Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A July Surprise

A funny thing happened since I last communicated with you. You will recall how the flight manager, upon finding out that I was a mere reserve pilot, slowly shook his head, shrugged and said, “Sorry I can’t help you set up a retirement flight. You’ll just have to accept what comes—if anything.” I walked out quite disgusted—and still am by the way—over the way the company, with the pilots union’s blessing, treats its reserve pukes. But, low and behold, a few days later I was to discover that I was awarded a “line-of-flying” for July—a real schedule.

This was quite unusual because several pilots senior to me got reserve lines. That’s a head- scratcher. But don’t go thinking somebody in the company got all teary-eyed rigged it that way. I know that didn’t happen. The 4th of July is a big holiday and I’m thinking some pilots who are junior lineholders purposely bid reserve so as to cherry-pick reserve days off and get the holiday. That would leave the line they would have gotten…for me.

So now I’m going to Buenos Aires on the 3rd and Sao Paulo on the 12th. I should be happy with that. I can now reserve seats for up to four family members to go along and dine at Bovinos. But I’m not satisfied. Sao Paulo is an all-nighter both ways, and gets back home at 0500. Everybody’s dragging. No. I want Frankfurt, which is an excellent exit event. It has a 50 hour layover and gets back at 3:30 pm. Perfect. I quickly set to work pouring over the awards list and found six captains that had the Frankfurt trip (on six different days of course).

The admin office wouldn’t give me their phone numbers for privacy reasons but they agreed to dial the numbers and let me talk. I worked down the list. I got three answers and three voice messages. Two of the three I talked with said flat out no. One was retiring at almost the same time and wanted to keep Frankfurt for the same reason I wanted it. The third was a guy I knew—a very nice guy. I thought he would agree, but no. He said, "I hate, hate, hate [I think he said ‘hate’ about 10 times] Sao Paulo." That was weird because this guy was a Latino himself. He said maybe he would think about it if all the other guys refused my request. I thanked him while vowing to never call him back. I walked away thinking, Well, Sao Paulo isn’t so bad. The restaurants are good and my wife and a couple of the sons who want to go will at least enjoy that.

Of the three guys I left voice messages with, I never heard back from two. The third one, though…this guy was a prince. Yes. He would be glad to swap. He would handle the arrangements. So I’m going to Frankfurt at last for the grand finale, but at this writing, it is not yet official. The trade has to be approved.

So then, does it seem my belly-aching in the last post was for naught, and I should be ashamed? Not at all. What transpired was none of the company’s doings. It worked out because of a fluke in the bidding process by other pilots and due to a super kind act by another pilot who wanted to help.

It seems though that all this talk about being on “reserve” is causing confusion. One Decision Height follower e-mailed me and said, “Why are you on reserve? I thought your seniority was high.” Good question, and one many others might be scratching heads over. Here’s the skinny.

At all unionized airlines there are two pilot seniority lists: the company-wide seniority list, and the “relative seniority list.” On the 12,000+/- company pilot list I am in the top 24 percentile. But on my relative list, which is Houston/767/captain, of which there are only 100+/- people, I am near the bottom. Remember, it’s the date you were hired, not your age that counts. I came into the company after a military career at age 40. The guys above me came in at a younger age.

When I came to the 767 left seat I was a mid-level line-holder. Then the company began to shrink. I was pushed downward into reserve territory. My company seniority was still good enough to bid and hold a senior position as an Airbus or 737 captain, or a right seat job on a 777 or 747. I would have been solid senior line-holder in any of those jobs. But I like the 76 and just don’t want to retire as a co-pilot. Just ego at work, I guess. So, there you have it. Should have explained that a long time ago.

On another happy note, I had a London trip last week and met British Decision Height follower, Dave Willis. Dave had invited me a couple of times in his comments to call him when I was over that way and meet up for a couple of pints, and I finally did. I really enjoyed that, Dave. You are a super nice chap.

Next post I’ll tell you about my last domestic trip and last 757 flight.

Me (right) with blog follower Dave Willis in London
                              Two weeks ago at the Shoals Warbird Fly-in. "Squatch" VanStaagen 
                              lent me his  Yak-52 for some very staisfying formation flying. Frankly, 
                              there was a time last year when I didn't think I would ever want to do 
                              that again. I was wrong. George is smiling. Thanks Pete.

Sittin' in the slot, breathing fresh airshow smoke, fat, dumb and happy.