Master Executive Council (MEC) President Jeffrey Peterson
In This Edition
- Introduction to Block Hours vs. TFP
- Block or Better vs. §21.J.2 Block Delay
Introduction to Block Hours vs. TFP
How are scheduled block hours calculated? Time
Scheduled block hours are calculated as the duration of time between the Company’s projected block out to projected block in of a flight. Scheduled block time may vary between flights involving the same departure and arrival stations depending on padding of block time, seasonal wind variations (e.g., summer vs. winter), prevailing wind variations (e.g., traveling East vs. traveling West), vectoring, anticipated average aircraft velocity, et cetera.
How are TFP calculated? Distance
One standard TFP is credited for the first 243 statute miles or less point to point distance between two stations. Non-standard TFP of 0.1 TFP is credited for every 40 statute miles (or 1 TFP for every 400 statute miles) thereafter, rounded to the nearest increment of 40 miles up or down using normal rounding convention. TFP will never vary between flights involving the same departure and arrival stations because the distance never changes.
Which carriers use TFP?
Southwest Airlines Pilots and Flight Attendants and Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants only. All other carriers utilize block hours. Alaska FAs voted to adopt the Southwest FA contract in 1994, and we have never altered the TFP calculation or moved back to block hours since then. Incidentally the standard TFP of 243 statute miles is based on the average distance between DAL-SAT and DAL-HOU (Dallas Love Field to San Antonio & Dallas Love Field to Houston Hobby, respectively), which were the only two city pairs (three airports) originally served by SWA way back in the day.
Because it takes time to travel distance, the two are related (i.e., correlated) but not 100%. That means the actual ratio between scheduled block hours and TFP will vary for almost every flight. For the entire system, the ratio between the two varies depending upon the total amount of scheduled block hours and the total amount of scheduled TFP. Historically, this has held at approximately 1.13 TFP / block-hour or 0:53 block-minutes / TFP for the system on a 12-month rolling average (i.e., seasonally adjusted).
TFP to block hour variability
Because this is an average, that means there are individual Flight Attendants who experience higher or lower TFP to block hours ratios than that number. In full transparency, the overall TFP to block hour ratio varies the most in the following scenarios: seasonally for the entire system, between domiciles (ANC generally highest and SFO generally lowest), and between stage lengths (longer distance flights higher and shorter distance flights lower) which thereby translates to variance between relative seniorities (relatively senior higher and relatively junior lower).
Comparing pay rates in TFP and in block hours
It’s important to note that when converting pay rates in TFP to pay rates in block hours, the block hour pay rate will be 13% higher than in TFP, but this does not mean you are paid 13% more in that system; there are also proportionately more minutes flown in a block hour (:60) compared to the average number of block minutes flown per TFP (:53), so the total amount of pay per block hour is the same in both systems in the aggregate (i.e., on systemwide basis when seasonally adjusted).
Major solidarity issue staying with TFP as-is and with changing to block hours
Although it’s not an ideal situation, it’s better to just get this out there and clear the air now. If we stay with TFP as-is with no changes, the relatively junior FAs will likely not be satisfied because they are generally experiencing comparatively lower TFP to block hour ratios in their personal schedules. If we attempt to change to block hours, the relatively senior FAs will likely not be satisfied because they are generally experiencing comparatively higher TFP to block hour ratios in their personal schedules. This solidarity challenge is daunting before we even get into the pros and cons of potentially negotiating a sweeping pay unit change like this with management, including replicating and improving on our existing rigs (e.g., Duty Period Minimum (DPM), Multiday Sequence Minimum (MSM), Average Duty Period Guarantee (ADPG), Sit Pay, Ground Delay, and Stranded Pay) from TFP to block hours!
So, what to do?
Once appointed by the MEC, I will direct the Negotiating Committee to look at all viable options. My general inclination as of today is that we are most likely better off retaining TFP while developing improved rigs to address flying in which relatively junior FAs are negatively impacted by TFP vs. block hours. However, I am open to other approaches based on the work of the Negotiating Committee and feedback from the MEC and general membership of course.
Block or Better vs. §21.J.2 Block Delay
Block or better is more favorable than the current §21.J.2 Block Delay
It has been sometimes reported incorrectly on social media that the current contract does not pay for block delay. That is simply not true as Section 21.J.2 provide for block delays. However, it is true that at a prorated 0.5 TFP / block-hour that also requires an eleven-minute (0:11) minimum delay to be counted, this is much less favorable compared to block or better in which every additional minute of block delay is paid.
How much less favorable is Block Delay?
The current §21.J.2 Block Delay is the equivalent of approximately 0:27 block-minutes per block-hour—and that is before taking into account an eleven-minute (0:11) minimum delay to trigger pay. That is way less than 50%. For those of you who have been championing block or better compared to the current §21.J.2 Block Delay, you are absolutely correct that the current provision needs some serious improvement!
Is dumping TFP in favor of block or better the only way?
For example, Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants have adopted a contractual rig that very nearly emulates block or better in TFP. That rig is prorated at 1.2 TFP / block-hour and requires a five-minute (0:05) minimum block delay to trigger 0.1 TFP. Our Negotiating Committee could look at this rig as a framework for developing our own proposal.
I hope you found this update to be informative. I will do everything I can as MEC President and Chair of the Negotiating Committee to help prevent the broader conversation of Block Hours vs. TFP from devolving into divisiveness, but I can’t do this alone. We must find a path forward together to maximize our power in negotiations!
(New topics may be added and the order subject to change)
- Negotiations Under the Railway Labor Act
- Negotiating for Our Future
- L-VX Incentive Pay vs. Productivity Premium Program (PPP)
- L-VX Inflight Team Leader (ITL) Pay vs. “A” Pay