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United Air Flight Attendant Spent 15+ Hours Waiting On Hold to Speak to Bosses After Severe Weather and Tech Issue Snarled Flights This Weekend

United Air Flight Attendant Spent 15+ Hours Waiting On Hold to Speak to Bosses After Severe Weather and Tech Issue Snarled Flights This Weekend

a white airplane on a runway

A United Airlines flight attendant allegedly spent 15 hours and 40 minutes on hold this weekend as they attempted to reach a crew scheduling department after severe weather and FAA tech issues snarled air traffic across the North East this weekend.

Most flight attendants are facing call hold times of 4+ hours amidst reports that United’s embattled scheduling department has lost track of where crew are due to the continuing disruption.

When Southwest Airlines faced a similar situation just before Christmas, the situation quickly spiralled out of control, and the airline was eventually forced to pull back its entire schedule to get things back on track.

United’s woes were initially caused by severe weather across the North East which lead to a number of ground stops and were quickly made worse by a communications power panel failure in the Washington DC area.

If that wasn’t bad enough, United’s CEO Scott Kirby has also blamed FAA staffing issues for the “unprecedented challenges” the airline faced over the weekend.

“The FAA frankly failed us this weekend,” Kirby told staffers in an internal memo. “The FAA reduced the arrivals rates by 40% and the departure rates by 75%. That is almost certainly a reflection of understaffing/lower experience at the FAA,” Kirby blasted.

“It led to massive delays, cancellations, diversions, as well as crews and aircraft out of position. And that put everyone behind the eight ball when weather actually did hut on Sunday and was further compounded by FAA shortages Sunday evening.”

Kirby doesn’t blame the current administration for the FAA’s deficiencies but he says he will be lobbying the current leadership to take immediate steps to prevent a similar meltdown this summer.

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents crew members at United does, however, blame the airline’s current leadership for crew scheduling problems.

In one memo, the union said current hold times were both “unreasonable and unacceptable”.

United’s flight attendants are required to call the scheduling department for even minor schedule changes, but a lack of staff in that department means call hold times can quickly mount during ‘irregular operations’ leading to a snowball effect.

The crew union has called on United to bolster the scheduling department with more staff, although the airline has previously criticized the union for rejecting technology solutions that would negate the need for them to call the scheduling department in the first place.

Last year, crew scheduling issues became a major issue between the union and United’s management and the airline had hired more schedulers in an attempt to prevent similar issues this summer.

View Comments (2)
  • The Crew Scheduling meltdown currently happening at United echoes Southwest’s meltdown in December. This is a systemic failure on the part of the company and has nothing to do with the FAA. United’s poor infrastructure cannot handle the scope and breadth of its operation even during routine operations. Flight attendants have experienced significant hold times for months just trying to obtain hotel and transportation information that was never inputted into their trip pairings. In irregular operations, 1 hour wait times (which has become the new normal in recent months) have lapsed into 5+ hour wait times. There are crew members stranded in hotels all over the world with no updated flight information and no way to reach the company’s crew scheduling and hotel & transportation departments. I would imagine impacted customers are experiencing similar issues with re-booking canceled flights as rolling flight cancellations continue. Mr. Kirby needs to look within rather than point fingers toward the FAA.

    United cannot keep the Crew Scheduling Department staffed because the company offers low wages to staff who must be adept at understanding crew legalities and be familiar with the complex guidelines of ALPA and AFA collective bargaining agreements. Their workload is not commensurate with what the company is willing to pay and so the department is a continual revolving door. Furthermore, the company chooses to separate pilots and flight attendants during layovers, meaning separate hotels and separate ground transportation. When operations go south, Pursers are often having to fend for their crew for hotel rooms or transportation while the pilots go their own separate ways. If crews stayed together, having the Captain advocate for the entire crew would yield better results. Lastly, I will say that Mr. Kirby did himself no favors by stalling pilot contract negations and failing to reach a tentative pilot agreement prior to the start of the peak (over-scheduled) summer season. I lived through the summer of 2000 when pilot contract talks were in the same boat and the pilots chose to fly to the book and not pick open time (un-crewed) trips. United’s operation was crippled and many of the company’s elite 1K and Premier Execs permanently fled to Delta and American. I anxiously feel a sense of doom as a repeat of 23 years ago looms in the not-always-so-friendly Friendly Skies.

  • From a traveler who has been living in the EWR for 3 nights and days I can tell that on the situation is much more dire then described above or in Mr Kelly’s news release.

    What we are experiencing on th ground is a complete lack of crises management or strategic coordination, resulting in mass confusion and 6 hour lines.

    If the FAA closed the airport due to the rain i saw, I would say we landed from Athens just fine . When it starts to snow in AK are you going to shut down air traffic into AK

    You can find me using this confirm number. I have nothing but time until I don’t know when LCWNVR

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