American Airlines flight attendant union files grievance over first class turndown service…

Earlier in the week I wrote about American’s enhanced international premium cabin offerings, whereby they were offering pajamas and turndown service in first class.

Well, American’s flight attendant union, APFA, isn’t happy about this change and they’re filing a grievance:

This week American announced their new ‘Turn Down’ service on international flights.  When briefed by the company APFA cautioned them that more research needed to be done to ensure this was not going to cause an unreasonable workload for the Flight Attendants, and not in violation of the 777 agreement. The company has chosen to move forward. Therefore, we will be filing a Presidential Grievance and compiling information from the field concerning this service.

They’re even giving flight attendants a survey regarding the new service, which can be found here.

The survey asks questions like:

“Were there any safety issues with the bedding before landing?”

“Were there any safety issues with the turndown service at all?”

“Were there lines for the lavs when passengers changed into/out of pajamas?”

Something tells me that it will take flight attendants longer to fill out the survey than just provide the turndown service.

I won’t get involved in the “we’re paid less so shouldn’t have to provide more service” debate, but they anticipate safety issues with turndown service?

Filed Under: American, Unions
  1. With all due respect, I wonder why it is that certain industries and employees seem to have the idea of performing the minimal level of service possible and never going above and beyond standard protocol to provide excellent customer service. I understand and respect the existence of unions to allow for better working conditions, wages, and environment. However, the concept of turndown service causing a potential occupational hazard for employees is laughable.

  2. This is ridiculous. FA’s have so much downtime on these flights, I can’t imagine this will lead to so much more work that they will have a fundamental change to their job description.

    I get it… they’re underpaid. I’m underpaid too. But I do the job and I’m happy to have it. If they don’t like the pay, quit! Otherwise just do the work!

  3. I am not a fan of unions at all, but on this occasion I have to say I support the union – is a passenger so special that they need turn down service on a plane? Please, if anyone thinks they’re so special as to require such a service, then they shouldn’t be on an airplane – they’re special enough to have wings to fly themselves! Some people need to get over themselves!!!

  4. FA on airlines like Singapore, Thai, Cathay, Asiana, etc, are reading this and laughing while thinking “Lazy b*tches”.

    Like Mike said, with this type of thinking, they deserve to be out of business. Or at least, the ones who think they are entitled to provide the absolute minimum effort in their jobs should be let go.

  5. Sorry but are they serious? US carriers and their unions are slowly ensuring their product is so behind all other carriers globally that they will push AA and others out of business and THEN where will the FAs be?

  6. And let’s be honest, it’s not Saftey. Call it what it is, a grab for more money, no more, no less. Do they want a practical example of how this will affect their employer and thus them? I was so appalled at reading this I just moved my next LHR-LAX-SYD F class return for next week on to SQ. So it’s cost their employer £8500 in revenue already.

  7. I am not in the airline business, but I do work for a government contractor at a nuclear facility.

    This “safety” thing happens all the time with the craft (aka Union members like pipe fitters, electricians) as they often justify laziness with “safety concerns.” So I know how ridiculous and bothersome this fort of thing is, unfortunately.

  8. I’ve got to agree with Craig. US carriers are so far behind SQ, Thai Air & Virgin Air, even on the survey results in Travel & Leisure, etc. If they don’t want to work efficiently, why don’t they just quit & we’ll enjoy some fresh new talent inflight. It’s time the US carriers attempt to catch up with the others.

  9. @ Ed — Assuming you’re being serious, there’s an easy answer. American’s competition offers the same services, and when you’re paying $20K for an airline ticket, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have a comfortable bed so that you can arrive at your destination well rested.

  10. Q.“Were there any safety issues with the bedding before landing?”
    A. The overhead bins were so full of duvets and pillows that we had to remove the luggage stowed there to make space. This is potentially hazardous since a dissatisfied customer’s bags could come shooting at us in the galley during landing

    Q. “Were there any safety issues with the turndown service at all?”
    A. In an effort to provide the most comfort in the air, we try and sleep on the bed for a few minutes. its so darn comfortable that we sleep for the flight, leaving a few crew members less for emergency ops if something happens. Please get them to stuff the duvets and the blankets with stones and pebbles to ensure they are not so comfortable that we want to sleep for that long 😉

    Q. “Were there lines for the lavs when passengers changed into/out of pajamas?”
    A. Passengers have complained we do not have enough lavs on board. so perhaps we should investigate the possibility of putting up some temporary lavs after take off and before landing to ensure that these queues are minimised

  11. Try to look at this from another angle. We get justifiably annoyed when rules are changed in the middle of a game (ala British recent “devaluation announcement”).

    For the FAs this is the same deal. What would it have cost Management to have a conversation with their reps to iron out any potential misunderstandings or procedural glitches? Communication and respect are bottom line items in any 2 way relationship.

  12. @ Bacc — Totally agree it wouldn’t have hurt to have a dialogue with them, as it’s always important to communicate with employees. At the same time, where do you draw the line as to what constitutes a major change? If you add a shrimp appetizer in first class in midcons, is that a major change? If you go from serving full cans to only serving cups (which requires the flight attendants to pour), is that a major change? How long could it take to do a turndown service? Maybe a minute a seat? At most we’re talking about 16 minutes for a full flight where everyone wants turndown service, and that’s split between 2-3 first class flight attendants on a 6-15 hour flight. I don’t consider this to be a major change or “changing the rules in the middle of a game.”

    Ultimately there’s a reason that senior flight attendants choose to bid first class — because it’s typically easier than working coach or domestic. If this added workload makes international first class intolerable, they can always bid for a different position, like business class.

    I just don’t see the big deal.

  13. I’m not exactly known for my pro-APFA views, but I will side with them in this case.

    Their grievance is not about the turndown service. Their grievance is about their input not having been sought when developing the processes and new service standards. That is a legitimate grievance.

    Maybe it’s just my personal style but whenever I am imposing process changes on any department, I always engage the departmental stakeholders in the change consultations before sending out press releases. AMR told APFA that the changes were coming, APFA asked for some reviews to be done and AMR went ahead anyway without the reviews.

    Well AMR, whether you like it or not, APFA is going to do the reviews now anyway. And the interweb blogsters are reveling in the public airing of laundry. Lose-lose situation for everyone.

  14. Agree with Bacc and Sean that most likely the FAs’ main grievance is with input not being sought, on this or most other matters, not the actual specifics of the turndown service.

  15. They might not have been consulted, but when they release comments like

    “not going to cause an unreasonable workload for the Flight Attendants”

    it’s hard to develop ANY sympathy for them whatsoever, when so many other airlines offer the same service. And this is just an AA seat they have to set up! I can only imagine the b*tching they would do if it was SQ airlines type of suite they had to convert…and that doesn’t even take 5 minutes to do!

  16. This is just another example of The Twilight of the Unions. Organized labor exists solely because dupes don’t get unions exist only for the benefit of labor “leaders”.

    Like many cancers, unions eventually destroy companies because once they infest a host, they assure the deliver of sub-standard service at a premium price.

    The best way to make voting decisions is to see which candidate is endorsed by unions, and then vote for the other one. The only way to get rid of them is to starve them of influence and money.

  17. “At the same time, where do you draw the line as to what constitutes a major change?”

    Major changes are unpleasant, but it’s the tiny ones that’ll kill you. It’s like banks. Some new little fee added every year. Suddenly after 20 years you’re drowning in fees.

  18. Contracts and job descriptions are negotiated. Things go back and forth. This is just a way for the union to make it clear that it’s not thrilled that this is a new item that’s being added that should be during a contract negotiation. I’m an Exp and I support union shops. I stay in union hotels, I shop in union super markets and I have union telecom in my home.

  19. The obvious reason they are bringing up safety is that it is the easiest way to gain attention and possibly people on their side.

    Unfortunately society in general (especially in the US) has an entitlement mentality and don’t think they have to work for their money.

    We all know there are some very hard working FAs but then there are those who only want to get paid and sit down and read their magazines, play on their cell phone, etc. What really needs to be done is give the airlines more power over removing the ones who don’t perform at a good level but too often they are protected by misguided unions.

  20. I just flew MIA-EZE in American FIrst. It was terribly mediocre. Service was so so, food was bad, and I had to ask to have breakfast served before landing. Their First product has a long way to go.

  21. Does anyone have the address for the flight attendants’ union administrative office. I’d like to write to them. If you have it, please share. Thanks.

  22. I was recently on an overnight Amtrak sleeper journey. Every sleeper car has an attendant who takes care of your bags, changes the room from day to night configuration and vice versa, brings your meals from the dining car if you choose to eat in the room, and so on. And they take gratuities! Dining car staff also take gratuities, and even make a point of announcing this on the intercom (the meals themselves are free for sleeper car passengers).

    So I wonder when airline cabin attendants will start to take gratuities. Actually, I’m surprised it hasn’t been like this forever…

  23. The unions exist solely because the greedy companies treat their workers unfairly. Otherwise, they wouldn’t exist. Its been seeded so long now, that the unions themselves have developed a culture now, and it thrives with its own customs, its own way of doing things.

  24. Just my personal opinion, but unions just get in the way. Get in the way companies trying to change their services. Get in the way of companies trying to buy new aircraft. Get in the way of mergers. Get in the way of businesses trying to run a business. Last I checked, “managers” are there to manage. When did it become the RIGHT of an employee group to be consulted by management of a change they want to make? (I know the answer, it’s when the union contract was signed…but my point is more metaphorically).

    Ugh, just frustrating.

  25. AMERICAN is the WORST airline! look at their products! i would NEVER want to fly AA, esp look at those RIDICULOUS AVOD(hand held portable??) are you kidding me? those seats, omg…….UNCOMFORT 100%. AA employs the laziest human beings on earth, they all hate their jobs, and why don’t they just quit? no one knows. there are MILLIONS of people out there that qualifies and would KILL for the job, yet this stupid lazy union is coming up with ridiculous safety reason. It’s either you improve or you all lose your job soon. See who’s in the better situation then? SELFISH uneducated humans that work there.

  26. I flew JAL on AA award ticket in F in 2009 before their BK. Boy! Was I impressed … presnted with my PJ and cardigan after dinner. I went to this huge bathroom to change and as I came back to my seat, my bed was made ready by the FA. When time came to go to bed, I was tucked in like a little baby and easily had the best night sleep on flight ever.

    The service was impeccable, a true 1st class service and I don’t believe the FA filed a grievance … in fact on my exiting at NRT, she thanked me profusely for burning my AA miles on JAL flight! 🙂

  27. If every single passenger on the upper deck of an A380 ( all first class and business class) passengers on Emirates is given a turn down service, I fail so see how a few F class pax on a 777 is a safety issue.

    What a load of crap!

  28. At the risk of jumping into a union vs management thread, I actually read the grievance differently.

    The issue is whether the new turn-down service violates the terms of the 777 agreement between the company and the employees. That agreement was presumably signed by both parties. I haven’t seen the agreement, but if the flight attendants feel it has been violated by the actions of their employer, they have every right to pursue their options. An agreement solely exists because the parties agree to it.

    Lucky may be right – that this is really “no big deal” for flight attendants. But my guess is that it’s another poorly managed policy implementation in a pretty long line of them.

    Unions make bad decisions, but by any objective standard, American’s management’s over the past couple of decades has been significantly worse.

  29. funny all there people bash unions, but does anyone here want to work as a FA. what a crappy job, one that use to be nice but now is more like an employee with a bus service. sure ticket costs have gone up but wages have actually gone down, way down the adj for inflation in the past 40 years in this industry. oh and don’t you think that wage stagnation and deflation has contributed to the attitude and quality of the workforce?

  30. It’s sad that it comes to this level of ridiculousness. In terms of filing a grievance about delivering a product/service that the company mandates, a question needs to be asked…”Since when is the employer/employee relationship a democracy?” The company is not asking the FAs to handle caustic or flammable materials or risk their lives in any way…we are talking about a blanket and a pillow. For the money I (ok, my company) spend on my overseas travel, there is an expectation of ever-increasing levels of service in first and biz class. To other commenters’ points, I too make the choice to fly non-US carriers when possible and have gotten my colleagues to do the same. A lot of revenue from my company has gone into SQ and OZ coffers instead of UA (I don’t fly any oneworld carrier to Asia from the US) since we have experienced true excellence in service and comfort…usually at a lower cost, btw.

  31. Sounds like most here have no idea what they are talking about.

    All those of you who like to bash unions for any reason might as well quite down.
    Does anyone here or has anyone here ever been a FA? Do you know anything about what they do other than when you see them? Some here have gone as far as figure the time involved to turndown the bedding. The cry babies are those whining that the FA’s are, in their view, lazy.

    I get really tired of those who are experts about other peoples work load when they know nothing about it. So until you do their job and know what your talking about….Shut up.

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