The planes may all say United on the outside and the last Continental-branded departure may have been 16 months ago. All crew are even wearing the same uniforms now. But that doesn’t mean that United Airlines is operating as a single entity yet. Pilots and flight attendants are still operating as separate groups with different work rules, different seniority lists and different bases. But there is light at the end of the tunnel; it appears that the first shared base – San Francisco – is being opened in the coming weeks for 737 pilots.
An ALPA update provides some details of the new base including the staffing levels (41 captains and 40 first officers split nearly equal between sUA and sCO positions), the timing of the base opening and the training process for sUA pilots who are looking to move in to the base (they will need to be trained on the 737s as that’s not a type the sUA side of the company has operated for some time). Establishing the new base now – before the final seniority integration process completes – ensures that sUA pilots have the opportunity to get in to the base. Without the advance access there is a chance sCO pilots already high in the 737 seniority rankings would block out the sUA pilots. The sCO positions also are designated to come from existing pilot ranks, not from new hires or swaps in to the 737 role.
There is another interesting bit in the MOU related to who is allowed to work which aircraft. Currently the crews can only work the planes from their half of the original company. The new 737 deal includes this provision:
Allows cross-utilization of all UCH 737s by both sUA and sCO crews
A number of 737s ordered by Continental prior to the merger were reassigned to the United side of the operation. In theory that would have meant only sUA crews could fly those planes. This bit of the MOU suggests that the 737s and flight deck crews will become fully interchangeable. From a customer perspective that should be a good thing as it means aircraft swaps and crew substitutions should be easier to manage.
This is just a small step, inching closer to full integration and eventually crews working across any plane they’re rated for. But it is an important step and one which should help make things run just a bit more smoothly going forward.
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