United Airlines is seeking to add “satellite” flight attendant bases in Orlando, Phoenix, and San Diego. Here’s what it means for you.
I’ve written a lot about United’s internal employee relations lately because I believe that crew morale directly impacts the customer service passengers receive onboard.
In a recent internal memo to flight attendants, United appeared quite enthusiastic about the potential opening of three new crew bases:
I wish there was a way to include a drum roll in email, because this next announcement certainly calls for it. We’re working in tandem with the AFA on a plan to open satellite bases in MCO, PHX and SAN – locations with the highest number of commuters in our system. We still need to work out a few more details, but the plan is to give these bases a trial run starting next quarter and, if all goes well, roll the concept out to more stations.
But the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing FAs, was less enthusiastic:
While the United MEC Officers have had preliminary, exploratory discussions on the establishment of satellite bases in cities having large numbers of layovers with equally high commuter concentrations, there are still details of any plan to be discussed. As soon as we have complete information on the establishment of any satellite base, we will be sure to share that with you.
Let’s say a FA lives in Phoenix right now but is SFO-based. Currently, she must commute to SFO to start her trips–on her time and her dime. Even if this can be accomplished on a non-revenue/space available basis, it is fairly nerve-wracking to play the standby game…we passenger know that ourselves.
Under this new proposal, trips would start and end in MCO, PHX, or SAN for these local FAs. The result would be few commutes and to United’s advantage, fewer overnight hotel expenses since these three cities are highly served anyway.
It seems like a win-win to me, but the devil will be in the details. One FA told me that United (on the pre-merger United side) tried to add satellite bases a couple years ago, but a final agreement could not be reach and was eventually voted down.
An airline who takes care of their employees takes care of their passengers. I hope that these new satellite crew bases will represent a helpful benefit to FAs. But as negotiations continue, we’ll wait and see.
image: Tomás Del Coro / FLICKR