Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We know what happens to passengers during bad weather, what about flight crews?

We all know what happens to regular passengers when bad weather happens at busy airports and flights can't come or go....they get stranded. But what about the crew members....what happens to them? Do they get paid if their trip doesn't fly as scheduled? Do they get hotel rooms?

Each airline and their respective unions have their own rules regarding what happens when a flight cancels due to bad weather such as snow cancellations, hurricanes, or severe weather. Just this past week, we had Hurricane Irene make it's way through the east coast of the United States, wreaking havoc in majority of states from North Carolina all the way to Canada.

With these severe situations, we have to think about what goes on with not only the people on the ground, but the people in the air. I often laugh at people who complain about snow delays. Mostly because I ask them how did they get to the airport, did they go fast or slow....majority of the times, they say that they left earlier than they would have and drove slow, watching people slide into the median or elsewhere, so I ask them how do they expect aviation to go faster when it's snowing...same thing applies, the airport has to clear the snow, the airlines have to de-ice the planes and because of the antiquated Air Traffic Control, planes have to be separated a bit more so they don't run on top of each other in case there is a mishap.

So what about when a Hurricane happens? This past week we had Irene come through. Sure, it's upsetting when your travel plans are disrupted due to delays and/or cancellations. You can't fly to your destination to board your cruise ship, or even get the chance to get there due to everything closing.

This year, we saw something that hasn't happened ever. New York city closed down in preparation of Hurricane Irene. Sure, we were coming up to the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, but we never saw the 'City that never Sleeps', sleep. Mayor Bloomberg chose to shut-down all ground transportation by noon on Saturday. This was the Metro Transit Authority, the PATH trains, and all air traffic into the 3 major NYC airports...LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark.

Thousands of flights were canceled and Amtrak adjusted its service to avoid the area. Airports all along the East Coast closed as the hurricane passed into each area, with thousands of national and international flights affected.

Most carriers canceled flights in advance of Irene so equipment would not be stranded, and planned post-hurricane schedules to recover as quickly as possible. Carriers like United, which uses Chicago as a hub, announced a travel waiver to let customers make changes to ticketed itineraries without incurring fees.

Airlines declined to say how many passengers were affected by the hurricane, but the numbers likely reached into the millions because so many flights, both domestic and international, make connections through major East Coast hub airports. Even passengers not flying anywhere near the East coast could be delayed for days as airlines work to get planes and crews back into position.

So what about the crew-members? As I said earlier, many have rules regarding Irregular Operations. Some crews get paid, while others do not. Some have to put themselves on a 'Make-Up' status in order to make up the lost time, while others just pay their crews even though they don't have to make-up the flying.

Here is a time-line of one Union who did an awesome job of keeping it's members informed of the path of Irene, and possible delays, cancellations, and what their members need to do in order to be paid.

Well folks, for those of us living in the NorthEast, it looks like we might have our first Hurricane since the early 1900's.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday:

Strength: Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of 120 mph.

Path: Irene is moving northwest at 12 mph.

N.J. Impact: The center of the hurricane is expected to move slightly east of New Jersey around 2 p.m. Sunday.

WX Call 1447hrs EST

This call was strictly about the operations in PHL/JFK/BDL/LGA/EWR

***NYC will be shutting down all public transportation effective 1200 ET/27AUG.***
***A mandatory evacuations has been ordered for low levels of Manhattan.***

BDL/PHL-Will have no terminating aircraft tomorrow night, no operations on Sunday, planning on resuming with arrival flights on Monday.

EWR/LGA/JFK-Will cancel all flights arriving/departing after 1200ET 27AUG, as well as all flights on Sunday, and planning to start operating with arrivals flights on Monday. JFK’s last flight will cancel after 1000ET/27AUG.

There are concerns with crews, airport employees and TSA arriving to work via public transportation as well as our commuters.
Crew schedule is monitoring this very closely.

1416hrs EST
“The city's transit system will be coming to a halt Saturday as the city prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Irene.
Governor Andrew Cuomo says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will institute a system-wide shut down when trains and buses begin their final runs around 12 p.m. Saturday.
It includes all subway lines, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Access-A-Ride services” 


WX Call 1954hrs

Information is subject to change depending on Hurricane Irene's path
LGA – last departure will be at 09:50 on the 27th.  First departure will be at 09:50 on the 28th
JFK – last departure will be at 09:55 on the 27th.  First departure will be at 09:00 on the 29th.

EWR Information
Courtesy of NY & NY Port Authority Website
concessions; Termianl A Tony Roma's and Terminal B Subway Sandwiches will be open 24hrs with 3 days food supply.
NJ Transit; will suspend train at 12 noon tomorrow. Bus service will be suspended at 6 pm.
PATH; service will be suspended at 12 noon Saturday.
Amtrak; last train schedule into rail link into NY at 1822hrs.
Airtrain to Rail link will be suspended after 1900hrs. All airtrain service will be suspended at 2300hrs.

Sometimes the airlines schedulers will try to violate the contract they have in order to maintain some sort of service...or make sure they have enough flight attendants on hand.

Last 5 Days of the Month Pay Protection

It has been brought to my attention that Scheduling is calling F/A's who are in lat 5 days of the month with cxl's and telling them they must call them back. This is not true. ARTICLE 9.P is different than ARTICLE 9.P. 6 last 5 days of the month.
Article 9.p.6 states you must put yourself on the makeup list and accept any flying that is offered. DO NOT FALL INTO CREW SCHEDS TRAP. You only need to call crew sched during a missconnect, cancellation, or illegality during the first 25 days of the month.

9am SoC Operations call regarding tri-state operations

Here is a recap of this mornings SOC conference call:
CLT/RDU/RIC/BWI/IAD/DCA are all open and operating arrivals and departures.      
ORF airport only has partial electricity, some minor flooding, plans are currently to operate F682 DFW-RIC.
JFK/LGA/EWR/BOS/BDL/PHL are all closed. SOC is awaiting information to see what will be decided with public ground transportation to determine when they can successfully start operations.   
PHL airport has reported good conditions.
JFK has reported no structural damage and LGA has reported just a few manageable leaks as of 0900CT. 
JFK has several long haul arrival flights that will be decided later to determine if they will operate or possibly land in Chicago.

NY Area Airports Up and Running.....limited public transportation

Irene has finally left the area, and the NYC airports have announced plans to open in the morning:  LGA at 0700, JFK and EWR at 0600.  The LGA MOD office will open at 0600.
The M60 and Q33 buses to LGA began operations late this afternoon.  While many other modes of transportation are still suspended, please allow extra time for travel to the airport.  

 So you can see that even though passengers are stranded, so are the crew-members. It takes a lot to maintain the other side of the coin as well.
You have regular line flight attendants, then those flight attendants on Reserve (FAs who are sitting waiting for other FAs who call in sick or irregular operations such as bad weather) There are crews who are stuck at hotels, airports, and cities they weren't scheduled to land in. 
Now that the Hurricane has passed, the airline has to make sure they get their employee's back to where they need to be, as well as get their passengers where they've been wanting to go since the disruptions.

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