Below is a message that Council 123 recently published to their members. We feel it is important for our members to be aware of this information as well.
The company recently added a sentence to the FDA LOA Q&A concerning the policy for the relocation of spouse and children. Below is the Q&A #3.1 (emphasis added by me):
3.1 Do I have to relocate my family to an FDA to be eligible for the Housing Allowance?
Yes, you and your family must relocate by establishing and maintaining a permanent residence as outlined in the FDA LOA in order to receive the Enhanced Option housing allowance. Understanding that sometimes the timing of a move overseas can be challenging (e.g., end of school year for children, spouse’s jobs, etc.), we are flexible on this but only to a certain point. As long as the pilot has relocated to the FDA and has satisfied all the other requirements for the housing allowance, and with
prior written approval of your Fleet Captain, he is eligible for the housing allowance for up to 90 days even though his family is not living with him in the FDA. If the pilot's family does not arrive during his grace period, the pilot will be required to repay the housing allowance he received and will not be eligible for the housing allowance until his family arrives in the FDA. The pilot should complete the FDA Housing Allowance Claim Form and explain his circumstances, including the prior approval from his Fleet Captain. Once the pilot's family arrives, the pilot should submit a new Housing Allowance Claim Form with the updated information concerning his family's residence in the FDA. Please be aware the company will conduct periodic random audits to ensure compliance with the FDA LOA. If, immediately prior to establishing your primary residence in the FDA, you resided in a state that prohibits discrimination in employment based on marital status or parenthood, your spouse and dependent children are not required to also establish their primary residence with you in the FDA.
The last sentence was inserted into the Q&A without communication from the Company to ALPA. Once ALPA found it, we engaged the company for clarification. The company provided the following information:
We’re writing to inform you about a change we’ve made to our FDA policy for pilots who elect to receive the housing allowance specified in Section C.2.d. of the FDA LOA. For pilots residing in states that have laws relating to marital and familial discrimination, the Company will no longer require a pilot’s spouse or dependent children to relocate with him or her as a prerequisite for receiving the housing allowance. This change can be found on the FDA LOA Questions and Answers webpage.
It is our belief that this policy change should not fundamentally impact pilot behavior when deciding whether or not to seek the housing allowance. The purpose of the housing allowance is to provide a subsidy for pilots who actually reside in the FDA. The substantive rules surrounding housing allowance eligibility have not changed. To be eligible for the housing allowance, the pilot must still establish, occupy, and maintain a permanent primary residence within 100 miles of the FDA base (and in the same country as the base itself). Moreover, a pilot is still subject to an assessment pursuant to Section 6.G. of the Agreement if there is a question whether the pilot has actually established a permanent, primary residence in the FDA. Simply put, regardless of whether a pilot’s spouse or dependent children elect to stay in the US or move to the FDA, under the new policy it is still a crew member’s responsibility to actually establish a permanent, primary residence in the FDA to be eligible for the housing allowance.
We’re certainly aware of the sensitivity surrounding this issue within the crew force. This change is a result of discussions we’ve engaged in with the State of Alaska regarding a legal action that was recently dismissed. While we don’t think the old rule was unlawfully discriminatory, we thought this change was appropriate to resolve that matter and in light of similar laws in a number of states. Regardless, we should have been more diligent in informing you of this change in policy as we worked through this issue. We apologize for that.
Going forward, we want to make our expectations as clear as possible. To that end, we’re already in discussions with your ALPA representatives to discuss the framing of objective criteria to give pilots a comprehensive understanding of what it means to establish a permanent primary residence in the FDA. Regardless of how those discussions turn out, honesty remains the best policy. If you have any questions about whether you are eligible for the housing allowance, please bring those to the Company either through your ALPA representation or by submitting an Insite ticket.
Your ALPA Negotiating Committee is engaging the company now to clarify the “new policy” and its application as well as looking at alternatives to satisfy the requirements to receive the housing allowance moving forward. These talks are ongoing, but if any pilots have questions in the interim, please initially contact the PAC to receive clarification.
While ALPA engages with the Company on this overall issue, we (ALPA) can also try and provide assistance to individual circumstances, with all of us recognizing this is a fluid situation. We are asking for your input on the overall issue as well. You are the ones who are potentially most affected by this change and we would like to hear the ideas, scenarios, and general questions you have. Your input will better inform our opinion for any future agreement as well as produce what-ifs that we might not have thought of. Please approach us when you see us or drop us an email and we will get in touch with you. Thank you in advance for your help.