COVID-19 Information to Know from the FDX MEC
Management has advised the Association that it disagrees with the content of the information published by the Association last night regarding input and administration of vaccination status. While management has yet to disclose their intention for handling pilots who decline to provide their vaccination status, we’re advised that they don’t regard Substitution as the outcome.
We accurately reported what management communicated. The fact that they had issues with their own words within hours of our publication speaks solely to their ongoing dysfunction.
It is imperative that none of us act in a manner that lets management shed its responsibility or cast blame elsewhere. Please be careful and professional while all of us wait for management to fix this mess in a completely clear, transparent, and reliable manner.
As has been highly publicized, the world is reacting quickly to the Omicron Variant of COVID-19. Initial reporting indicates that this variant has begun spreading to many locations on the African continent, JNB being the destination served by FedEx which is of most concern. The new variant has also been identified in several other countries. We are monitoring this situation closely and communicating with the FedEx COVID Task Force members as travel restrictions as well as additional lockdowns have either been enacted or will likely be enacted soon.
FDX ALPA is very aware of FCIF 21-00530 (SYD Layover Update). While the Company reviews this for regulatory compliance, we want to reiterate our stance and what has been assured to us by flight management. Over 19 months of operating in a global pandemic and enduring room and hotel isolations have placed an enormous amount of stress on our pilot group, both physically and mentally. On numerous occasions, management has told us that they will not be more restrictive than the host government when it comes to layovers. We will not stand for anything less than that. Anywhere that FedEx crews can be released from hotel and room confinement, it must be done. As the world economy reopens, management should be prepared to take immediate steps to ensure this happens.
Deadheads to SIN continue to cause issues due to constantly changing regulations. In some published pairings, the available time windows for meeting SIN testing requirements (PCR results within 48 hours of DH departure) are no longer operationally feasible due to layover location restrictions preceding SIN deadheads. SIN has also instituted certain "Vaccinated Travel Lanes" or "VTL" flights which, as of now, will not be available for crew member travel. We strongly encourage any crew member to use EXTREME CAUTION and exercise a great deal of due diligence when planning deviation travel into SIN.
If you have deviated on an international travel segment for which there is a subsequent prohibition on D/H travel, contact CRS, your Fleet Management, or the Duty Officer as a final resource. If time permits, please file a COVID-19 InSite report."
The KIX inflight kitchen is operating at approximately 3% of its pre-COVID levels. They only have one shift per day and preorder well in advance the food based on the upcoming flight schedule. Therefore, they cannot take individual orders. We have worked with CTS to add gyoza to every meal including breakfast as well as deli plates, vegetable and fruit plates, and cheese and cracker plates. Please do not email the ramp requesting a specific meal. They do not have the ability to fulfill any requests. As air traffic picks up in KIX, we hope that the demand for inflight meals will increase and we can get back to normal ordering.
As you might have seen in the recent FCIF, “TPE Hand Sanitizer Update #1,” the Taiwan Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are reinforcing their request for crews to follow hand sanitation procedures. The FCIF also noted the VIP terminal has added a full-body spray array that deploys chlorine dioxide (imagine the metal detector you walk through at security entering the airport, only with sprayers attached.). At this time, crew members have the option to bypass the full-body spray array and simply apply hand sanitizer when transiting Taipei. Given that choice, we recommend all crews bypass the spraying until the concentration of chlorine dioxide concentration is confirmed to meet the U.S. CDC safety standards. If not given the choice to bypass the sprayer, kindly ask if there is alternate way to comply with their procedures, i.e., hand sanitation procedures only.
The MEC is aware of the COVID-19 related Executive Orders issued by President Biden yesterday. Immediately upon learning of this development, we initiated a dialogue with FedEx management and received some initial analysis from ALPA National. We expect to know more in the coming days. In the meantime, we ask for your patience as there is very little information currently available on what is likely to be a complicated regulatory and legal situation.
***Note—the below information represents ALPA’s understanding of the Company’s current treatment of individuals considered “Close Contact.” It should be considered only advisory in nature, and NOT to be considered “absolute” or “certain.” Every pilot’s health/close contact situation is unique, and the below is always subject to change. Caveat emptor ***
A: The goal of health care professionals has been to slow the spread of COVID-19 within communities. With this goal in mind, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has provided guidance for what an individual should do when they are exposed or come in “close contact” with someone who is infected with COVID-19. In order for crew members to comply with this CDC guidance, there exists a possibility for that crewmember to be unavailable for a trip or series of trips due to the need to quarantine domestically or internationally. The goal of the Medical MOU was to ensure that a crew member would not suffer a financial loss when directed by the Company, a government order, a legal order, public health authority, or a qualified medical professional to quarantine/seek medical treatment/or enter self-isolation related to COVID-19.
A: The Company’s definition of close contact is consistent with current (8/16/21) CDC guidance found here Appendices | CDC. Simply put, a person is considered to have been in close contact with a COVID-19+ individual if they have been within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period. In addition, on a long haul flight (greater than 6 hours on any fleet type) and on any flight in the 767 close contact is assumed if one crew member is determined to be COVID-19+.
A: You quarantine when you might have been exposed to the virus. On the other hand, you isolate when you have been infected with the virus, even if you don’t have symptoms. What’s the difference between quarantine and isolation?
A: There are several possibilities for what happens next:
- An unvaccinated crew member would be placed into NOQ status and instructed to quarantine. If that crew member is on a trip, they would be put into a hotel by the Company. The length of the quarantine is determined by CDC guidance domestically or local guidelines internationally. FedEx Flight Management and Labor Relations will review and analyze each case to determine the soonest a crew member can end quarantine.
- A crew member who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or a crew member who has fully recovered from COVID-19 within the previous 90 days and who is not currently experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 (asymptomatic) would continue to fly their domestic trips in accordance with CDC guidance found here: COVID-19: When to Quarantine | CDC.
- Any crew member deemed close contact is prohibited from international operations regardless of vaccination status.
- A vaccinated crew member OR a crew member who has fully recovered from COVID-19 within the previous 90 days AND who is asymptomatic who is scheduled for an international trip or series of trips would expect to be placed into SUB. A crew member meeting the criteria described would still be able to fly domestic trips in accordance with the CDC guidance linked above. Normal SUB rules apply in this scenario and the crew member would be able to accept or decline SUB as they see fit. A SUB decision tree is available here: Substitution Decision Tree (alpa.org).
- Crew members fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or crew members who have fully recovered from COVID-19 in the previous 90 days who are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 would expect to be instructed to seek COVID-19 testing and isolate in accordance with CDC guidance if in the United States or in accordance with local guidance if in an international location until test results are available.
A: Currently, crew members requesting the Pay Protection benefits of the Medical MOU are being asked their vaccination status by the Company. If a crew member refuses to provide their vaccination status, the Company is handling each case on an individual basis through FedEx Labor Relations and Regulatory Affairs. FedEx ALPA encourages all crew members who are seeking the benefits of the Medical MOU to be completely honest and forthright with the Company in all communications. In addition, FedEx ALPA encourages all crew members to comply fully with all CDC guidance for their own protection and to protect those around them.
A: This Medical MOU was never intended as a means to incentivize or disincentivize a person from seeking an available COVID-19 vaccine. While the decision of whether or not to be vaccinated is a personal one, the facts remain that a vaccinated crew member would be allowed by CDC guidance to continue normal routines and behaviors (while self-monitoring for any COVID-19 symptoms) after a COVID-19 exposure, while an unvaccinated crew member would be expected to quarantine in-place as described above. We highly encourage all crew members to cooperate fully with CDC guidance as well as any additional state and local guidance when deemed a COVID-19 close contact.
We continue to receive reports about the CIQ (Customs/Immigration/Quarantine) processing delays in Guangzhou, China. This has been addressed at multiple levels and despite assurances from flight management, the situation continues to deteriorate. We have now also received reports of restrooms not being available during multi-hour immigration processing and chemical disinfecting of the crewbus and CIQ building. If you experience any respiratory or eye discomfort, call the Duty Officer and discuss whether or not you need medical assistance. When you are able, fill out a DART for our awareness. We have asked management to immediately rectify the bathroom and spraying issues while they continue to work out the processing delays.
If you have waited ENTIRELY too long while waiting to process Customs & Immigration [specifically Guangzhou (CAN), but others also], you are not alone. Contact Crew Control to have a STWAIT period added to your pairing. Unfortunately, it won’t make things go any faster, but this will help ensure legality and duty time integrity.
LAYOVER HOTEL DXB
ALPA has been adamant that FedEx should not be more restrictive than the host country where we are laying over. We have been informed that a return to the normal layover hotel and DHDs in DXB will be occurring soon. There is a COVID test facility near the hotel for when a test is desired by a crewmember.
We have continued to advocate for, and the Company has committed to, visiting most APAC layovers, and working to secure either a fitness suite for pilots to use, or individual bikes/weights, etc. Stay tuned.
The new updated SAFO did not contain any relief for airlines monitoring crew member health status and the Company is continuing to use the Everbridge app for all crew members to fulfill that requirement.
Saigon is now requiring crew members to wear full PPE – even during turns – to include a full gown, face shield, mask, gloves and shoe coverings.
We have had a few issues come up for pilots in COVID quarantine and the Company associating a SUB window with their quarantine period. Declining SUB at any time will remove your pay protections for that trip. IF you want to receive OTP, AND it is prior to showtime of the trip in question, you have the option to decline the SUB and make it up at 125% up to 3 subsequent bid periods before the pay is removed from your check. If it is after showtime of the trip in question and you decline SUB, the pay is removed right then, and the dropped hours go into your General Makeup bank. Remember that SUB is there to pay protect you for the trip in conflict and if you decline it, the protection goes away making you subject to the above CBA provisions. As always, if you have any questions, please submit a DART to Contract Enforcement.
FCIF 21-00308 detailed new requirements by Singapore for all passengers, no crew exemptions, to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to departing on deadhead. Operating crew members on FedEx flights remain exempt from this requirement. As the Company has a policy of avoiding mandatory testing whenever possible, they have revised pairings to operational jumpseat into SIN. Deviation travel is still allowed with the proper PCR test but is highly discouraged.
As a reminder, intra Japan public travel continues to be prohibited by the country. This includes train travel and deadheads such as KIX-NRT-SFO or LAX-NRT-KIX. Deadheads that transit Japan are only permitted without an intervening layover in the country such as ICN-NRT-LAX.
FCIF 21-00298 has important rule changes for Germany. Please be sure to review the CIQ for the most up-to-date rules
FCIF 21-0097 contained information about police in Japan conducting hotel checks upon crew members. Please be mindful of the current hotel quarantine rules in Japan.
If you are a domestic pilot, have been fully vaccinated and are determined to be a close contact of a positive COVID case in the U.S. ONLY, expect the Company to apply the CDC exemption for quarantine. If you are an international pilot in the same scenario and wish to voluntarily avoid the close contact quarantine, you may contact your Fleet Manager for possible options.
As a result of lack of pilot use, COVID testing at HNL and AFW has been discontinued.
Initial reports from crews laying over in India are positive with no obvious changes from past experiences. If you encounter problems, please file a DART and INSITE.
We are aware that Fleet Management sent emails to pilots asking them to complete a “vaccination survey” that, after logging in with employee credentials, asks for employee number and vaccination information. While we don’t suspect anything untoward here, we do not believe there is any legitimate requirement for you to divulge personal medical information of this type to the Company. This should be viewed as voluntary in nature. The exception would be when you utilize sick leave to obtain a COVID vaccine – responding to Company asking for further information there would be required.
FCIF 21-0266 announced the temporary closure of the TPE Novotel and that layovers would be moved to the Monarch Plaza hotel until May 15. Although some changes were made to food, the current situation remains unsatisfactory. ALPA has invoked Section 5.B.4.b. of the CBA to challenge the use of Monarch Plaza Hotel in TPE ( click here to read the official letter). Please see the recent comm from the Trip Services Chairman for more detail.
We continue to see pairings with fares of $1 indicating the scheduled deadhead does not exist. The Company does eventually change the deadheads to legitimate ones but often not until right before the departure date which can result in lack of available seats, difficulty in deviating or inability for trip to be offered as SUBSTITUTION or RAT (CBA 25.H.2.b and 4.M). If you are on a scheduled pairing with a $1 front end or back end deadhead fare, we recommend you INSITE the issue well in advance and, if not timely corrected, call CRS with the hope of getting the pairing corrected before trip block out. ALPA currently has a grievance (20-17) covering this issue.
The CIQ contains important information with common deadhead issues crew members are encountering and how to overcome them. In addition, Australia is not issuing at Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) to non-Australians at this time. CIQ contains specific detailed info on procedures to follow to facilitate deadhead check-in.
Cologne has instituted a curfew from 2100-0500. If you are traveling between the airport and hotel during that time please carry a copy of your pairing.
There are currently 6 exercise bikes available to be placed in your room at the Novotel TPE (if we end up returning) and BKK has 5 bikes available to place in your room.
Updated CDC guidance within the latest SAFO exempts pilots who have been in close contact with a positive COVID case from quarantining if they were a confirmed past positive within the last three months. The Company is utilizing this criteria for all domestic situations and, when able, on a case-by-case basis internationally.
Pilots deadheading into Costa Rica must have a Certificate of Proof of Insurance Letter, provided by FDX Pilot Benefits Administration (PBA), and Epidemiological Health Pass Form completed 48 hours prior to their boarding ahead of their deadhead. Full details are listed on the CIQ page for Costa Rica ( https://pilot.fedex.com/m/fcifs/files/Country-Rules-CIQ-Procedures.pdf).
- AN ANTHEM INSURANCE CARD IS NOT SUFFICIENT PROOF OF INSURANCE. PBA is available M-F, 8:00 AM–5:00 PM. PBA is not open on weekends, so please be as proactive as possible ahead of your scheduled trip to obtain this letter. Efforts are underway to expand PBA’s accessibility. If you need assistance, contact the Duty Officer.
SIN POSITIVE WHAT TO EXPECT
We recently had a pilot who, after displaying COVID symptoms, had a positive COVID test during a layover in SIN. The pilot was moved via ambulance to the Mount Elizabeth Orchard hotel and placed in a clean, private room with good meals. Pilot will be retested on day 14 and if negative will be released, else he will have to wait until day 22 before leaving.
The New South Wales government in Australia has issued written guidance for pilots laying over in SYD. If you use a CPAP machine and have been awarded a SYD layover or get revised into a SYD layover, please reference FCIF 21-0186. Those pilots who are medically required to use CPAP machines are impacted by the new rule. The new guidance from NSW indicates that you will be moved to an observation area, but will still be allowed to use your CPAP. This appears to be a change from previous policy. FedEx has established a Declaration/Opt-Out form and process for those affected crewmembers to avoid SYD layovers. If you choose not to opt-out, please read the FCIF and make sure you understand what to expect. If questions remain, contact your Fleet Manager for clarification.
COVID DIAGNOSIS AND YOUR FAA MEDICAL
For those pilots who have contracted COVID-19, the FAA has issued guidance on what to expect after you have recovered and how that may impact your FAA medical. Please see the attached FAA Memo. It is anticipated that most AMEs will follow this guidance, but if in doubt, please contact your AME and our ALPA Aeromedical Office for further guidance.
SICK IN FIELD INTERNATIONAL AND COVID TESTING
If you become sick in the field internationally and have possible COVID symptoms, you will most likely be placed in the COVID protocol. In most cases, to get the benefit of the Medical MOU as a COVID positive, you MUST have an actual test saying you are positive. If you find yourself sick in the field, and placed in the COVID protocol, please do all you can to request a test be shipped to you (from Vigilant via your Fleet Manager or DO). If you can’t get a test before leaving the field, attempt to get a test as soon as you return —a positive test in hand, even after you are out of the protocol and no longer sick or contagious, provides the best means to get the full pay protections in the Medical MOU.
JAPAN AND KOREA HOTEL ISOLATION
The Company once again confirmed with their legal department that hotel isolation remains the requirement in NRT, KIX and ICN.
The MOU provides pay protection for asymptomatic and symptomatic pilots in certain situations and there are some great examples in the Medical MOU Q&A. It’s important to realize that once you respond in the positive for a symptom in the Everbridge app or you inform the Company of a pending COVID test or symptom, you will typically be placed into the “COVID protocol” which requires going through Harvey Watt and the PAC before returning to fly. It is likely you will be placed in NOQ status during this time.
As always, it is important for pilots to have a clear understanding of the MOU and CBA as we have seen instances of improper application at times by the Company. If you have questions, please submit a DART.
Some important things to remember about NOQ and Medical MOU pay protection:
- The Company is not providing access to any bid line adjustments (including participating in the View/Add Window) during this “NOQ” time.
- If you qualify for trip pay protection under the MOU, you must hold a guarantee for those trips. Note that DFT/VLT/AVA/MUS/MUV/CMU trips do not have a guarantee until the trip begins. In this scenario, if you are removed from a DFT/VLT/AVA/MUS/MUV/CMU trip that hasn’t blocked out yet, you will not be paid for the trip.
- If you are determined to be a positive case, you will get a letter from the PAC titled “MEDICAL ABSENCE INFORMATION AND RETURN TO WORK REQUIREMENTS.” This letter incorrectly says you will be placed in a PAY ONLY status for monthly bidding. Paragraph A of the Medical MOU says, “You will be eligible to bid for an actual line of flying.” This appears to be more of an incorrect letter from the PAC (that is very difficult to change for some reason) and not an actual incorrect procedure the Company is administering.
- A pilot can be awarded a secondary line; however, if the pilot is restricted from entering/transitioning an area (i.e., HKG and China), the pilot may not be assigned trips on the secondary line to those areas.
- Past positives will be restricted from flying into China and HKG for 90 days unless the early opt-in is used (FCIF 21-0012). Should you be awarded a regular trip with China or HKG on it during this time, you should expect to either be revised or placed in SUB.
- Pilot responds in the affirmative to a COVID symptom on the Everbridge app. Company places pilot in COVID protocol and NOQ status. Pilot gets a COVID test and while awaiting results, is removed from two trips. Results come in negative for COVID. The Company is currently treating as not pay protected per the MOU and personal sick hours (RSA/DSA) will be deducted for the trips. We have asked the Company to justify their position for this case as well.
- Pilot is asymptomatic and has a positive COVID test. Company places pilot in COVID protocol and NOQ status. Pilot gets a second test to confirm positive COVID and while awaiting second test results, View/Add window takes place and pilot cannot participate since NOQ. Second test comes back negative and pilot is returned to flight status.
- Pilot is asymptomatic and has a positive COVID test. Company places pilot in COVID protocol and NOQ status. Pilot is removed from trip which he has guarantee for. Follow up COVID test returns positive as well. Pilot is pay protected under MOU for up to 60 days and any sick hours initially lost are restored.
- Pilot accepts a “drop and draft” offer from CRS and drops his guaranteed regular line trip for a DFT trip. Pilot is asymptomatic and has a positive COVID test. Company places pilot in COVID protocol and NOQ status. Pilot is removed from DFT trip but is not pay protected since he had not blocked out yet.
The COVID Travel MOU allows for operational jumpseats in bidpack trips with limitations – particularly limiting the number of 767 jumpseats. It does not, however, affect revisions, x-pairings, or personal jumpseats. Although rarely used in pre-COVID times, it is important to note that business necessity deadheads on Company jumpseats are contractually allowed in some situations (8.A.3.c and 8.A.3.e).
When there is a revision, CRS is typically selecting the quickest/easiest solution, without doing what we would consider normal due diligence. Pilots should understand that they have a personal responsibility to verify things like fatigue mitigation, social distancing, and layover length/quality. The normal safety nets found in the bidpack process are not in place on revisions and X-pairings.
Captains should remember that they have the ability to turn off the “auto-approval” function in the Freebird Jumpseat system. Although the ability to have flexible jumpseating is a critical part of our job, during this time, reviewing each circumstance is important. Consider the equipment you are on, the length of the flight, and the destination. If your entire crew had to quarantine due to a positive case later discovered onboard, it may not be a big deal in Anchorage but it likely would be in Hong Kong.
Be proactive about finding a better solution. Often there are other legal flights with fewer jumpseaters and less potential for virus transmission or close contact labeling. If you discover a better plan (different deadhead flight, timing of deadhead, a jumpseat that would reduce crowding, etc), it is up to YOU to call the scheduler, file an INSITE or, if time is limited, contact the Duty Officer. Earlier action typically lends itself to better results. They have been receptive to alternative plans, but they do not always have the resources to generate said plans. In short, do not be shy about taking control of your own health and safety.
SYD POSITIVE/CLOSE CONTACT WHAT TO EXPECT
We had our first crew member test COVID positive in SYD recently.
- The positive crew member was placed in an efficiency-style housing and the two close contact crew members were placed at the Radisson Blu for their 14-day quarantine.
- Because FedEx rarely has flights departing SYD for the U.S., purple tail evacuation of close contacts should not be expected. If you are determined to be a close contact, you should expect to spend the 14 days in quarantine in country.
- Pre-flight COVID testing is encouraged before all trips when available. It is especially important to pre-test prior to flights departing for SYD or HKG where mandatory arrival testing is conducted and lengthy quarantines will be expected should a crew member test positive. Please consider taking advantage of all opportunities to test in these situations to protect your fellow crew members.
PFC COVID COUNTRY RULES AND CIQ PROCEDURES UPDATES
The Company updates the PFC COVID Country Rules and CIQ Procedures Cover Page on a frequent basis. Very recently, two key updates were made:
- A “pilot-friendly” flowchart was added to the Germany country page: https://pilot.fedex.com/m/fcifs/files/German-Entry-Flow-Chart.pdf
- An updated listing/map of COVID testing locations throughout Europe, with a hyperlink on the Cover Page: https://pilot.fedex.com/m/fcifs/files/EU-UK-Testing-Options.pdf.
SIN LOUNGE ACCESS
There was a recent incident where a crew member, being properly escorted by a SIN official to his deadhead passenger flight, was told he could utilize the airline lounge at the airport by the escort. This is incorrect. Crew members cannot utilize any airline lounges in SIN. Singapore is particularly sensitive to non-compliance with any directives. Please continue to review the CIQ for any changes.
Crewmembers continue to encounter problems on some international deadheads. In most cases, the airline agents are unaware of the exemptions allowed for crewmember travel. There is no easy way around this. You should be prepared for this and plan accordingly.
- Be sure to begin your review with the CIQ – rather than the ADDITIONAL RESOURCES tab – the CIQ typically contains all the information you need and should be reviewed before every flight – especially deadheads.
- Whenever possible, bring hard copies of letters and exemptions with typed entry where required
- Checking in with an actual agent at a desk rather than an online check-in reduces the chance of problems at boarding.
- Delta Airlines: We continue to get numerous reports of difficulty with Delta on international flights. It is best to have hard copies of any required exemption letters with typed entry (as opposed to handwritten) available. If you encounter a boarding issue while traveling on Delta, please politely ask the gate agent to contact their Global Assistance Center (GAC) or Airport Customer Service (ACS). If the issue is still not resolved, contact the DO immediately.
- Japan Deadheads: Some gate agents have requested a QR code for international deadheads. Refer to CIQ for updated details.
Please continue to file DARTs and INSITE reports. Because of the rapidly changing situations around the world, our COVID team depends on these crew member reports to let them know what is going on in the field.