Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New Challenges...New Opportunities

Perhaps you've heard the news, "Boeing 787 grounded worldwide!".

Since my employer is the first US-based operator of this revolutionary new aircraft, our fleet of 6 (8 by the end of the year if deliveries are resumed) is directly affected:  5 are currently parked in a remote area at Houston Intercontinental Airport and their lonely-looking sibling is the "red-headed stepchild" among a combination of 30 or so Japanese cousins (ANA and Japan Airlines) at Tokyo's Narita International Airport.  You might ponder, "what's the big deal?  It's just 6 airplanes."  Those 6 airplanes had an integral role in the near-term and long-term growth plans of my airline and my Houston/International-based peers and I are DIRECTLY affected by the fallout of their grounding.

Our base is unique in that we were to operate ALL of the scheduled services of these 6 aircraft.  Roughly speaking, that's 11 flight attendants x 6 aircraft x 7 days a week and services ranging from Lagos, Nigeria to Amsterdam, London, Tokyo and Shanghai.  From my base's perspective, it is a very big deal!  Almost 50% of us have gone onto "reserve" (on call) status for the past two months, since there isn't enough scheduled flying to create a normal level of "hard" lines of time.  Some folks with 25 years of seniority are now "on call" for the first time in decades.

One temporary relief solution that the company has employed is to "force" flying normally accomplished by other bases into our base.  Many of us will be working flights from Houston to other "hub" cities like Washington, D.C./Dulles or NY/Newark.  Alternatively, we are positioned to these cities by "deadheading" (riding as passengers) which is considered a normal work assignment and for which, we receive full pay.  Once staged as required, we will operate to cities we wouldn't normally serve from our Houston home:  Berlin (Tegel), Brussels, Dublin.  So, in a manner of speaking, the 787 debacle is resulting in some extraordinary opportunities.

My partner, Philip, and I are heading to Newark tomorrow to start our first assignment to Berlin.  Being a history buff, the prospects of exploring the city that was a central character in the saga of Nazi Germany is beyond tantalizing.  I recently completed a fascinating "novelistic history" from the perspective of William Dodd, pre-War US Ambassador to Germany.   In the Garden of Beats was written by Erik Larson and the city of Berlin is a featured player.  Post-WWII, Berlin's role as center-stage for East-West drama intensified and reached a crescendo with the fall of the Berlin Wall in the Reagan-Gorbachev era.  Post-reunification Berlin has reclaimed its position as national capital and center of German life.  I am excited to explore landmarks whose names have become so familiar.

When one door closes, another one opens.  Stay tuned!

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