Freeport_Flyer wrote: ↑
Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:50 am
As others have pointed out, taking away the GIANT CARROT to get folks in the door of Encore is not a problem for a pilot at Mainline; this is an Encore management problem. I think the fear that most have but won't say, is that they believe management will do nothing meaningful. Pilots (in my mind) are simple to figure out: money, schedule, progression. In fact I would say this is true of any professional, that's why they can't get doctors to go to Nova Scotia.
Making Encore attractive is not the job of the WJ Pilot's Union, but I do believe there is a responsibility to honour the agreement (understanding, etc) that was in place until it was terminated by an accepted process. This puts the onus on management to make Encore attractive through either: money, schedule, progression or a little of everything.
I think this is a terribly myopic viewpoint. Seeing this as an Encore problem that exists in its own little bubble misses the entire reason that Encore exists: to feed passengers onto mainline aircraft. Encore was set up before any widebodies were bought specifically to ensure that enough connecting passengers would be available to fill those seats. Encore has more than 1/4 of WestJet's total fleet, and carries about 25000 guests each day; as I've said before, if even half of those passengers connect onto other WestJet flights, and I dare say that's a low estimate, that's 12500 connections each day, or the equivalent of almost 80 full
737s, using an average number of seats across the fleet. To reiterate, Encore provides enough connecting passengers to fill almost 80 737 flights each day
. Without Encore, the 787s will not be profitable; for example, there isn't nearly enough O&D demand between Calgary and Dublin to maintain those flights without guests joining from Edmonton, Fort St John, and Regina. Encore is vital not only to the continued growth of WestJet, but just to maintain current operations. That should be the concern of every WestJet pilot.
The reason I'm stating this is that Encore is bleeding to death. That's not hyperbole. There have been weeks at a time when we have had no res coverage, and pairings that couldn't be crewed from the moment the schedule was released, so the flights were cancelled outright. Go on Westnet and check out how many irops are caused by a lack of crew, or better yet go back to the summer and see how many cancellations there were during the peak. Pax were being put on buses on a daily basis; those people will almost certainly never book with WestJet again, because they won't know if they'll actually get on an airplane or whether they'll make their connections. Take a moment and think about the optics of airline passengers being put on buses, and having to be reaccommodated, every single day. Encore is likely going to have to decrease frequencies, or maybe even drop routes, next year if the staffing situation isn't sorted out. How do you commuters feel about that? I would estimate that Encore won't be able to support operations to all its destinations out of YYZ in a year, and YYC in two, if the bleeding isn't stopped.
Since the One List was voted down, applicants have dried up and current pilots are leaving at a rate of about twenty a month, and the cessation of flow for the foreseeable future has exacerbated the problem. It was bad enough that applicants prior to the vote weren't experienced enough for a quick upgrade, but now even inexperienced pilots aren't applying. They're going to Jazz, or holding out for mainline, which is now taking 703/704 pilots who wouldn't meet the matrix for an upgrade at Encore. There's no reason for anyone to come here, and people are leaving in droves because it's become a dead end. Guys are going back to flying medevacs, corporate, or just quitting flying altogether rather than work here anymore. Morale has tanked, because we're working more and paid less than our competitors, which we thought would be short-term pain for long-term gain; instead we feel like everyone else in the company is making money off our backs. We do more for less, and then we're asked to taxi single-engine, to not run the APU until the cabin temps become uncomfortable, and to slow down in flight to reduce fuel burns, which then results in shorter, more-stressful turns, all so that mainline pilots can get nice profit-share cheques and cash out their ESPPs. The sentiment on the line is that there's no reason to work at Encore anymore, and I don't see how an airline can survive that kind of mentality when it's already struggling with staffing without a lot of major changes.
Management certainly bears a lot of blame for stopping flow and promising a retention plan that never materialized, but it's going to take the cooperation of mainline pilots to rectify the situation. Half-measures won't cut it. Encore will have to have an unrivalled WAWCON, which will probably have to include a common seniority list, just to maintain current staffing levels, let alone increase them to accommodate trip-and-duty-rigs, higher res rates, and the updated duty regs. If Encore fails, WestJet growth will stop dead. Without regional feed, I very much doubt even all ten of the firm 787 orders will be delivered. Management is apparently looking very hard at a Calgary-Tokyo route, but when you consider how AC makes it work, it's not from O&D pax; there's not nearly enough of a link between the two cities to justify it. The reason it works is that they put 78 of the passengers on a flight to YZF, and another 78 on a connection through YEG to YZF, which is a huge tourist destination from Japan. Without all of the connections Encore provides, there won't be any way to make a YYC-TYO route work, let alone any other expansion.
I'm sure the company could replace a lot of Qs with 737s, but not with the same frequency of flights. There are tons of oilfield workers who are paying their own way to YMM, and they book their flights as close to their shift changes as possible to maximize their time at home. If WestJet reduces from five daily flights out of YYC, and four out of YEG, to a couple of jets, those guys will book with AC instead. The business and government travellers who fly between YYC and YEG won't sit around for a couple of extra hours, they'll fly with AC (worse yet, imagine those high-yield frequent fliers being put on a three-hour bus ride instead of a 35-minute flight because of a lack of Encore crews). WestJet would have to abandon YYF, YKA, YCD, YXJ, YXT, YQU, YBR, YQT, YXU, YVR-YXS, YVR-YLW, YVR-YYJ, YVR-YQQ, YEG-YLW, YLW-YYJ, YEG-YXE, YEG-YQR, YXE-YWG, YQR-YWG, and all of the destinations out east with which I'm less familiar; YMM and YZF service might continue on the jet, but probably only twice a day for the former and once for the latter, assuming there were enough aircraft to allocate to even that much service, and YXE, YQR, and YLW frequency would drop by half. Not only that, but WestJet wouldn't be able to provide half of the Suncor charters. Jazz would step into that void without missing a beat. Do you really think WestJet would survive that kind of a reduction without severe pain? Without Encore, the company will at best stay at its current size, but I fear it would shrink back to its pre-2013 size, abandon any overseas service, and focus on low-yield North American flights again. The few 787s that would be kept would be used for Hawaii and some busy routes down south. I know the OTS pilots aren't likely to vote in favour of any future common seniority list proposals, but I think that's immensely short-sighted; you'll keep a few Encore pilots from bumping into the list above you, but upgrades could go from eight years to fifteen as things stop dead.
After all the talk of pilot unity, Encore pilots feel abandoned and isolated. We don't feel like anyone is on our side, and we don't feel like we have a future with WestJet. First and foremost, before any talk of a common seniority list, all we want from the mainline pilots is an acknowledgement of our importance to the company, and some recognition that we don't just pick up the revenue scraps from a few outlying communities. If you concede that WestJet won't grow without Encore, then I implore you to consider the ramifications of Encore shutting down. That's not a hypothetical, that's the trajectory that we're on now. If the bleeding is going to be stopped, and your futures as well as mine are to be secured, then it's going to take cooperation from both pilot groups and management to find a solution that will actually get pilots to want to work here. It's not just an Encore management problem, it's something that's going to affect all of us in a major way starting next summer when it gets busy again, if not this Christmas.