Ladies and Gentlemen:
In direct response to the events of our December 13, 2018 Day of Action, management announced plans to explore the opening of Satellite Bases in Orlando, San Diego and Phoenix. Since that initial announcement, there has been significant discussion between management and the Officers of the Union as we have worked to ensure potential issues and working conditions for those electing to transfer to these locations are addressed prior to the opening of the Satellite bases. As of this week, United management will establish Satellite bases in Orlando, San Diego and Phoenix effective with the start of the September 2019 Flight Attendant Schedule month.
In the last couple of days, there has been a great deal of commentary in social media about the fact that “AFA” didn’t tell Members about the opening of the Satellite Bases. Some have, inaccurately, characterized the announcement of these satellite base openings when, in point of fact, AFA and United management planned a coordinated release of the definitive September schedule month opening of these bases and made a commitment to do so today.
You can imagine that your leadership was caught off guard when this information was released prematurely outside the timeline agreed upon. That your Union leadership, in spite of that premature release, maintained our commitment speaks volumes about the value we hold on a promise made. For whatever reason, management felt the need to release that information outside of the agreed upon timeline. Yes, we’re disappointed.
The premise for establishing these bases includes the fact these locations have a large number of layovers and Flight Attendants who commute from these locations. Given these conditions, it’s a logical conclusion that there would be a positive response and interest in the establishment of these bases. At the same time, there has been significant concern about what happens if the “experiment” doesn’t yield the anticipated results and it becomes necessary to close these Satellite bases. While, for some, it may appear counterintuitive to talk about closing these satellite bases before they open, in point of fact, this is exactly the time to have these discussions.
Part of having these discussions is looking at, to the greatest extent possible, the many “what ifs” associated with satellite bases, locations where traditional Inflight management is not routinely available to assist Flight Attendants when unexpected issues arise. These discussions, in some instances, have not been easy discussions nor has there been a debate as to whether or not Satellite Bases can or should exist. Satellite bases were negotiated as part of our JCBA. In August 2016, with the inclusion of the Satellite LOA #24 (which was adopted from the pre-merger CAL Agreement), we agreed to Satellite Bases when we ratified our Contract.
It is accurate to say that the concept of Satellite Bases was a concept that was agreed upon in principle. However, any suggestion that this is a new or original concept brought forward by individual Flight Attendants simply doesn’t stand when one looks back over our collective history. pmCAL opened Satellite Bases in LAX, SFO, DEN, ORD and IAD just prior to the arrival of the 787 aircraft into our combined airline fleet. At that time, those bases were not opened because someone thought is was a good idea. Those domiciles were opened to allow management to avoid the significant cost and dilution of revenue from deadheading Flight Attendants from other bases to cover flights originating from those locations. In the same way, when pmUA explored the possibility of opening Satellite bases prior to the merger, it was determined at that time that doing so did not provide Flight Attendants with the benefits believed to be commensurate with the cost savings the company derived and had the potential to impact other domicile locations.
To be clear, the company is opening these Satellite bases because there are cost control and expense reduction factors that make these Satellite Bases beneficial. And, while we agree that there are benefits to Flight Attendants who may wish to be based there, the changes to flying that will result from the establishment of these bases has the potential to impact all of us. It is necessary that our discussions include a consideration of all of the aspects that go into establishing a Satellite location as well as looking out for the interests of everyone.
In the coming weeks, there is much to be accomplished and much information to share in order to provide you with that which you need to plan relative to the establishment of the Satellite Bases and any decision(s) you may elect to make in being transferred to any one of these locations.
We remain committed to getting that information compiled and presented to you. In addition, a timeline needs to be established relative to the bid and award of the vacancies at these new satellite base locations. We strongly encourage you to stay aware as this information is released and shared.
Be assured that your Union leadership has the concerns of the Membership at the forefront of all that we do and the decisions that are made as we work to administer the terms of the Contract that was ratified.