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PmUA Procedures

Sun Feb 21, 2016 5:36 am

First of all, I don't want this to be a UA vs. CO thread. I have had wonderful experiences with both.

I've heard references to pmUA's operating procedures being different than other carriers' in many ways, and I was wondering in what ways.

On an LAX-DEN-LHR-LAX trip in 2009, I noticed two things that really impressed me about UA. First, as a physician, I've assisted with or witnessed in-flight medical emergencies on four different carriers. All handled the events with strong professionalism. One occurred during that trip and resulted in a diversion. In addition to professionalism, the flight attendants were very organized, with a very clear chain of command and individual responsibilities that each handled in a very organized, efficient, and effective manner.

Also, when listening to channel 9 through very intense turbulence, the controller was offering pilots the choice to "punch through" or "fly around" a bad patch. The UA
crews in the area consistently chose to "fly around", while most others chose to "punch through".

This professionalism (both with pmUA and pmCO teams) on the ground and in the air is especially impressive.

How have UA's SOPs (before and after the merger) differed from those of most other carriers, and do they tend to be more cautious/conservative ?

Thanks in advance!

[Edited 2016-02-20 21:58:40]
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barney captain
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RE: PmUA Procedures

Sun Feb 21, 2016 8:34 am

While I can't speak for specific UA/PmUA guidance, I can offer this - it's quite likely a crew decision over any specific policy.

Quite frankly, some crews are quite content riding out areas of turb while others are not. On longhauls, the change in altitude vs fuel burn is obviously a consideration. Personally for me, I will do whatever it takes to ensure the smoothest ride. Sometimes there isn't much you can do and the best course of action is to "punch through". But if it's clear that the ride will be lousy for most of the flight, I pick a better altitude. Case in point, SFO-SAN recently had horrible rides at anything above FL180. We did the whole flight at 15000 ft. Beautiful view and a nice ride. We burned some extra fuel but it was absolutely worth it.  
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RE: PmUA Procedures

Sun Feb 21, 2016 8:50 am

Quoting uclax (Thread starter):
Also, when listening to channel 9 through very intense turbulence, the controller was offering pilots the choice to "punch through" or "fly around" a bad patch. The UA
crews in the area consistently chose to "fly around", while most others chose to "punch through".
Quoting barney captain (Reply 1):
Quite frankly, some crews are quite content riding out areas of turb while others are not. On longhauls, the change in altitude vs fuel burn is obviously a consideration


While certainly you can fly around, sometimes that will take you dozens miles out of your way. If you can just just punch through and accept the bumps for 20 minutes that is often a good option.

Aside from that, sometimes you make what seems like a good decision with the information you had at the time, but it eventually turns out that you should have done something different. Neither controllers nor pilots have a crystal ball.

There are also airspace/traffic considerations. Sometimes you want another, hopefully smoother, level, but it is already occupied.

None of us will fly knowingly through turbulence severe enough that it will put the aircraft at risk. But the aircraft can take levels of turbulence that would make most passengers (and not a few pilots) crap themselves with fear. So making the decision to punch through isn't something that increases the risk. It just increases the discomfort.
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RE: PmUA Procedures

Thu Feb 25, 2016 10:25 am

One major difference was that UA stayed sterile to 18,000 feet, instead of 10,000 feet.
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RE: PmUA Procedures

Fri Feb 26, 2016 5:31 pm

With regards to the international flight attendants dealing with problems, they tend to be very good. I would not say that United was more cautious or conservative. United actual has less layers of leadership than many. Many international airlines have four different ranks, with a manager, one or two assistant managers, lead/senior/business/first class crew and then standard crew. I believe United has one lead and then different positions with each cabin having a galley lead type roll to coordinate the service. There may or may not be a language qualification on your flight.

What you see on United as well as Delta and American is that the international crews tend to be very senior. This also makes them very experienced. That experience often pays off when there is a medical emergency or some other issue like a diversion. All of the senior crew have been through this type of event before and know what to do and what their functions are. The purser/inflight service manager tends to be very experienced and a good leader. So while United won't have four different colored uniforms like SQ and CX, you will have an organization structure based on positions and an experienced crew.

Many people on this forum post bad comments about UA's flight attendants because they don't like how senior UA's staff is on international flights. For long haul flights other than west coast 787 flying and some EWR trips, UA's flight attendants are all 40+ years old with 20+ years of seniority. Some people prefer the younger and more energetic crews found on some other airlines, but when it comes to medical emergencies and problems, I would almost always prefer the crews at UA, DL or AA.
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RE: PmUA Procedures

Sun Feb 28, 2016 5:48 pm

One thing is that the majors all have contracts with Drs on the ground that they can radio patch to the flight deck if someone is experiencing a medical problem.

For example, when I dispatched at AWE in PHX a decade ago, we had a contract with MedLink, out of the PHX Good Samaritan hospital. We'd get a medlink patch request from a flight and they would get a Dr on the line and diagnose the problem. Medink would have the inflight manuals for all their subscriber airlines so they would know in what First Aid Kit the BP cuffs were, or where the atropine was. If the DR recommended a diversion, as a dispatcher, I would then work with the crew to get to the quickest place that had the best medical care the passenger/patient needed.

Once we made the decision to divert to X for medical, Medlink would notify the hospital of an inbound passenger with a heart problem, or whatever. and they would arrange for the ambulance, and the ramp access at the airport for the ambulance. Medlink had the database that had all of the Drs in such and such a city and they would know where to go for a heart problem, or a seizure or whatever.

I worked 3 Medlink-assisted diversions.

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