United Management Reduces B767ME Staffing

Date: December 10, 2014
Type: AFA Article

On Thursday, December 4, 2014 United announced in their Inflight Services Alert their plans to reduce staffing on the B767ME aircraft in the International Markets. Prior to this announcement, with a full passenger load maximum staffing called for four (4) Flight Attendants in the premium cabin and five (5) Flight Attendants in the economy cabin.  As a result of this reduction, maximum staffing in the premium cabin is three (3) Flight Attendants, one galley, two aisle Flight Attendants one of whom is the purser.

As required by Section 4.L. of our Contract, the United Master Executive Council Officers met with management representatives from Inflight Services to review the standards being used in making this determination. During this meeting we expressed our concerns about this short-sighted staffing change at a time when management is spending millions of dollars in making Customer Service Training a requirement and the ongoing push for Flight Attendants to “Be the Brand” and to “Be Consistent.” 

We discussed the unique challenges associated with the aircraft configuration in the premium cabin and reviewed the already identified safety issues associated with delivering the level of service passengers expect.  In addition, we told management that “locking” the purser into an aisle position on this aircraft was ill advised and would only serve to further reduce the crew’s overall effectiveness in responding and solving passenger service issues on any given flight.

While this staffing reduction does not go into effect until January 2015, we are already hearing from many of you of your disappointment with this decision and your ongoing concerns that management appears to be out of touch with passenger expectations in these premium cabins where an exceptional level of service is expected.  Who, you ask, is making these decisions?

The decision to reduce staffing onboard the aircraft is a management decision. However, when a staffing reduction in combination with the service required, the serving time and number of passengers creates a marginal service condition where the Flight Attendant crew cannot complete their work assignments as per standard practices and within allotted times, the Company is required to act expeditiously to investigate the problems.  Further, “fixing” any staffing deficiency brought about by this change in staffing, including the unauthorized modification to the scheduled services, is not a Flight Attendant responsibility.  Flight Attendants in the purser position are required to ensure your Contractual right to onboard rest is not compromised and planning to do so as a means of completing the scheduled services is not within the scope of pursers’ authority.

While it may be inconvenient to do so, we need for each of you to complete the Marginal Service Report available from the United MEC website.  Provide us with specific information on how the reduction in staffing is adversely impacting passenger safety and/or service on the flight.  It’s not a matter of indicating “We had eight (8) Flight Attendants” because that’s the company new “gold standard”.  What we need for you to provide is how the reduction affected the service and tell us how this impacted the passengers, lengthened the service or created other safety or service concerns.  All perspectives are helpful in assessing the impact of the change.

With your help we will be closely monitoring this change in the staffing levels on this aircraft and if the staffing reduction creates a circumstance where marginal service conditions exist, the language in our Contract provides us with the mechanism to address and effect a change in the outcome not only for ourselves but, more importantly, for the passengers in our care.

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