Look, I’ll be the first to call out American Airlines when they do something wrong, but something about this story doesn’t add up…
In this post:
American Airlines flight attendant speaks out
Mother Jones has a story about an American Airlines flight attendant speaking out, talking about how American Airlines is failing to protect employees. It describes the situation as being “Like Sheep for Slaughter.”
Some valid points are made, like that for a while American Airlines wouldn’t let employees wear face masks (a policy that I thought was ridiculous, and that I’ve written about). I very much empathize with the current situation flight attendants are in, and think airlines on the whole need to do more to protect employees.
But then there’s this nugget, from an anonymous flight attendant:
One of the most common complaints among flight attendants was of a lack of social distancing measures onboard. One flight attendant described a March 24 flight that carried 11 people total—all crammed in the last three rows. “The reasoning behind it is, well, they bought basic economy fares, so we can’t put them further up in the cabin, because that would be an upgrade,” she explained. She said that the flight attendants “took it upon ourselves to spread them out.”
In recent days, the airline has announced some steps intended to address those issues. On March 24—the same day as the trip described by the flight attendant—the company issued a new policy stating that “gate agents may reassign seats to create more space between customers” and that “customers can move to another seat within their ticketed cabin subject to availability.” It also said that 50 percent of standard middle seats and all seats bordering flight attendant jump seats would be left empty. But even after March 24, the same flight attendant worked a flight with 15 people seated in the last six rows of the plane. No one was seated ahead of the exit row, she said, because that’s a different pricing tier.
@xJonNYC then points to this story from Business Insider. They picked up on the Mother Jones story (which made a bigger point, in my opinion), but they zoomed in on this exact detail and sensationalized it. The headline is “American Airlines crammed the only 11 passengers on a flight into 3 rows because they only bought basic economy, report says.”
This story suggests that the airline “forced” passengers to sit right next to one another.
Why this story doesn’t make much sense…
When I read this story for the first time something didn’t quite add up. I reached out to American Airlines to clarify a few things, and that more or less confirmed my suspicions about this story.
There are a few issues:
- American Airlines’ policy allows for passengers to move within the same class of service, even before the new social distancing guidelines were released; in other words, passengers could have freely moved around even without the crew proactively offering it (yes, this includes basic economy passengers)
- The flight attendant allegedly claimed “we can’t put them further up in the cabin, because that would be an upgrade,” and that’s simply false; Main Cabin Extra is a separate cabin, but sitting in the fourth to last row is no “upgrade” in any form over the third to last row
- It seems highly suspicious to suggest that the passengers were all seated in the last three and last six rows; the last row is always reserved for airport control and is blocked, so passengers would never be assigned those seats unless the plane was full
- While it’s possible that the crew knew the passengers were all basic economy, their discovery of that is rather surprising, as I’ve never seen a flight attendant identify a passenger as such; this isn’t something that proactively shows up on their tablets, but rather they’d have to click on each individual passenger to see the details of their ticket
If the story is in fact true, there’s only one logical explanation — that this had to do with weight & balance. Even then that doesn’t make sense, though:
- If that’s the case, then this is being done with regard for everyone’s safety, rather than neglecting everyone’s safety
- If that’s the case, I assume the flight attendants would have been informed of this, and wouldn’t have reseated passengers
I can be tough on American Airlines, but in this case I can’t help but feel like something doesn’t add up.
There certainly doesn’t deserve to be a story about how American has no regard for the safety of passengers by “forcing” them to sit in the last rows all next to one another, when American’s policy freely allows people to reseat themselves, not to mention that the last row wouldn’t typically be assigned in these situations.
The irony is that this complaint comes from a flight attendant who claims s/he essentially would be violating policy by reseating people, when the flight attendant doesn’t seem to understand the company’s policy.
This is one thing I’ll give American Airlines a pass on…
What’s your take on this situation?