Good question. This subject is actually something that I am very passionate about.
Short answer, yes. If the airline uses a preferential bidding system, the FOs have the ability to bid avoid specific captains. It doesn’t work the other way. Adam says it’s because Captains should be able to fly with anyone. That may be how it works at his airline, but at our airline it’s simply designed that way for programming reasons. The Captain’s bids are run first so there’s no FOs for the Captains to avoid yet. Once the Captain’s bids are processed, the FO’s bids are run. Because the Captains are on the schedule at this point, bid avoid bids are now active for the FOs to use if they want. Also, let’s say a Captain were to bid avoid an FO but the FO has no avoid bids. That could prevent an FO from being awarded a trip even though they asked for it.
That said, it usually takes more than “uncomfortable subjects” for a Captain to make an FO’s no-fly list. Pilots can handle conversation. It usually comes down to “personality clashes” (for lack of a better term). Whatever the FO’s reason(s), all they need to avoid that Captain is their seniority number.
I, too, agree with Adam that as adults and professionals that all pilots should be able to fly with anyone, but that assumes that every pilot acts like an adult and a professional. I beg to differ!
But let’s get back to my point. The FAA acknowledges that the pilots don’t necessarily need to like each other, but they need to be able to work together in a professional and respectable manner. In other words, the FAA wants pilots to focus on what’s right, now who’s right.
For the most part, I’d say that most pilots get along, or at least enough to get the job done safely. HOWEVER, when issues do arise, based on my experience, Captains are usually the abrasive ones. Why? Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. There could be a lot of reasons. But, I do think I know where we need to start.
There needs to be accountability for both pilots. There are two pilots in the flight deck for a reason. Two pilots are required to be up there, in fact. As it stands, the FOs are the ones that are tasked by being the “chameleon” in the flight deck. I do not agree with this concept. Yes, the Captain is the PIC and the final authority, but I think the chameleon concept is being misused by the Captains that, quite frankly, just don’t know how to treat other people, or don’t care, or both. Sometimes, a Captain’s behavior gets to the point where the FO shuts down or starts developing apathy for the Captain. The FO isn’t off the hook in this scenario either, btw.
So, I have been proposing to my airline that we develop an accountability system. We’re not exactly sure what that will look like yet, but the idea has caught the interest of our training department who will then present it to our new Chief Pilot soon. Our training department also thinks that CRM needs to be a gradable task, just like flying the plane is gradable. Because CRM is currently not gradable, it’s more or less a discussion, or a warm and fuzzy conversation as I like to call it. I argue that that is not good enough. CRM needs to have more teeth, which is why it should be a gradable task. Only then do we think we will actually move the needle on this. So, we’re currently trying to define what CRM looks like and what it doesn’t so we can teach our pilots and that they understand what the expectation is before their next checkride.