Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Polar and other vortexes

Ok, so a little behind the times here. A happened to be off and avoid the flying madness that was the Polar Vortex at the beginning of the month. However, Kidzilla happened to come home from CA on day two and we had to pick him up from Orlando International. We tracked his flight, occupied ourselves for the two hour delay, and arrive at the airport about an hour prior to arrival. At which time we promptly entered the gates of hell. The check in line was ridiculous. Utterly. It wound all the way through the check in switchbacks, across the open entry expanse to get deeper into the airport, and completely through the switchbacks of another airline. One look at the line and expletives started spewing out of my mouth. There was no way to make it through the line to get gate passes. I remembered that we had previously gotten gate passes from the list baggage claim office so we immediately headed down there. And promptly got our passes thanks to my profuse humility and thanking. We made it through the mob at security (the check in areas must have been using all the moveable line makers since security could have benefited from a few as well). On the tram we overheard someone who said it took them four hours (!) in the check in line. Then we met a forlorn woman at the gate who said she got in line at 10 am and got to the gate at 5pm (!), only to find her flight then cancelled. We happened to be near the customer help desk and in the entire 50 minutes we were there the one agent assisted the same gentleman. What a nightmare!

Now, far be it from me to claim to know best for airline severe weather operations, but surely this could have been handled better. Like maybe two lines at check in, one for rebooking and one for flights actually leaving? Seems like a no brainer to me. Maybe a few more people inside the gate area or directing people to a rebooking area that doesn't block five gates with the line? A had his own experience with poor operations in the aftermath of the vortex. He got reassigned during his trip and ended up sitting for FIVE hours in Austin, TX waiting on a hotel assignment. Although he knew which hotel the company books with, they would not pick him up until they had the reservation. I hear that the third party company that does the bookings for A's (and likely others) was snowed in and no employees were able to get in. So A's airline had to whip out their corporate cards and start booking rooms directly. What a mess! Rumor had it that pilot's had to resort to refusing to push from the gate until they had confirmed hotel reservations at their destinations. Rumor also had it that Crew Scheduling lost track of where they reassigned everyone and sent mass emails asking pilots to report in where they were. Seriously? This is hardly the first time that bad weather has hit the eastern US. As A's company was not so long ago bought by another airline, there was much comparison about how this never would have happened with the management of the previous airline, the larger of the two, because they were more used to a total flight crew of this magnitude. I'm sure every airline had it's own issues in that week, but the chaos I witnessed first hand really could have been avoided.

A's new(ish) combined company is still in joint contract negotiations. It is so sad to see the company that not so long ago had the industry leading contract, having to fight for even basic things like health insurance. I so wish that companies would take a cue from the tech industry and realize that having the BEST contract and perks will attract and retain the best people. Instead of having the worst work rules and pay and then wondering why they can't attract enough new people to cover attrition. It makes perfect sense to me. Clearly I have all the answers for airline operations lately... A's company voted down the concessionary contract and is encouraging another airline to vote down theirs as well. But there are always those old timers who have 3 alimony checks to write and new starry-eyed pilots who will fly for anything and don't see the big picture. Since our "two years and out" has now dragged on for seven, nearly eight, years as an FO, it's worth continuing to fight.

1 comment:

Erin Funk said...

I feel like we are living a double life!!! My DH just had his 6th anniversary at his company (still FO) and his company just had a major vote down which now looks like he will stay an FO for a while. We're thankful he still has his job, but it has been a long road. We also LOVE Dave Ramsey and living the debt free life. I also work in the medical field in women's and infant care. Thank you for sharing your life. It is not the easiest road, and often misunderstood, so it is great to find someone in a similar situation :)