(AOS) PBS Bidding – One Strategy Out of Many
This document is intended as an aid for Compass Flight Attendants to assist in the creating of their monthly PBS bid using the current AOS system. It is based on ‘one of many’ strategies that can be used when creating a bid.
PBS bidding is often considered ‘difficult and frustrating’ by many FAs when creating their monthly bid. Because of this frustration, many FAs throw their hands in the air and leave it up to the PBS system to dictate much of their schedule.
As with any PBS strategy, seniority is the greatest asset in creating a favorable schedule. However, every month we see junior Flight Attendants out bidding senior ones, attaining schedules that come close to capturing their desired preferences. The difference is in the quality of the bids. Often times the junior flight attendants have are more motivated to take the time to try and understand PBS and its logic.
For those FAs who are willing to put a little thought and effort into their bidding, there is the potential to outbid senior flight attendants who desire similar types of trips. FAs who want the best chance at a good schedule need to be Pro Active with their bidding, not Reactive.
Remember PBS is a ‘preferred’ bid system and by definition is not an ‘absolute’ bid system. Everyone’s bid will have an impact on every other flight attendants available pool of trips. The more time and effort you put into understanding the PBS system, the better your results will be.
There are different strategies for bidding and the following is just one:
The PBS systems ‘logic’ is different than what many FA’s assume it to be. Most think that the most senior Flight Attendant’s line is created in full before moving down the list to the next most senior FA, who’s line is then created in full, and then moving down again and again from there. That is not how to view the process using this particular strategy.
It is true that the most senior flight attendant will get exactly what they want, ‘if’ they have put all of their desired selections on the first layer. If they use any of the following layers (2-7) to select specific trips or preferences, they risk losing a desired trip to someone lower in seniority that has placed that same choice on an earlier layer than the senior FA.
In this strategy we will use a logic that is based on the perspective that Flight Attendant lines are created one layer at a time, and not one flight attendant at a time. Although this logic appears to contradict some of the online documentation, it has worked for a number of flight attendants.
Using this bidding logic: The PBS system goes through everyone’s first layer and ‘prioritizes and awards specific pairings’ on a seniority basis. The pairings awarded for each line are based solely on the layers preferences as entered by the FAs. These layer pairings are awarded before PBS considers any stated preferences for subsequent layers. Once PBS has completed prioritizing the first layer and awarded pairings, it continues layer by layer, in order, and does the same thing, until all of the lines are built.
Using this strategy we will be assuming that Flight Attendants build most or all of their line from preferences that they have placed on their first layer, while many others using more traditional approaches see their line built from multiple layers. You can observe this in the Monthly PBS Awards packet that is sent out each month. Under each pairing awarded is a code that states what layer the pairing is from or if a trip was assigned by PBS because an FA was too limiting in their bid. (The code: ‘P’ refers to preference. For Example: P1 and P4 show that a pairing was awarded on Preference Layer 1 or Preference Layer 4. ‘C’ indicates a trip was entered by PBS when it could not successfully complete a line because there were not enough trips available in a Flight Attendants trip pool.)
To make this specific strategy work for you, you need to place your most desired preferences on the first layer along with other preferences that you would be OK with. Your intent should be to create a large enough pool of trips on your first few layers to go past the percentage that you are bidding at. Overshoot your percentage. Percentage is not a perfect indicator that the PBS system has enough options in your trip pool to accomplish a full bid based on your preferences.
This strategy is different than the one often taught where the goal is to build your percentages more slowly and reach your bid percentage by the last couple of layers.
The following are a few basic elements that should be present and consistent across every layer in your monthly bid.
- Work Block Size: This is how many days you would like to work in a row before your days off begin. The PBS default is 6 and can be adjusted down. The lower the number of duty days you are willing to work in a row lowers the number of trips available for your bid.
- Minimum Days off between work blocks: This is how many days off that you would like in a row before you begin your next work block. The PBS default is 2 and it can be adjusted down to 1. Adjusting to 1 will increase the number of trips available for your bid.
- Target Line Credit: How many hours do you want to work in a month? By default PBS will always give you a range of hours based on the systems minimum that the company controls (usually 75 or 80) up to the maximum that is stated in the bid packet emailed to you from Jeff Bosch. The contract limits the ceiling to 105 hours.
If you do not put in a target credit line, PBS will give you a range of 75/80 to 105 hours by default. You cannot bid less than the posted minimum. If you do, PBS will throw out the lower end of what you want.
When bidding a target line credit range, allow at least 5 hours difference between your lower and upper limits. If there is no credit range difference between the lowest and the highest range, PBS will likely throw out your range (because it is looking for a combination of trips that exactly matches your preference. That is almost impossible to do. If you do not supply a valid range, PBS will default back to the 75/80 –Max range from the Bid Packet.
Bidding a credit range can help offset the number of extra hours that can turn up in FA bids.
Be sure that you have all of the parameters mentioned above checked for all 7 layers and not just a few. Stay consistent with your preferences. Example: If you tell PBS you want 2 days off in a row on the first 2 layers, and then 3 on the next couple and then back to 1 on the final layers, PBS will probably throw this parameter out. If you enter contradictory preferences over multiple layers, PBS will eliminate the error by not considering it for your award.
Some additional basic parameters that you might want to consider including in your bid:
- Minimum Average Credit: What is the lowest number of block hours that you would prefer in a duty day? The lower the number the more trips that are available to your bid. Especially with the new pilot regulations affecting the FA group and the less productive pairings that we are seeing.
- Max Layover: This tells PBS what the highest number of hours that you want to be on the ground between duty periods on a trip. This parameter can be used to help you eliminate or bid for full day sits on a trip. To try and avoid the full day sits bid 22 hours or less.
- Max Credit: Tells PBS to give you the highest credit trips available for your bid. Increases efficiency and can help you maximize the number of days off.
- Pairing Length Preferences: What length of trip would you like to fly? You bid this parameter as a range. Example: Do you prefer only 4 to 5 day trips, or other types of trips. 1 to 5 day trips allow for all possibilities. Tip: If a trip is 2 days or more, your take home pay will be greater because of non-taxed per diem. The Pairing Length Preference can be directly affected by your preferred work block size. Example: With a preferred work block size of up to 4 days, you can prefer pairing lengths of 1 to 4 day trips. If Pairing Length Preferences was stated as 5 day trips only, you would need to adjust your Preferred Work Block size to 5 days otherwise PBS would see a conflict and throw one of the preferences out.
- Days Off: Tells PBS to maximize your days off while still respecting your other parameters. This is similar to Max Credit in that you are telling PBS to maximize the efficiency for the trips that are available for your line.
- Max landings: What are the maximum landings that you prefer if available? The higher the number, the more trips PBS will have available for you.
A few other things to consider when bidding:
Take the time to go through the PBS documentation (Located in the PBS menu on the left or on the AFA Compass web site). It might seem like a chore, but if you make the effort, you can out bid a number of FAs that are senior to you that will not make a similar effort. It might take a couple of times going through the document to get a handle on some of it but the benefits to you are well worth it. Just understanding some of the parameters and logic gives you a leg up on others.
Review your ‘View Pairing Set’ for each layer after you have completed your bid, and before you walk away from PBS. The Pairing Set includes all of the pairings that you bid for based on the preferences that you gave PBS. Look for conflicts with your intended days off.
A number of FAs are disappointed or upset every month with what they get, but in most cases they actually bid the very pairings that they are upset about. The View Pairing Set will show you the pool of trips that you have bid for with your stated preferences and allows you the opportunity to correct your bid.
On the other side of the coin, some FAs are upset for not getting what they wanted, especially if they were awarded to someone junior. When their bids are reviewed, we often find that they never allowed for the pairings to be considered by PBS, or had them appear on a lower preference level giving others a first shot at them.
In the View Pairing Set Look for:
- Pairings that you want but do not appear in your Pairings Set
- Pairings that you do not want but are appearing in the Pairings Set
- Pairings that conflict with your desired days off
If any of these situations present themselves you will need to review how you are bidding. Also notice what layers your desired pairings show up on. Remember, the later they show up the less chance you have of getting them.
Before each bid, check the bid packet to see what type of trips the majority of the pairings are going to be. Be realistic as to what you might get for your level of seniority. Example: If the bid packet shows only 15-Two Day trips for the month and you are bidding in the middle or lower of seniority at a base, you should not expect any of them to be left available for your pool of trips. Go ahead and bid the Two Days, some could still fall through to you, but make sure that you are protecting yourself in your first few layers by expanding your preferences.
After Bidding Closes and the Lines are Awarded:
- Review your bid in PBS by checking the PBS Line Award link. Like the Award Packet that Jeff sends out, it will show you what layers your bid was created from. If much of your line was created from later layers, such as 5, 6 and 7 try and increase the number of acceptable parameters on your first few layers the next bid period. If you are showing any pairings with a C, then PBS has placed pairings on your line as a result of you not having given yourself a large enough pool of trips for PBS to create a schedule.
- Review your PBS Reasons report. This report will provide the reasons why you did not get some of your choices.
There are instances where you bid perfectly but still got an unexpected C trip. Those are usually additional trips that the company has pushed on FAs because of short staffing.
Periodically take a look at the lines awarded to FAs above and below you in seniority. Review the monthly awards that were mentioned previously. If you see that a number of senior FAs are not bidding a specific type of trip, consider focusing on that type of trip to create a larger pool of trips that could be available for you.
Also look at the FAs below you to see if someone has ‘done better’ than you, by your standards. If they have, it would be time for you to reconsider how you are bidding. Remember, you had the first chance at getting their schedule.
If you like how you bid one month you can roll over the same parameters to the new month using the Add button in Previous Bid. That will save you from recreating the whole bid again.
Review your standing bid to ensure it reflects your current preferences in case you forget to bid at some point in the future.