When I started this wee little blog I was a fancy lineholder meaning I was working regularly and had more chances for more stories and inspiration.  Well now I’m back on reserve, and I expect it to stay that way for the foreseeable future (unfortunately, I don’t qualify for any government assistance programs).  This particular post is more a means to vent some frustration than anything else.

Like I said in the above paragraph, I’m back on reserve.  Reserve is not a fun way to live.  The main reason I don’t like reserve is I don’t make a whole helluva lot of money.  My airline guarantees me 72 hours of pay whether I fly that much or not; most months I do not break guarantee.  While it’s great to know I will get something every month, it’s not nearly enough (what can I say, I have expensive tastes).

Another reason I so disdain reserve is that I must maintain daily contact with Crew Scheduling.  Some of the schedulers are nice people who are simply doing their job, and that job can sometimes piss off the crew members.  However, some of the schedulers are also mean, spiteful people who condescend to crew members and talk to them like children and jerk us around with our schedules just because they can.

I also hate reserve because I never get late reserve times like 8:00am or 10:00am.  If I’m assigned those times then I don’t have to worry about Hot Reserve.  It has come to my realization that scheduling hates my guts.  Why, I do not know.  Every single time I start a new block of reserve days after a day off I am given 5:00am Hot Reserve, which means the rest of my reserve days will start at 5:00am (a double edged sword to be sure).  For Hot Reserve I must wake up well before the sun is up so I can get dressed in my snazzy uniform and be at the airport where I spend the  next ten hours of my day dying on the inside ready to cover any last minute call offs.  For the rest of my days spent on call I am given 5:00am home reserve, which theoretically allows me to sleep.  Most of the time I can sleep through a large portion of my reserve period (it lasts until 7:00pm) – that is unless scheduling calls me at 5:00 to come in as a replacement flight attendant on hot reserve.  This doesn’t happen often, but it did happen recently.

After having Hot Reserve the previous day I am rudely awakened by the most skin-crawlingly awful ring tone and asked to come in again because the original hot reserve flight attendant was used.  Thankfully, the voice on the other end of the phone belongs to someone I like and I just roll with it.  That was the third time on Hot Reserve this month; tomorrow is the fourth.  I imagine I’ll get up to six days before the month is over.  This is getting old.  FML.

Winter Weather and Another Reason I Love My Job

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20 December, 2009 by Thomas

Click to enlarge.

I was supposed to start a three day trip today, and I guess, despite mother nature’s best efforts, I technically did.  Originally, my schedule had me working four legs today and ending in Newport News, VA, but last night Crew Scheduling called and told me the first two legs were canceled and that I and the crew would be ferrying (flying the plane without passengers) to RIC to work the last two legs and end in PHF.  Around 5:00am scheduling called again to tell me my show time would be 9:15am instead of 6:45am – I’m all about sleeping in – and ferrying a plane to LGA only to work the flight back to DAY.  All this because of the snow that hit the east coast over the last couple days.  As a lineholder, I get paid for my original schedule or the two flights I was actually on today, whichever is greater (obviously, the four flights I didn’t work were worth more time than the two I did), so I kinda get paid to not work.

I really enjoy ferry flights.  There’s no one on board the plane, and I get to ride up in the flight deck.  It’s amazing the stuff that goes on up there during a flight.  What with all the buttons, dials, and switches, it’s a wonder people can fly anywhere; how do pilots learn it all?   Also, with all the chatter that’s going on with ATC, it’s amazing anything can be understood.  I’m not that great at understanding everything ATC tells those guys to do, but usually I can pick up on our call sign and flight number, frequency changes, and altitude changes.  Other than that, I’m totally lost.  It’s still cool, though.  Every time I ride up there (so far, only three times) I’m like a kid in a candy store – my eyes are open wide, and I have a goofy grin on my face.  It’s the coolest thing.

Today’s weather flying into NYC was just perfect.  You could see the Statue of Liberty clearly, and the new Mets stadium.  The captain pointed out Rikers Island (I watch Law & Order: SVU), but I couldn’t find it.  The Expressway Visual Approach was super cool to watch, and I got some good pictures and video of things.  To see my pictures, head over to Fotki; to see some videos, just go here.  The captain even let me enter a new altitude with the fancy little dial and twice let me adjust the vertical speed (the rate at which we descend) with the press of a button and the turn of another dial.  It was like I was an eight year old kid.  I’m no pilot, but I’d sure like to be.

Even though I had a good day and got to do something that I think is cool, I still feel pretty sorry for all the passengers that got jerked around.  Of course, it wasn’t the airline’s fault, but that’s who they’re going to hold responsible.  This was the second day in a row that weather caused lots of cancellations.  I take pride in my work and who I work for, and this bad weather makes us look bad, again, even though it’s not our fault.  But at the same time, if I’m told to fly on an empty airplane, you better believe you’ll find me up front with the bus drivers.  I just hope everyone got to where they were going and that they were compensated for their troubles.