Early this week AFA received many complaints regarding FILCA trades for May flying. AFA has administrative view access to the system, and we have been reviewing what occurred on April 17. In summary, we did not see any clear violation of LOA 6. But, we did see some areas of concern, which we will address with Crew Scheduling.
Please continue to read for details on how our trades work and details on what happened with May trades.
Automated and Manual Trades
A brief primer on our trading system under LOA 6 is key to understanding how trades work and whether the system is working properly. We agreed to an automated trade system to improve transparency, speed, and trade options for Flight Attendants. FLICA has been a huge success for our work group. We can now drop well below 50 hours, and the flexibility and speed of trades has really improved our quality of life.
However, there were limitations to FLICA. Our Contract required partial trip trades and reserve trades, but FLICA could not handle those trades. The solution was to make partials and reserves “manual” trades – they would be submitted in FLICA, but an actual person would have to approve/deny the trades. Because these manual trades would be processed separately from the automated trades, we understood that it was not possible for all trades to be processed in true time-stamp order. Our LOA 6 specifically states this fact. Trades only need to be processed in order in their respective category. No group of trades has priority over the other.
In addition, FLICA’s “real-time” automated system is not the same as instantaneous trades. Each automated trade takes an average of 20 seconds to process, and each trade must be processed in order. When May trading opened there were 149 automatic trip trades submitted in just the first 60 seconds. At 20 seconds for each trade in four separate bases it would take FLICA 20-25 minutes to process the first 60 seconds of trades in each base. Meanwhile, THOUSANDS of trades continued to be submitted. In the first 15 minutes alone there were 2,225 trade requests!
Another limitation of FLICA is that sometimes it is stopped because Flight Attendants submit illegal trades or place trades in the wrong folders. The system cannot process these trades. This blocks all trades behind it and requires the intervention of a crew scheduler to review and clear the incorrect trade. When this happens the system is not “down,” it is just stopped.
The takeway is that just because it takes many minutes or hours for automated trades to be processed does not mean FLICA is down or that reserve drops or partials are being processed ahead of automated trades. A Flight Attendant who put in the 149th trade in the opening minute of trading could have assumed FLICA was not working for 25 minutes and that reserve drops were being approved because the reserve grid kept changing. Instead, the system was doing its work. It’s not surprising that that reserve grid would change after 148 automated trades.
What Happened on April 17
In reviewing the FLICA data for the first hours of April 17 trading it does not appear there was any systemic error. There were times when FLICA was stopped because of illegal and incorrect trades. This is normal. The system was not down. In the first hour of trading alone 2,783 trades were submitted.
Also, Some things for May that we need to be aware of:
- For the month of May we picked up a significant amount of hours and have less staffing and less reserves in each base. Lower than we have seen for the past 6 months.
- We also have increased ATL flying out of our current bases.
This means that for May we ended up with some of the tightest numbers we have had since October. Fewer Flight Attendants are able to drop trips. The supply of dropping days was much less than the demand.
While we did not find any violation of LOA 6, we did see two areas of concern. The first is that the automated trades appeared to be stopped in JFK for a longer period of time than we consider normal or acceptable. By itself this is not a violation of LOA 6. But it is a concern we are raising with Crew Scheduling.
The second, and bigger, concern is to what extent manual trades (partials and reserves) were being processed while automated trades were stopped. We know that manual trades at DTW and MSP were not processed during the automatic trade stoppages. However, minimal trades in JFK and LGA were processed during the stoppage – whether these were partials or reserves we are investigating. This would not necessarily be a violation of LOA 6. However, when we have automated trades blocked for a significant period of time while a large volume of manual trades are worked it begins to undercut the purpose of automated trades.
While our current trading is imperfect, trades are far improved from the old manual process. Flight Attendants will remember waiting up to 48 hours (and sometimes longer) to get a trade approved or denied. But, there is always room for improvement, and we will continue to raise the above issues with the Company.