Oh My: American Wants Employees To Be “American Champions”

Filed Under: American

There’s simply no denying that American Airlines lacks a brand purpose at this point, especially when you compare them to Delta and even United.

A bit over a year ago, a survey of American Airlines employees made it clear just how employees felt about the company. For example, 26% of employees agreed with the statement that “leaders at American Airlines make the right decisions that take care of our frontline team members.”

Obviously American didn’t like the results of this survey, so now they’ve decided to only have full surveys of employees every two years, and will instead have annual “pulse checks.”

Well, American Airlines has just launched a new program intended to engage employees, which is about as out of touch as you’d expect.

American Airlines looking for “Champions”

American Airlines is looking for employees to volunteer as “American Champions.”

Love American Airlines? Want to help spread the word about the great things your colleagues and the company are doing to take care of our customers and each other? Then we’re looking for you!

We are excited to announce American Champions — a group of team members who are passionate about making American better and living our purpose. American Champions are our strongest advocates. This select group will train to become volunteer ambassadors to support the American brand.

As American Airlines explains the concept:

Who are American Champions?

We are looking for committed team members who are energized by the idea of empowering and educating colleagues on the American brand. This is a fun way to volunteer and share your passion for American!

Team members need to have excellent attendance, be in good standing, have their managers’ support and be able to commit to the program for one year from the program launch (exact date to be decided).

What’s expected of an American Champion?

We’re asking our Champions to commit to three things:

  1. 2020 American Airlines Brand Experience Training where Champions will learn about our brand and the actions they will be asked to take to support American.
  2. American Champion touchpoints throughout the year. Organizers will hold quarterly Webex meetings and ask Champions to connect via Facebook to receive and provide information.
  3. Educate fellow team members and guests about the American brand and purpose. This could involve activities such as:
    • Giving away items to team members to build awareness for the brand.
    • Providing feedback on what you’re hearing from guests and team members about the brand.
    • Working with your leaders to share brand information during staff meetings, calls, or huddles.
    • Recognizing other team members for behaviors that align with our purpose.

Prospective Champions must commit to:

  • Attend and actively participate in quarterly American Champions touchpoints hosted virtually on WebEx (30 to 60 minutes each).
  • Post a minimum of once per month in the private American Champions Facebook group (additional postings encouraged, but not required). Potential posts could include how you and/or your teammates are living the brand? What did you do this week to care for a guest?
  • Hold at least five 1:1 conversations with a teammate on the brand each month (no minimum time requirement — this touchpoint could be as short as a two-minute chat). We will provide talking points.
  • Champions should regularly report comments and sentiments from these conversations through Facebook.
  • Show appreciation to team members that you see living our brand and purpose by passing on and tracking recognition badges.
  • Share the brand with your colleagues using the Brand Kit, which we’ll mail to you to use as a resource.
  • Offer ongoing, as-needed feedback on the program’s success and challenges through Facebook and quarterly Webex calls.
  • Engage in virtual American Champion challenges — based on the above responsibilities — for a chance to win swag and prizes.

American Airlines isn’t paying employees to participate, but “participation will provide unique opportunities and will help you develop a new skillset, take on increased responsibility, and embrace ownership of the brand.”


You really can’t make this stuff up. Talk about when the marketing department is disconnected from the pulse of the company:

  • I’m sure the “feedback” that “American Champions” hear from guests and team members about the brand sure will be interesting.
  • Exactly what brand message and purpose are employees expected to share? How much Wall Street should love American’s onboard product (even though that’s not even the case)?
  • They really want to give talking points to volunteers so that they can have a 1:1 monthly conversation with other employees about how great the company is?

I find it dismaying how out of touch management is with employees. I’d love to see the talking points American comes up with here.

I can just picture Debbie and Gertrude standing in the galley, as Debbie delivers her monthly talking points conversation:

“Have you heard of all of the great things our leadership team is doing to take care of our customers and employees? Don’t you love working here?”

I’d note that all of this comes at the same time that American is in contract negotiations with both pilots and flight attendants, with the unions accusing management of intentionally stalling communications.

I’ll be curious to see if the company ends up following through on this “American Champions” project, or if it never launches due to lack of interest.

For the record, the way I found out about this to begin with is that several American employees have forwarded me this in disbelief that the company thinks this is something employees want to participate in.

  1. Reflects well the current state of our country that only benefits the 1 percenters.

    Create a toxic culture that kills 300 people? Here’s $80M for you as you walk out the door.

    Support Nazis and shreds the constitution? Let’s elect him for another term.

    Bank regulation? Why?

    The list can go on…

  2. Plenty of other companies offer unpaid “company initiatives.” There will always be enough career-minded employees trying to get a leg up in their performance evaluations.

    If they want to hear the real truth though, start by polling the customers who’ve stopped flying AA altogether.

  3. I didn’t realize Gary was writing for you now, Lucky? There are certainly many reasons for you to criticize AA, but this is just the type story VFTW does in order to bash anything that goes on. I guess my questions are, what difference does it make to you, and why do you care? It seems a bit telling that both you and your compadre Gary only have “sources” or opinions when it comes to AA. No negative stories or mentions ever come out of the UA and DL camps, apparently? I realize this story will have a large number of comments agreeing with you and talking about AA’s leadership among many other things, but your constant bashing of AA is ultimately just creating an echo chamber that I think you like having. If you don’t like AA, move on. The excuses of direct flights and OW benefits is getting old.

  4. The product is crap and the employees are supposed to put on a happy face. I recently got stuck in that 10 across economy seating on UA. What a horseshit product. I feel sorry for the flight attendants who have to try and give quality service when what they serving, though no fault of their own, is garbage and they know it.

  5. It sounds like American hired a big 5 consulting firm to help fix their employee and customer engagement issues. I’ve worked on many of these projects and unless leadership truly wants change they never work.

  6. I agree you can’t make this stuff up. American once honored me by having a table (yes, a table) named after me at the Chairman’s Cup Dinner. I even got a nice looking diploma certificate FedEx’d to me to prove it. Of course, I wasn’t invited to this dinner. Some bean counter thought it would be a great way to honor employees and they’d be really grateful and get the warm fuzzies….not.
    Shows how out of touch they truly are. As much as I like my job (still) there is absolutely no incentive at AA to do more than the minimum.

  7. To any “prospective American Champions!!!!11!”

    In my industry, hiring language like this is indicative of abuse by upper management. I know this isn’t hiring per se, but looking for “volunteers” who “…are energized by the idea of empowering and educating colleagues on the American brand…” to “commit to the program for one year from the program launch” with a laundry list of tasks and expectations with the promised compensation of “…unique opportunities and will help you develop a new skillset, take on increased responsibility, and embrace ownership of the brand.” would be grounds for labor lawsuits and many, many, many formal complaints to and investigations by state labor boards.

    Just sayin’

  8. We had this at a couple of companies I worked for. One was called “The Sunshine Committee”. I kid you not.

    All unpaid, of course. Pay the consultant who came up with it though. The “post one message a month on out special Facebook page” is a new one to me.

    I call these ‘blow sunshine up my a** clubs”

  9. This is painfully hilarious! And…not only is the marketing department out of touch with its fellow employees…they are clearly out of touch with any contemporary company/organization and what works in motivating and bringing people together.

  10. Meanwhile Delta is doing $1.6 billion for profit sharing. Geez I wonder which airline will provide better customer service this year?

  11. My company has this type of thing. One of the key determinants is to find people who are (a) enthused about what the company is doing and (b) respected and listened to by other employees. At a few companies this can be an effective way of spreading internal messaging – get good people to spread the word. At most companies it just gets ignored. At AA I’d guess they’d want to throw the champions out the window.

  12. they should fire 40000 employee, break the unions, so they can make more profit. just like Delta.

    then they can give employee more salary, then everyone will be happy.

    is that what you want Ben? lol

  13. I wonder if these volunteers will get their tire replacements paid for by AA as the labor contract talks get really serious.

  14. A company that takes care of its employees, treat them well, respect them, etc. doesn’t have a need for this stuff because the employees will tell others how well their companies treats them and how much they enjoy working for the company.

    The companies that try to restrict criticism, force teaming, etc. have already lost the war, they just haven’t realized it.

    I’ve known managers who have refused to allow employees to transfer to other organizations within the company. Obviously they shouldn’t be managers and the good employee simply leaves the company. The good managers have open door policies, treat employees with respect and encourage employees to try new tasks. And they end up with very high retention rates because the employee wants to work for them.

    You can’t force teamwork, you can’t force better morale, etc. Good management hires good employees, give them the tools to complete their jobs and encourage decentralized decision making.

    People over think this stuff, maybe because they are the type of employee that can’t do the job themselves.

  15. I’m unclear on their metrics for calling this initiative a success. They’re encouraging positive stories on a Facebook page. What does this demonstrate? Are five employee catch ups each lasting the minimum 2 minute time as effective as one productive 30 minute catch up? It feels like a desperate attempt to create a fictitious story of a positive work environment when they should actually be implementing meaningful change.

  16. I am intrigued by the use of the word guests. Sorry but companies in the transportation business have customers or more specially passengers. If I’m a guest of AA or UA or Amtrak, I take that to mean my transportation is being comped.

    I bring this up because I see failing companies try to change the terminology instead of dealing with the real issues

    My $.02 worth

  17. “Welcome on board…we can take your miles away and close your account any time we feel like it!”

  18. I’m guessing they hired Deloitte to do a review of their operations… I’ve worked for a few companies that hired D&T for employee surveys and this was exactly the outcome (although I’ve never seen a score that low before)

  19. UA needed about one hundred of us help testing new equipment – this ‘opportunity’ was a lottery. I was one of the luck winners – only to be advised AFTER THE FACT that this was on my own time and that I would need to use a vacation day to cover my absence as this was during my scheduled shift.

    This was one of my lesser grievances. I retired not long after.

  20. Is it true that all AA employee unions were willing bed partners with Dough Parker when he proposed to swallow up AA? They were all bitching about Horton before they voted in favor of the merger. We cannot have sympathy for AA employees because they did not appreciate what they had until they lost it all. The pasture is not greener on the other side. Just read an article about the diary of a daily work life of an Amazon delivery guy. It is even worse for the Amazon warehouse staff. We are the product of the society in which we live. Neither a customer of Amazon nor Wall Mart and won’t plan to. Capitalism in the US is at the point where it must be reformed or disappeared and replaced.

  21. MMM – it is not even clear English. I do not get it. Is it a “snitch” program that employees do without getting paid?

    It is not that hard, treat your employees well so they are happy when they fly passengers. Clean up th language used so that it is clear and understandable (simplify).

  22. ”This select group will train to become volunteer ambassadors to support the American brand.”

    I speak American Airlines, I’ll translate.

    “We want employees to do do more work, but for free.”

    Terrific message, American Airlines!

  23. As I read some of the comments, one thing did stand out. There are many “company people” there that would jump right in to aid management in this venture. The company could be going to hell and these people will pretend just like management that all is well… With that said, being a current employee for said airline, I can honestly say most employees with common sense have lost their passion for the job. I’ve heard a lot more have sought training or education with the intent on leaving. I’ve never seen this level of dissatisfaction amongst a work group that I see now and I’ve been here for over 20 years. The upper management that is currently running the airline is former US airways, and if you have any idea how they operate you will understand why AA culture is the way it is. You can cut your way to profits but the customers and employees can tell the difference. And management pretends all is well. Plain and simple, they lack imagination, respect for their employees and knowledge of how to move forward with a world class airline.

  24. Doug PAArker should be taking the lead on this initiative. Show up and do an airline employee job. Imagine if he was a flight attendant for day? Baggage handler for a few shifts? Maybe then it will garner a following and start the long road to rehabilitate the culture and customer experiences.

    Going for great – dumbest company tag line. If they were truly going for it – they wouldn’t have to market it. It’d be embedded in their culture.

  25. This exemplifies AA’s primary problem

    They have a massive issue with team member engagement

    In order to improve this, you need to… engage employees

    To do this, you need bilateral communication from management to employees and vice versa

    This is unilateral

    Management finding people to talk up the brand

    Where are the champions who will advocate for employees and talk up employee contributions?

    My firm is undergoing massive changes, many are negative

    So we have set up Champions (paid of course) to talk to the team…and management
    We are trying to get solutions from the team, and spread that enterprise wide

    Are we 100% successful. Nah
    But we are a hell of a lot better than this nonsense

  26. This, as Delta is splitting a record $1.6 billion in 2019 profits among its 90,000 employees, the airline has announced. Each employee will receive a bonus worth 16.6% of their base pay — approximately two months’ salary. Full- and part-time employees will receive profit-share checks, according to CNN.

  27. Excuse me while I wipe my tears….
    tears from laughing SO hard that I can’t stop crying!!!
    I’m a 29 year “Legacy AA” Flight Attendant and I can’t remember the last time I got any significant profit sharing or work incentives….unless of course you count the Bunt Cake pan that I’m eligible for through the “Non Stop Thanks” formerly AB program that I received 2500 points from my supervisor for after receiving a stellar customer recognition letter.
    Thanks AA!!!

  28. Delta once again proving that they “get it”, while AA takes ten steps backwards with this nonsense.

    But hey, greAAt is what we’re going for, right?

    Can’t wait for the next Delta expansion at MIA announcement.

  29. I am an aa retiree,and I can tell you all that this kind of idiocy is endemic to that airline. After 911, we had meeting after meeting to supposedly brainstorm ideas to keep the company afloat. It was supposed to be modeled after some sort of employee – management unification nonsense. We even had an MD-80 plastered with ” Working Together ” decals. Catchy slogans and worthless meetings are an indelible part of the aa culture. Remember “Something special in the Air” ? You know,just like passing gas… The 2003 wage and benefit concessions are still a sore spot with many workers,and the company knows it. The unions have no power because of the RLA ,and the morons at the top of the food chain would rather commit seppuku than do right by the workers. I won’t defend Parker ; he gives duplicitous self-serving halfwits a bad name. This airline has been on life support since Crandall hit the road, and management will continue this course of action as long as aa exists. As Ron White said , “You can’t fix stupid.” Stupidly, thy name is aa.

  30. Haha, yes, this does reek of a consultant or PR firm solution. Google “Protect our House” and Countrywide Financial for example of one during the subprime meltdown. Countrywide doesn’t exist anymore and didn’t come out smelling very good either, but do have a nifty rubber wristband in my desk drawer. The problem with this consultant solution is lack of apparent executive involvement in actually changing the company and product, beyond signing checks for more consultants. Unions will have a field day with this one.

  31. The snobbery is unreal. This may seem stupid to you, but maybe some employees look forward to the opportunity this gives them to network and get exposure to other groups and departments. There are many work groups at American, not just angry mechanics, disinterested flight attendants and disgruntled gate agents. Yes, there will be those who think this is a waste of time and money, but there will be others who will enjoy the experience. They don’t need people like you telling them they are stupid for volunteering for this project. Get over yourself.

  32. Seriously???? Until this D2R gets thrown to the garbage from whence it came… there’s not one ounce of respect shown for the grueling sacrificial years any retiree has given to keep this company in the air. It is degrading as it comes to have served and have the promise of flight status when you retire ripped from your hands. Anything and I do mean anything you suggest as ridiculous as this completely falls on deaf ears. What planet are you living on? Certainly not one with s sane populace.

  33. They give negative attendance points that lead to termination for sick flight attendants that are exposed to toxic uniforms that they issued, who handle sick passengers on a daily basis, breathe circulated filthy air in a high altitude pressurized tiny cabin, and work long hours with short layovers, and then they want FREE promotion? Not to mention the negative attitude that upper and mid level management have towards employees. I don’t think I can laugh loud enough at this. The only thing that boosts morale, and as a result, customer satisfaction, is actually treating employees like human beings rather than pests. That’s all it takes.

  34. Please, enough with this tone and constant negativity against AA. How about a 60 day holiday from bashing AA? If that’s not easy, how about just presenting the facts without tone and letting readers decide?

  35. How to make employees “Champions” in 1 easy step:

    1. Give them 2 months pay bonus by sharing the profits of the company in the last year

  36. Try working for this company! It SUCKS! Horrible employee morale! LOW profit sharing rates compared to all other airlines! WAKE UP AMERICAN MANAGEMENT!!

  37. I think there’s lots of huge corporations running programs to engage or re-engage employees to lift their net promoter scores ( does AA even do this ) I guess they have to have a starting point BUT I think they’re so far down the toilet at this stage that it’s going to take a lot of time and money to get this to work – good luck

  38. I work for an ULCC and this has Disney Institute slapped all over it. We are now supposed to call our pax guests, and we have these same type of champions, but we call them ambassadors. This nonsense has been going on for about 3 years already. And guess what? Culture hasn’t changed because management hasn’t changed. It all starts from the top.

  39. Delta: gives everyone two months pay as a bonus.

    American:: “Hey be a volunteer cheerleader to your colleagues?”

  40. reminds me of an employee survey I did once. Turns out of 93 companies that participated we came in almost last. Management did nothing just like AA. AA needs to empower the employees that interact with the customer. It could be as simple as a drink coupon, a coupon for snack box or letting them move a passenger to another seat without having to justify it. Its simple, empower your employees and you get happy customers. Management needs to change.

  41. Typical big company HR empty idea. Rather than spend money on improving pay, benefits or workplace conditions, let do some idiotic useless endeavor that costs us nothing and looks like we actually care. The only people American likes less than its customers are its employees.

  42. Im already an an ambassador of disrespect,lowest paid in the industry,lowest profit sharing,worst retirement,and going to a shity medical.Everyday management puts an obstacle everyday in front of employees and promotes these people creating lack luster programs like this.

  43. My work does stuff like this. Last year, the these was, “We Value You!” Once every few months they’d have coffee and bagels for us, then deny us our state supplied COLA and ask us to work extra on unpaid initiatives. Only one or two brownnosers actually took them up on their request. It did ZERO for employee morale.

    Do you know what does? Yes, money helps, but really its the concept that we all have value, that management is actually down in the proverbial trenches from time to time and understands what things are like. Remember when Herb Kelleher would spend some time ramping or working as a gate agent? That showed that management actually cared, that they were willing to endure the same conditions as the rank and file. American management might try the same…

  44. AA employess need incentive to do this. AA mgmt failed when they gave the big raise a few years ago. AA needs profit sharing payouts like DL and others to incentivise employees to work hard and to care about selling the product. The minute the employees got a raise for no reason AA lost the fight.

    I’m willing to work for less salary with the hope that stock options and grants have a good payout. To make that happen I work very very hard, long hours, doing everything I need to in order for this to succeed. AA needs to learn lessons like this…

  45. What, wait a minute. As a 35 year employee of AA you want me to volunteer to push AA on customers who ran away after seeing which way the “New” management was going to take this airline. We are joining the ranks of the Spirit Airlines of the world and as a matter of fact, they have finished underneath them in the latest rankings. No, no thank you, will I not participate in that program, when asked, I only tell folks I’m in the airline industry and omit with which carrier I’m employed. Board of Directors at AA, you’d better wake up. AND SOON!

  46. *facepalm*
    What a demotivating initiative. I feel bad for AA employees. This also reaffirms my decision to drop my AA loyalty/status for 2020 and largely be a free agent.

  47. Very simple procedure: hey staff, fix what we do wrong (as a management) – at your expenses of course, after all you are the ones who still want to have a job tomorrow… ‘American’ know the truth for their bad reputation, but they don’t want to hear it, that’s why they started this very strange procedure, hoping to find a reason for their bad reputation besides the one they know and don’t want to hear about. And one of those reasons definitely is ‘project Oasis’. Another one their lousy customer care. Anyone up for a night trying to sleep on the floor of a terminal building? Book American and you have a great chance to experience that – like i did… I’d never ever book a flight with American again, i’d rather walk 400 miles with bare feet!

  48. As a 20 year AA FA, it’s incredibly frustrating how clueless our management team is. It’s painful to watch the airline you used to be so proud of, deteriorating in every way, every day. Last summer we got an email about the “Art of apologizing.” Apparently we weren’t being perceived as being empathetic enough while saying I’m sorry over and over and over again, every day, while trying to absorb everyone’s frustrations and outright anger over the many issues that are now standard operating procedure at AA. Rather than fix the problems, we’re advised how to apologize better for them. Now they want to focus on our “brand.” WHAT brand? Are we Delta? Or are we Spirit? Nobody knows what we are anymore and that’s a big problem. Everybody used to be so proud to work for AA and now nobody wants to admit it because you know you will get an earful about someone’s latest disappointment. I feel sorry for any FA that decides to sign up for this. Their attempts to share the koolaid will not be warmly received. American used to be “something special in the air.” No amount of “branding” is going to make us that way again until management wakes up and stops demoralising their employees. It makes me sad to see what has happened to the airline and to the passengers. It makes me sad that everyone is so disappointed in the product and the service. I hope it can be turned around but at this point, I’m very doubtful.

  49. I don’t even fly my own company anymore. I purchase basic economy tickets on Delta. Sad but I don’t like how they’re reconfiguring their aircrafts.

  50. How Delta boosts employee morale: “all employees get a profit sharing bonus – 2 months of extra pay!”

    American: “let’s have have a program to train employees to talk up the company on Facebook message boards.”

  51. There’s no faster way to destroy an airline than to put Doug Parker in charge. The demise of American is just so sAAd

  52. This is hilarious in a sad and pitiful way. It totally mirrors the mindset and the misery of the employees at their hub airport (think the ‘big one’ in Texas – as I’d be hunted down and shot at dawn for daring to malign their exceptional sense of self importance). The airport executives hang on the every whim of AA following them around and copying their tactics and decisions like a puppy in heat. Shame both entities are beyond delusional, selfish, shallow and stuck up their own a$$. But as always their blame lies with the employees while the executives and management continue their rule of perfection.
    The downward spiral will continue at both locations until there is sweeping change and a cull of the higher levels.

  53. We are dealing with corporate raiders as a 30 yr employee that gets a $300 profit sharing check compared to a delta employee with 2 yrs $11,000.00
    I’ll badge in and badge out that’s it no extra these corporate raiders are screwing everyone board members wake the f up.

  54. It’s nice to know that the more things change the more they stay the same. I’ve seen similar “programs” since the 80s. Usually when this happens, management changes are the next major announcement. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “C” suite gets shuffled around, etc. If 70+% of employees don’t feel management is supportive of frontline employees then that’s usually it!

    What I don’t understand is airfares have been rising significantly over the past 2-3 years. Flights that two years ago on the same weeks were $200-300 are now double or 3x the price. For example, DFW – MSY is $700 in mid-March. That’s a crazy airfare for a 75 minute flight.

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