How I Got a Bigger Battery for My Nissan LEAF…for Free

Unlike the lithium-ion batteries in Teslas and some other electric vehicles, Nissan chose a cheaper, easier to manufacture battery for the LEAF that does not have a thermal management system. These batteries worked okay in cooler climates, but they often degraded quickly in hot climates such as Texas.

Anticipating this problem to some extent, Nissan conveniently added a battery degradation meter on the dashboard. It shows how much of the original capacity the battery still retains. LEAF owners watch that bar very carefully. As the battery loses capacity, the 12 bars gradually disappear. Once the meter gets down to 8 bars, if you’re still within the time and mileage specified in the warranty, Nissan promises to repair or replace the battery at no charge. For my 2016 LEAF SL with the 30 kWh battery, the warranty was good for 8 years or 100,000 miles.

I lost my fourth bar after 42,682 miles and less than four years, all spent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where summer highs top 100 degrees several days each year. On Day 1, I had maybe 107 miles of range when fully charged. By the end, the real-world range had dropped to 65-75 miles, a drop of 30-40 percent. I lost a bar about every 10,000 miles. For comparison, after about 36,000 miles, my Tesla Model 3 has lost maybe 4-5 percent of its original range, thanks to the thermal management system.

LEAF Instrument Panel

The meter on the far right shows battery degradation (8 bars out of 12). The larger meter to its left shows the current state of charge (full) and estimated range (80).

Excited to get a new battery but a little worried about whether the Nissan dealer would cooperate or turn this into a giant hassle, I took the car to Don Davis Nissan in Arlington. They kept it for a few days to run some diagnostics. I was disappointed but not surprised to find that neither of the two service advisors actually knew much about the LEAF or understood the battery degradation issue. Even the “certified LEAF technician” didn’t understand the degradation meter. I quietly hoped that this particular tech would NOT be the one who installed my new battery.

Finally they realized that yes, there are indeed only eight capacity bars left and I did qualify for a new battery. Then Nissan corporate approved it and ordered it for the dealer. Woohoo! It arrived at Don Davis a few days later, much earlier than expected. They took a day to install and charge it. So I got a brand-new battery for free. But that’s not the best part.

Nissan no longer replaces the 30 kWh battery with the same 30 kWh battery for these warranty claims. Instead, they install a 40 kWh battery. So I got an even bigger battery for free. Officially it’s 10 kWh bigger, but range increase is even higher than I’d expected. Right now my effective range seems to be 155-165 miles! Compared to the old and busted battery, the new one has more than doubled our effective range.


New battery shows all 12 bars and greatly improved range

In my one-year update on the LEAF back in 2017, I came down pretty hard on Nissan about the battery degradation issue. The LEAF was a good car with a big flaw, at least for drivers in hot climates. Yet despite my frustrations and fears, I must praise and thank Nissan corporate for not only honoring the warranty, but actually giving me a better replacement battery than they had promised. Going from 75 miles of range to over 150 is a game changer and makes the car much more usable. Thank you, Nissan.

Finally, for my LeafSpy friends, here are some of my stats by the end of the old 30 kWh battery with 8 bars and for the new 40 kWh battery with 12 bars:

Data Point 30 kWh (8 bars) 40 kWh (12 bars)
AHr 51.79 838.86
SOH 65.16% 99.71%
V 378.30 402.66
Hx 32.72% 280.00%
QC 6 6
L1/L2 1111 1117

Coronacation 2020

My older son Brenden says I need to blog more, so…

As you probably know, COVID-19 has decimated the airline industry, among all the other havoc it’s wrought. Compared to last year, the TSA is screening about 95 percent fewer passengers each day, sometimes under 100,000 people nationwide. Southwest is hemorrhaging cash. Instead of our normal 4000-ish daily flights, we’re operating around 1000 and have parked a couple hundred aircraft. Even with the drastically reduced scheduled, our flights are still mostly empty. Currently the dispatch department is paying everyone their full salary but only staffing about half the desks to aid in social distancing.

Needless to say, this isn’t sustainable.

Fortunately, the changes at work have limited the spread. We’ve only had one confirmed case in our office, and it happened in March. However, it’s still strange and sad to see our headquarters look like a ghost town as the non-operational employees work from home and only half the operational ones are there. I dispatched an Oakland to Honolulu flight last week that had two passengers. That works out to two flight attendants for each passenger.

To preserve cash during this jaw-dropping downturn in travel, Southwest is offering its employees the chance to stay home for a month at a time with full benefits and a fraction of their salary. They’re calling it Emergency Time Off (ETO). After doing the math and discussing it with Jenny, I volunteered for May. As of April 26, I am on coronacation™ for six weeks. I return to work June 8.

Yes, this is going to sting, but we’ll be okay. I’m grateful to still have a job. Over 26 million people have lost theirs over the last few weeks.

Southwest in Crisis Mode

I started at Southwest in June 2001, fresh out of college as a rookie technical writer in the IT department. A few months later, another event shocked the industry and evaporated demand for air travel: September 11. All commercial flights were grounded for two days. Nobody knew whether people would want to fly again after that. Millions of people canceled their flight reservations. At any other airline, I would have been laid off immediately. But Southwest doesn’t believe in layoffs. Our leaders let me and every other employee keep our jobs, even though they knew the risk. By taking care of their people, they won my loyalty for life. And over time, people starting flying again.

This year, Southwest is facing the biggest challenge in our history. My coronacation is a little way for me to give back to the company that saved my career and has been so good to my family over the last 18+ years.

Life Before and After COVID-19

So…now what?

My pre-rona life was a lot more hectic. I worked a lot of overtime trying to chip away at the mortgage, save up for travel, pay down one car or save up for the next one, fund house projects, and save for the boys’ college. When I wasn’t at work, I drove the boys to and from the pool, watched their meets, stayed in shape by running and cycling, helped out around the house, and tried to get enough sleep. It was a nice life but very busy. When I had a day off that didn’t involve a meet or a family event, I felt a little guilty and disappointed that I wasn’t working overtime to get ahead. I’m supposed to be productive, dangit!

Enter COVID-19.

Only half of the scheduled dispatchers actually come in to work so we can have an empty desk in between each of us. Open shifts are covered not by overtime, but by the on-call people, so overtime is all but gone until this passes. I only worked 8 shifts in April. I was on-call for several other shifts but only got activated once.

The virus has impacted each person in their own way. It forced me to slow down, to breathe, to relax, to reevaluate my life and how I spend my time and what my priorities are.

Despite the stay-at-home order and various nagging questions, this has actually been nice. Our kids have a weekday routine – breakfast, workout, school, lunch, clean something, free time / family time, dinner. The boys no longer have swim/dive practice in the evening, so we can relax and hang out instead of driving back and forth to the pool three times each evening. I run or ride three times a week but don’t have to squeeze them after work or on a rare day off. I sleep more and am less irritable as a result. Jenny and I go on walks and talk and catch Pokemon. We taught the boys how to play spades and got smoked by them in Super Smash Bros. I introduced them to a couple of my favorite movies. We might do a Lord of the Rings movie marathon like Jenny and I did before the boys came along. I cleaned out and reorganized the garage and linen closet, knocked out the huge pile of filing I’d put off for far too long, and diagnosed and replaced a bad circuit breaker that was turning off our fridge. I’ve FaceTimed with my mom and my 93-year-old grandfather. I finished a fascinating book called A Woman of No Importance, which is about an American woman with one leg that served as an amazingly effective spy in France during World War II. My next goal is to finally finish reading the novel version of Les Miserables (too many words, Victor Hugo!!!), the basis of my favorite musical. I also hope to dust off my guitar and see if my fingers still work.

The other day I ate lunch alone on the porch – no electronics reminding me that society is collapsing, no one to talk to, just me and a gorgeous spring day. The sun was out. A healthy breeze rustled the trees, shimmering in various shades of green and full of life. A pair of beautiful red-shouldered hawks swooped in and perched on our fence. That brief half-hour of quiet reminded me that life is indeed going on, even with the deadly virus, and that I get to choose what to focus on.

This feels a bit like retirement, except that my kids are still young and my body still works. So although it won’t be much fun financially, I am grateful for the opportunity to help Southwest and to spend so much time relaxing and enjoying life with my family as we try to stay healthy and sane.

On the bright side, it’s easier to save money when you aren’t supposed to do anything. We had booked and largely paid for a summer camp for the boys and a trip to San Francisco for us in early June. COVID-19 has canceled both of them, which (sadly) freed up some funds. Their swim and dive clubs are on hiatus, which saves cash. We’re deferring expenses, canceling extra mortgage payments, eating out much less, reducing our contributions to the boys’ college funds, and burning some of our savings that we can use to get through May.

I’m also well aware that we’re in an extraordinarily privileged position just to have the option to help my employer survive by taking a month off.

The boys are taking it pretty well. Jonathan, our social butterfly, really misses people. Jenny and I are trying to accommodate him by spending time with him each day – cards, chess, video games, bike rides, trampoline time, art projects. Brenden, our introvert, doesn’t feel as lonely but laments that he hasn’t been inside another building besides our house in over a month. Both miss being in the pool. In a pleasant surprise, they’re spending more time playing with each other. Sometimes it’s Minecraft or Super Smash Bros. Sometimes they just hang out on the trampoline, talking and batting a ball around. They’re having little trouble with online learning except for occasionally overlooking an assignment, which Jenny and I try to catch.

Jenny is a little stir-crazy. She’s reading a lot (thank you, Kindle Unlimited!), working on some art, and trying to keep the boys on track. She hits the grocery store every 7-10 days, trying to make each visit count. She and her family send each other short video updates via the Marco Polo app to stay in touch. Since her hospital has banned in-person classes, she and her partner are converting most of her classes to online format via Zoom. Her first one was the full-day childbirth class earlier this month, and it actually worked fairly well.

So in a nutshell, we’re doing okay.

Questions That Make Me Squirm

Although this time isn’t all bad by any means, some dark and uncomfortable questions bubble up throughout the day. Questions like:

  • The big one that few want to consider: what if we never find a way to become immune? What if there is no protective immunity after one gets the disease? Despite our hopes and assumptions, so far there’s little evidence of it in people who have recovered. What if herd immunity isn’t possible? What if we never develop a vaccine? Some viruses still don’t have a vaccine despite years of effort, including norovirus, RSV, MERS, the Epstein-Barr virus, and HIV. Flu has one, but since the virus mutates so much, we have to keep getting flu vaccines annually, and each year’s formula never works 100 percent effectively.
  • How and when will the economy recover from this? How many jobs will never return, particularly in small business, brick-and-mortar retail, restaurants, bars, clubs, live sporting events, concerts, and other sectors that bring together large groups of people?
  • Will people ever want to fly again at the same level they did before? What would make them feel safe enough and confident enough to get back on an airplane? Will Southwest need to shrink permanently? If so, how many of my friends, including people I’ve trained, will lose their jobs? That will be the last resort, but Southwest can’t go on like this forever. For many of us, dispatching for Southwest is our dream job, and I want every one of our new folks to stay if possible.
  • Will it ever be safe to hug my grandparents again?

Reasons to Hope

Despite these worries about things I can’t control, all is not lost. People have come together to fight this disease like I’ve never seen. Healthy people are choosing to stay home, keeping their distance, and wearing masks to protect others. Essential employees put their lives at risk every day to treat the sick, keep the lights on, fly vital supplies and workers to the people that need them, and keep food in everyone’s bellies. We’re learning about who we are, what’s important, and where we are vulnerable. And a lot of really smart people are working hard to end this crisis with the least possible damage. We are a strong species. We learn, adapt, and persevere. And we’re not giving up.

Stay safe, everyone. And wash your hands.

Blog Soup 11/19/2012

Happy Thanksgiving, in case you don’t hear from me again this week. I wish you all mountains of sweet potatoes. With marshmallows. And no nuts. Here is today’s Blog Soup (r).

  • My Baylor Bears have had a disappointing season. When you combine one of the best offenses in college football with one of the worst defenses, you get a mediocre, .500-level team. So this weekend’s matchup between Baylor and BCS #1 Kansas State should have been a walkover for the Wildcats. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the Bears. Our offense took care of business as usual, and our much-maligned defense finally showed up. Final score: 52-24 Baylor, the first time we have ever beaten a #1-ranked team. SIC ‘EM!
  • I’m disappointed by the huge amount of media attention that the General Petraeus affair is getting. Yes, he made a mistake and owned up to it. Yes, affairs are bad news for all concerned. However, don’t we have more important issues to discuss than a guy who was cheating on his wife, even if that man happens to be in a high-level position? It’s like every newspaper in the country has turned into National Enquirer. The French are laughing at us.
  • Also on the Petraeus scandal…although I like to think that I am a strong person with high morals who can resist temptation, I’m only human. As such, I’m very glad that I am fortunate enough to live in the same home with my wife and kids instead of being stationed on the other side of the world for months at at time in a hostile environment. My freedom to do so results largely from the members of our military who volunteered to serve. I can only imagine how difficult a long deployment must be on our military personnel, especially those with spouses and children. A long absence certainly doesn’t excuse cheating, but in my mind it makes cheating easier to understand.
  • It was interesting to see a company (Hostess) cease operations due to a worker strike. Yes, I’ve laughed at the Twinkie memes circulating on Facebook, but the death of Hostess means thousands of people lost their jobs. Apparently the bakers found the struggling company’s contract proposal so unpleasant that the job just wasn’t worth it anymore. If your employer was trying to force pay, benefit, and work rule concessions on you, at what point would you choose to walk out? Would it make a difference if walking out meant burning down the entire company?
  • I can’t remember the last time I ate a Twinkie. I like Zingers, though. My coworkers run an honor-system concession stand in our office called the Recession Concession that sells various snacks and soft drinks. The day Hostess shut down, there was a run on Zingers, and I didn’t get to pick up a final package of them. I’ll bet I could find some on eBay. UPDATE: Recession Concession now has a limited supply of Zingers. Due to the shortage, the price has climbed from $0.75 to $8.00. I call shenanigans.
  • The U.S. government might stand with Israel, but I do not. Most Americans, particularly American Christians, seems to blindly support Israel because they view it as God’s chosen people. I disagree. The Jews might be God’s chosen people according to the Bible, but the modern nation of Israel was created by Western powers after World War II by, in many cases, displacing a people-group that had been on the land for generations. Yes, that is greatly oversimplified, but that’s basically how it went. The displaced people were robbed of their land by the West because they weren’t strong enough to resist. After the initial allocation, Israel gradually seized more of the Palestinians’ land, as shown here. As a result, the two sides have been fighting ever since. Both the Israeli government and the Palestinians have performed terrible acts that could be defined as terrorism. Both sides have rivers of blood on their hands. Yet our government props up one side with billions of dollars, military equipment, and other aid because we think we need an ally in the region. That support is one reason that many Muslim extremists hate our nation. As for the modern nation of Israel’s being God’s chosen people, also note that the nation today is not exclusively Jewish, partly because some of the displaced Arabs decided to stick around. It’s a melting pot, like most countries in a sense. I hurt for the millions of people caught in the crossfire on both sides, especially those who have been injured or have lost loved ones in this senseless, decades-old conflict. I wish our nation were energy independent so we didn’t feel the need to be involved in the Middle East. And I wish our government could understand a simple truth: we cannot fix the Middle East. Want to end anti-U.S. terrorism? Withdrawing all troops and foreign aid from all Middle Eastern countries would go a really long way toward that goal.
  • If the people (not the word I originally used, but I’m trying to be nice) who are petitioning for Texas to secede somehow win, which is impossible without a civil war, Jenny and I would be tempted to move. Likely destinations include Missouri, Washington, or Oregon. The biggest problems would be leaving our friends and family and giving up my awesome job. As tempting as Seattle or Portland might be to me, I hope this doesn’t happen.
  • I downloaded the latest album by British indie-rock band Florence and the Machine called Ceremonials. It is fantastic. You should buy it.
  • On a related note, do people still buy CDs anymore? I don’t buy much music, to be fair, but I really cannot remember the last time I bought an actual CD rather than simply downloading it. It might have been a few years ago when I picked up something on clearance at the Virgin Megastore (remember that place?) at Grapevine Mills.

Blog Stew 9/27/2012

Hmm…Blog Stew…I think I’ll make that a new category for my random thought posts. Sounds tasty! Blog stew is great for those days when I don’t have the idea, time, or motivation to write a long, thoughtful post on a specific topic. Those do take a lot of work, and no matter the topic, it’s sure to only interest some of you. It’s much easier to throw a bunch of different things together in the old Crock Pot and let it simmer. I hope you will find a few interesting morsels.

  • Don’t get too excited yet since we haven’t played any big-time schools, but so far the nation’s top college quarterback in total offense per game attends a little school in Waco, Texas. Sic ’em, Nick Florence!
  • Today will be my final long run (13.1 miles) before the 25k in Tyler on October 13. This will only be the second time in my life I’ve ever attempted this distance, the other being the Cowtown half marathon back in February. But my legs feel great, and I’m excited to get out there this afternoon. Next week I’ll taper, or cut back on mileage to rest up for the race.
  • You Obama-haters can rejoice…briefly. I’m strongly leaning toward going Green with Dr. Jill Stein. I like many things about Obama and will be happy if he wins in November, but he’s also done some things I don’t like and broken some important promises (not closing Guantanamo Bay, not punishing the business execs who nearly destroyed our economy, keeping troops in Afghanistan when victory is impossible, etc.). I don’t agree with Stein on everything, but she and the Green Party seem to have the platform that the Democrats don’t have the guts to pursue, largely because the Greens don’t have corporate sponsors. Unfortunately, that also means they have very little chance of winning anything, much less the Presidency. Romney will carry Texas regardless of how I vote, and Obama will probably get reelected regardless of how I vote, so maybe I’ll just use my ballot to dream big.
  • The pilot-management standoff at American is interesting but sad to watch. I read a comment from one AA pilot that the slowdown isn’t exactly an organized, concerted effort to destroy the operation. It’s more a matter of being extra careful to protect their jobs. Until the judge tossed out their contract a couple of weeks ago, that contract backed them up in the event of an small deviation from the hundreds of company procedures they have to follow when flying the plane. The company can now fire them at will for any mistake they make. I’d be a little more careful, too. Is the pilot’s statement true? I’m not sure, but it made some sense to me. However, with so much anger over there, I’m sure that some of them don’t mind making their employer look bad. I hope both sides can work out a deal soon. And I’m still very grateful to work where I work.
  • You know my son Brenden doesn’t feel well when you have to drag him out of bed in the morning. He is definitely a morning person.
  • Jenny has been accepted at UTA and will start classes there in January. She did awesome on her nursing school entrance test as expected. The only question now is when she’ll be able to take her remaining UTA-specific nursing prerequisites. She meets with a nursing advisor next week who should be able to help.
  • I know it was unnecessary and expensive and irresponsible and all that, but my iPad is awesome. I use it more than my phone or laptop. Blogging on it is a bit more difficult compared to a laptop or desktop since it doesn’t have a separate keyboard or mouse, but it’s easier to carry around than the laptop and has a 4G Internet connection.

Thank you, come again.

Going to the Lodge

After hearing good reviews from other parents, Jenny and I took the boys to Great Wolf Lodge Tuesday night. Great Wolf is a family-oriented resort in Grapevine that features a large indoor water park along with other water activities and entertainment for the kids.

Pictures from Great Wolf Lodge

Overall, it was a pretty good experience. Most importantly, the boys had an absolute blast! We spent a couple of hours in the indoor water park on Tuesday afternoon and a couple more Wednesday morning before we left. It was definitely the highlight of the trip. Brenden was barely tall enough to ride some of the larger slides with a parent, so Jenny and I took turns watching each boy to allow both of us to ride with him and to play with Jonathan in the toddler area. The park offers a variety of slides, pools, and activities for all ages, and I loved not having to worry about the sun while we played. Plus the larger slides were fun for us, comparable to ones you’d find at Hurricane Harbor or Hawaiian Falls.

This was the boys’ first stay in a hotel. As expected, this new experience proved to be a bit of a challenge for us, although they really enjoyed it. First, we had to convince them to be quiet in the room and especially in the hallway to avoid disturbing the other guests. Good manners are easy to forget in the excitement of a new adventure. Next, we had to get them to sleep in a hotel room when they normally sleep alone in their own rooms. Our original plan of putting them in the same bed lasted about five minutes, during which a very tired but overstimulated Jonathan talked Brenden’s ear off and wouldn’t stop messing with him. So I switched places with Brenden and pretended to sleep while Jonathan patted my shoulder and kept saying, “Wake up, Daddy, wake up!” I finally dozed off and promptly proceeded to wake Jonathan up with my snoring, which Jenny fixed quickly by waking me up. Throughout the rest of the night, Brenden woke Jenny up every few hours to tell her something (for example, “Did you hear that, Mommy? That was me tooting!”), while Jonathan woke me up periodically by tossing and turning and poking me in the butt with his feet. It was not a restful night, but the boys got a decent amount of sleep.

Here are my impressions of Great Wolf:

Good

  • Indoor Water Park – As I said above, the indoor water park was lots of fun, clean, and included activities for all ages. Guests can use it from 1:00pm on the day of checkin and the entire day of checkout, which is a very nice perk.
  • Staff – The resort caters to families with kids, so the staff are generally very nice and helpful and know how to work with kids. Our server at dinner brought the boys free wolf ear headbands and patiently waited while Brenden talked to her and tried to decide which color headband he wanted. The lifeguards paid attention and seemed to care about their responsibilities.
  • Wristbands – Instead of a room key you must guard while swimming, each guest gets an electronic wristband that serves as a room key, allows you to charge purchases to your room, and provides access to the water park.

OK

  • Room – We got an entry-level room that Great Wolf calls a family suite. It had two comfortable queen beds, sofa, fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and a nice view of the Gaylord Texan and parts of Grapevine. It was a nice room, but not as upscale as the price would suggest (see below).
  • Entertainment – In addition to all the pools, Great Wolf also offers an arcade, an interactive fantasy game call MagiQuest, a girl-themed spa for children, costumed characters, and story time at 8:00 and 9:00pm. The boys liked story time pretty well, although the little animatronic show before the actual story time could be improved.

Disappointing

  • Prices – Everything at Great Wolf is expensive and seems overpriced to me. Everything. I got a small discount for being an airline employee, but even the basic room is really expensive ($200+/night), and any of the special rooms with bunk beds or separate bedrooms can run $250-500/night. Yes, it’s a nice room, but I can get a nicer room at a nearby hotel for significantly less. Management seems to think the water park justifies a huge premium. They add a resort fee to cover in-room coffee, wireless internet, etc. even though the wifi service was intermittent in our room. Food is very expensive for what you get as well. The MagiQuest game, while it looks fun, runs $30 or more per person.
  • Food – We ate two meals plus a separate dessert at the resort, and overall we felt the food was decent but overpriced. My Philly cheesesteak had maybe 2-3 ounces of actual steak. Jonathan’s mac and cheese was great, but kid’s meals at the grill were $8.00. I don’t want to pay $8.00 for a meal that my kid might or might not actually eat. My cupcake, while pretty, was topped with a huge glob of the sickly sweet icing they use for Baskin-Robbins clown cones, a bit too much even for me. The breakfast buffet offered a pretty good selection but was poorly organized and charged separately for juice and soda, which seemed pretty cheap given the high price of the buffet. We decided to eat off-site for lunch.

Did we enjoy our stay? Yes. The boys really enjoyed the visit, which was the goal. Will we go back? Maybe. Most likely, we’ll go back next just for the MagiQuest game rather than an overnight stay. A hotel guest wristband is only required for the water park, not for general access to the hotel during the day. We didn’t try MagiQuest this time because the boys were too young, but Jenny and I think it sounds fun. Maybe we’ll try it as a family in a few years.

Bottom line, if you have kids who would enjoy a nice indoor waterpark and don’t mind dropping lots of cash on an adventure for them, Great Wolf might be a good choice for you. If you’re looking for a good value on a really nice room for a relaxing, romantic getaway, go across the street to Gaylord Texan or Embassy Suites.

Southwest-AirTran Dispatcher Seniority Update

Last week an arbitrator issued his ruling on the Southwest-AirTran dispatcher seniority list integration (SLI) case. He sided with our union and awarded us four extra years of seniority when we merge our seniority lists. This decision has implications for most dispatchers at each company, some good and some bad. For those who are interested, here are some details.

Background

The SWA dispatcher seniority list, counting all specialty positions and managers, has about 200 people, compared to about 45 for AirTran. Ideally, the two unions would negotiate an SLI agreement instead of going to arbitration. The SWA and AirTran pilots already did so successfully. If I understand correctly (I wasn’t involved), since both unions are under the Transportation Workers Union (TWU) umbrella, the AirTran union thought the only acceptable way to integrate the seniority lists per TWU bylaws was by date-of-hire into the dispatch office. In other words, if you were hired at AirTran before I was hired at Southwest, you’re senior to me. Our union countered that the AirTran dispatchers would be getting a much better contract (higher pay, better benefits, etc.) and more opportunity at a larger company, and the SWA folks should get something from the merger as well. Otherwise, it would be a huge windfall for AirTran with zero direct benefit to SWA. We tried to negotiate, but the AirTran union immediately filed for binding arbitration, thinking they had a strong case based on TWU documentation. Thus the decision fell to the arbitrator. At the hearing in February, AirTran proposed date-of-hire, and SWA proposed adding four years to all SWA dispatchers’ seniority. He decided the latter was the fairer outcome.

Impact for Me

Compared to using date-of-hire, the arbitrator’s decision bumped me above six AirTran dispatchers. Now twelve of them will come in above me instead of eighteen. That’s certainly nice, but on a combined list of 200 working dispatchers, those six spots won’t make a huge difference to me right now. However, the overall impact of merging with AirTran does make a significant difference as the majority of AirTran dispatchers will come in below me on the list.

Right now, I’m at the 65th percentile among SWA dispatchers. When we bid for our schedules each summer, I can have any start time except the morning shifts, which go to the top half of the list. If all the AirTran dispatchers make the move (more on that later), and no one retires from Southwest before the merger is complete, I’ll be in the 56th percentile. So overall the merger bumps me up by about ten percent. This will make it a bit easier to get overtime and give me slightly better pick of vacation days, but for now that’s about it.

Impact for Coworkers

The integration plan will have a much bigger impact on my coworkers, especially the junior people and my new friends at AirTran. As you’ve surely figured out already, the four-year boost for our side is a huge help to the junior SWA dispatchers. Except for the group we hired last summer, all of them move up by 10-15 percent. Perhaps most significantly, about 17 of them move off reserve status, which means they can finally have a consistent, predictable schedule with a set rotation of days on and days off and a fixed start time. Reserves don’t know their schedules until about three months out and might work a combination of days, afternoons, and midnights with days off scattered throughout the month. Their schedules get especially messy and busy during the summer and around holidays. It’s a good day when you finally climb high enough in the list to get off reserve.

Unfortunately, what’s good for the SWA people is bad for the AirTran people. The majority of the AirTran dispatchers will be on reserve status. Some were off reserve status at AirTran but will get stuck with it again once they come over to Dallas. Also, because they’ll be less senior overall, they’re more likely to get afternoons and/or midnights, which might be very difficult if they’ve been on day shift at AirTran and have a family situation that requires day shift to work well. Since they’re already being forced to uproot their lives in Orlando and move halfway across the country, the seniority snub is extra salt in the wound. A few had decided to leave AirTran before the SLI decision for various reasons. It’s possible that others might decide not to make the move. I feel badly for them. They didn’t ask for their company to be bought. Now they must choose between moving to Dallas with a loss of seniority or starting over somewhere else.

Let me be very clear that I am excited about the merger for a variety of reasons. In addition to the benefits to Southwest as a company (Atlanta, international ops, more airplanes, etc.), every AirTran dispatcher I’ve encountered has been a pleasure – bright, hardworking, personable, and great to work with. If all of their dispatchers are like the ones I’ve met, they will be a tremendous asset to our company, and I look forward to meeting more of them toward the end of this year or sometime next year when they start to come over.