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London, Wednesday 10-4-95 2100 local (Z+1)

This is basically a bitching, moaning, whining letter, written primarily because it is the only way I have of blowing off steam. I could go running - that would help - but I'm in London (at Heathrow, their main airport, in the Sheraton here) and the weather is typically English, cold and damp. I'm really not up to running in that. So, if you don't like being depressed or can't stand whining, read no further.

My displeasure with Tower Air's crew scheduling has reached new heights - or maybe that should be depths - and all I can do is grin and bear it, or as they say, bohica. If you're unfamiliar with the expression, it's an acronym. That's hard, though, when it's costing you time away from home and money to boot - all of which could have been avoided if they'd simply do their basic job. Oh, yes, and if they'd quit lieing to crew members. It would also be nice if they'd observe some basic courtesy. That, of course, is a rare commodity in New York, and all of our crew schedulers are New Yorkers. Perhaps the lies are are just incredible lapses of competence, but ...

bohica — bend over, here it comes again

Where to start. Okay, the Indian bureaucracy is particularly inflexible when it comes to visas, but even in their inflexibility, they don't require visas of airline crew members operating into their country. However, they do require visas of crew members coming in as passengers to operate a flight out of the country. This is something that Tower almost never does - commercial a crew member into India. Because of that and the fact that Tower does not reimburse crewmembers for visa processing fees, crew members are slow to get them even though, technically speaking, Tower requires them. I paid last month to get my Brazilian visa and would have gotten my Indian visa, but the visa service agency said there wasn't time to do both. Remember, when I'm working I have to have my passport with me. I can only send it off to get visas when it's guaranteed that I won't need it, i.e. I'm at home on my days off. Last month was the first time since I've been with Tower that I had enough time off to send my passport out for visas. I elected to get the Brazilian visa since I've been there a few times for Tower but have never yet been to India for them. It was a reasonable decision at the time, but in hindsight the wrong one. Anyway, I've been tripped up, and of course, crew scheduling can say that I should have had an Indian visa.

Tower got this quick, two month contract with Air India for some sub-service work - basically flying some of their flights into Frankfurt and Paris from Bombay and Delhi. Since I was on reserve (only because crew scheduling failed to get the bids out per schedule) I got assigned to this effort, which included an initial entry into India on a commercial flight. I informed a total of four crew schedulers that I did not yet have an Indian visa. The first told me that the Tower rep in London would take care of that. An outright lie. I now know Tower doesn't even have a rep in London. Some hours later, and again over the phone, I again alerted another crew scheduler. This one said simply that the problem would be taken care of down line. I show up at Tower for the start of the trip to India, again alert them, and am told that Air India will take care of everything. A few minutes later I again express my concern to a fourth crew scheduler and am told that they've had people get through without problem who had no visas - another outright lie as I find out later. In short, Tower's crew scheduling will tell you whatever they can to solve the immediate situation without regard to what problems will be caused down line.

I get to London, check into the hotel, and start asking around, phoning around trying to find out what the hell to do. I can't even reach the Indian Embassy...continual busy signal on the phone; I tried at least a dozen times. Finally, I just went to bed in frustration. I had, after all, been up all night on the airplane and then had to wait over an hour for a clean room to become available. So, I woke up about 1600 here and started tackling the problem again, first calling Tower crew scheduling. Guess what? They have now discovered that visas are absolutely necessary. So, what to do? As of this moment (and after several transatlantic phone calls and changes of plan) the results are:

[1] They're switching me with another f.o.(who has a visa) who was scheduled to have 39 hours layover in Delhi before operating. I was scheduled to have only 11. This gives them time to work on getting me there. However, the other f.o. (with whom I'm also traveling) is now pissed. He was also on reserve, but the schedule they gave him as far better than that they gave me (which is now his). It called for the same amount of flying (read "pay") but getting him out of India on the 10th. This now puts him out of India on my old schedule, on the 14th. So, if the switch actually goes through, he gets screwed.

[2] I'm supposed to be at the Indian Embassy when it first opens in the morning to try and get a visa here. Everyone here I've talked to has said that will not work. Indian consulates/embassies give visas only to people who reside in the jurisdiction assigned to them. Obviously a U.S. citizen is outside the assigned territory of their London Embassy. In fact, it appears that if I had used up a day to go the Indian consulate in New York , they probably would have told me I needed to apply through San Francisco since I live in New York. Incredible! This kind of stuff is why these visa service companies make money. They know all these rules, will use their own address where necessary, etc. The only trouble with using them is that they're expensive and it takes time to send/return stuff to/from them. At this point, however, I think they're well worth it. I'm planning on just absorbing that cost and having them get all required visas as soon as possible. I don't want another mess like this.

[3] I am, of course, the person who has "caused" the problem in Tower crew scheduling's view. It will be interesting to see what the fallout from that will be.

The best solution would be to commercial me to Amsterdam (there's a flight every hour during the day) and put me on one of Tower's regular Amsterdam to Bombay flights as an operating crew member. However, since crew scheduling did not think of that solution (and I didn't have enough sense not to mention it to them), it is precluded as a possible solution unless all else fails.

So, we'll see what happens. This hotel doesn't have a convenient phone hookup for my laptop, so this won't get sent until later. India doesn't allow network access unless you subscribe through an Indian company, so I also won't be sending from there. However, Frankfurt and Paris are civilized, and I'll hopefully be winding up at one of them sometime in the next few days.

In view of all the trouble I'm causing, I decided I should "hang out with the boys" to keep everybody posted and to minimize possible ill feelings. I'm just not cut out for "hanging out". First they started out at the hotel bar. I drank a coke. Next to a pub to eat and drink. C.J., you would have loved the place, lot's of atmosphere. It was an old farm house and stable converted. Actually a very cozy place to socialize and stay warm during a damp English night. I did manage to get down about a quarter of a "half pint" of beer with my meal. If they wouldn't make the stuff so damn bitter, I could handle it better. Also, it would be nice if the drug were a stimulant rather than a depressant. A depressant in this kind of weather just doesn't make sense to me. Back at the hotel they decided a before bed stop at the bar was in order. I passed. With the coke and the beer, I'm already committed to at least three times up tonight to empty my bladder, probably four.

The sad thing is that if crew scheduling had given me all the options over the phone, none of this would have happened. The only real reason they scheduled us to overnight here was to avoid paying us extended duty for the flight to Bombay. After I got here, I found out one of the captains elected to waive the extended duty pay. That allowed him to leave the U.S. 24 hours later and skip the overnight here. Had I known I could do that, I would have had time to run home rather than pay for 2 nights at JFK, and, by the time I came through Tower at New York, they would have gotten the word that visas were, indeed, absolutely essential.

Enough...tomorrow will be a better day, or at least there is some small chance of that...Terry


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