American Airlines’ Grim Warning To Flight Attendants

Filed Under: American

American Airlines is telling flight attendants how unpleasant their jobs will be in the coming years if they stick around at the company, clearly as a way of trying to get them to accept voluntary leaves or early retirements.

American has too many flight attendants

American Airlines has made it clear that it has 20,000+ more employees than it will need this fall. The company hasn’t yet involuntarily furloughed any employees due to the CARES Act funding it has received, which precludes it from doing so through September 30.

However, come October 1, all bets are off, and widespread furloughs are expected. The airline has issued WARN Act notices to 9,950 flight attendants, which represents 37% of the workgroup.

This doesn’t mean that all of those flight attendants will be laid off come October 1, but rather it means that there’s a risk of that happening.

The company has been trying to get employees to accept voluntary leaves of absence or early retirements in order to minimize involuntary layoffs, but not nearly enough employees have accepted these offers. The company’s latest strategy seems to be to remind people how bad their jobs will be if they stick around.

American has 20K+ more employees than it needs

American paints grim picture of flight attendant duties

American Airlines’ SVP of Flight Service has sent a note to flight attendants about what they can expect come October 1, should they still be working at the airline. The memo claims that this is in response to some of the questions the company has been receiving.

As the memo states:

“I also want to make sure you fully understand the new reality of what your schedule and flying may look like. The reality is our business is going to change, moving forward and for the long-term. While we have talked about these ideas previously, it may be helpful to see it all together as you are deciding your future.”

The memo goes on to explain the following:

  • 80% of flight attendants will spend at least some months on reserve, and this will possibly even apply to those with over 35 years of seniority; for those of you not familiar, “reserve” is when flight attendants don’t know their schedules in advance, but rather are on call for any trip
  • Trips will look different for flight attendants, as there will be a lot of four day domestic trips, with longer duty days, more flights per day, longer sit times, and shorter overnight layovers
  • Fewer flight attendants will be working international trips through at least the end of 2021, as American’s international schedule will be reduced, and American is also reducing staffing on these flights
  • Displacements are likely, meaning flight attendants in some bases may have to transfer to other bases, which would translate to having to move or commute
  • Masks will be mandatory “for a while”

There will be fewer international trips for flight attendants to work

The memo then goes on to remind flight attendants of the current voluntary offerings on the table, as clearly the intent here is to get more people to accept these. It’s also mentioned that these offers will no longer be around in several weeks, so if they want to accept them, they should do so now.

At least the memo also has this (somewhat) positive message:

“I know many of you have already decided that you are in this for the long-term because you still love this great profession and/or you need the financial stability this job provides. We are truly thrilled that you are staying part of the team, knowing what is ahead. With this decision, you’re re-committing yourself to rebuilding our airline and everything the flight attendant job will entail moving forward.”

The company is saying to expect the future to look different

Bottom line

This is an interesting approach for American Airlines to take. On the one hand, it’s clear this is intended to paint a bleak picture of the future, to get flight attendants to voluntarily leave the company. At the same time, the above is probably a pretty realistic look at the future, so I suppose there’s some value to American’s transparency?

What do you make of this memo to American Airlines flight attendants?

  1. As I said on Matt’s blog what come around goes around. They are some of the most surly Karen’s of any domestic carrier. What a shame they won’t be there primarily for our safety.

    You act like you don’t want to serve the people paying your salary. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I’ll be sure to bring my violin next flight.

  2. Have to agree with Shawn, I have really been treated poorly by many AA flight attendants. Delta,however is completely different.

  3. To all the Karens at AA out there who have made our flights as miserable and unpleasant as possible: karma is a b*tch…

  4. I’ve encountered some poor service from AA in the past. Their customer service is a long way from perfect. But I don’t wish a loss of income and security for the future on anyone. I wish everyone in this position, at AA, across the airline industry and in all sectors, all the very best.

  5. @ JIM
    Every experience is individual. Delta can be and IS JUST as BAD.
    My wife tried to visit the Lav on a Delta 737 with the new mini Lav to one side. The female cabin attendant was sitting on the jump seat nearby and seemingly made it impossible to pass. I gave her a look and she moved a drop. I remained in the area because the doors can become difficult to open. The same cabin attendant ordered me to take my seat or be arrested upon landing.

    In no world is this acceptable behavior, I am still not sure if we experienced a silent work protest against the new layout or fat shaming.

  6. While I empathize with the FAs, it’s hard for me to muster much sympathy when I can now stroll down the main drag of my neighborhood and those adjacent and count on multiple hands the recently vacated storefronts where once-thriving Mom-and-Pop boutiques, restaurants, cafes, hardware stores, 5-and-Dime shops, etc. have had to shutter. Where’s their bailout? What’s to be done about their employees? I love travel as much as the next points-and-miles-love AvGeek, but it’s increasingly difficult to stomach the sheer volume of funds being pumped into the industry – as necessary as it may be – while millions of other Americans are seemingly ignored.

  7. To Shawn, Jim, and Flow. Don’t be a “Richard” there are dicks in all industries including yours.

  8. I don’t understand what the fuzz is all about? The new reality IS grim and will be for a while. AA wants to ensure all understand and those who are not willing to do so, then they can look for another job.

  9. @shygal1 – agree.

    These “Karens” are our neighbors, friends, our wives, kids and more. They support the economies where they live. Nor should the all be cloaked under the actions of a few. Have some empathy, your job or your industry could be next.

  10. The sad reality is that the most junior FAs who are typically more engaged and passionate will be furloughed while the senior ones who have flown for decades get to stay on.

  11. Yes, FAs are there primarily for safety. But when there is not an emergency, the majority of FAs simply don’t care to do their job. They are especially surly on AA (I’m a 5 MM flyer).

    Karen = Karma

  12. These comments wishing and hoping people lose their employment are utterly disgusting. You say karma, well that karma may just come your way too.

  13. Four day trips, longer days, more flights, shorter layovers…sounds like a recipe for disaster. Even though my experience with AA FAs has been more unpleasant than not, this sounds awful. Meanwhile Doug Parker is somewhere making millions.

  14. Disgusting, AA should have benefits years ago for these loyal employees so they could have retired years ago. Now its come to this.they are willing to be fired bc of AA poor planning. They will not receive anything more than SS..they know this. They are digging in, and will take this ship down with themselves. Believe it.

  15. This is a thinly veiled notice to the senior mamas that the party is over, and if they aren’t prepared to go back to working like they did twenty years ago (you know, when they were only 50 years old) that they should take the early out, because they are NOT going to like what’s coming.

    AA’s challenge is that it has a massive set of FAs who feel they’ve “earned” the right to work four days a month. Those are the people they’re trying to scare away. Problem is that most of them won’t hear this message and will stay – which means the inconsistent sloppy service we’ve come to know and love from AA’s international routes is now coming to domestic, too!

  16. With the handwriting on the wall, why loose even more? I am sure we will see the majority of the F/A’s who realize their seniority will inevitably lead to a layoff, will accept one of the early outs programs.

  17. A comment about the overabundance of AA snack nuts, why aren’t they in the bag with the water, biscoff, & wipe, you’re given as you board the planes? I was forced into early retirement (seems to be a trend in our nation) but received a very nice severance package.

  18. This is the future for every airline flight attendant group. No airline can survive with how it was. Those with contracts, they will utilize bare minimum requirements to build trips. Those without a contract…like Delta….God help them. The company can and will do whatever they want with the FAs. It will be about saving money at all costs the next few years and anyone who thinks Delta or AA or any airline is going back anytime soon to previous standards are in for a rude awakening.

  19. Since when did telling the truth become a “grim picture”? Is it better to say “it’s just 1 person from China and it’ll be gone quickly”? The truth always wins.

  20. @James S Hate to say it, but you pretty much nailed it. There is a point where these senior FA’s are just riding the gravy train of a sort of retirement with chocolate sauce on top. Working a few days a month, acting entitled to passengers and younger crew, and heading back to their rocking chair to rest for another 26 days so that they can milk it some more the next month.

    They need to call it a day and move on. The train has reached its final destination: Reality.

  21. @Deedee. Good comment. You are smart!

    That said, it’s disgusting that none of the airlines discuss pulling out middle seats and backing up the rest of the seats so passengers have more space…space that’s humane! Nothing but SILENCE on how they plan to keep conditions so pathetic!

  22. Why you guys try to work as FA for a month
    And start talking
    You dont know how many stupid people flying this days,
    People think because the pay a ticket the are entitled to everything
    And business people the are the worst

  23. @SFORamper I think people who purchase a ticket are entitled to everything. At least everything they paid for. Unfortunately all too often on AA pax don’t receive that. And while you may prefer leisure travelers over business travelers, during healthy economic times AA makes its money on the backs of business travelers.

    I would actually like to work as an FA for a month. Maybe I’d hate it, but the reality is that I’d never get hired because it’s such a competitive position the other applicants would surely outshine me.

  24. I guess when you’re in a union job where you have amassed so much seniority you get to pick where and when you work that sounds horrible…

    To the rest of us it just reflects reality, a boilerplate warning that we will all be working longer, harder and taking on the more of the less enjoyable tasks of rebuilding our respective businesses post Covid. Imagine a banker leaking a memo saying $80 business lunches are off or a sales rep receiving one saying no new company cars this year… the horror.

  25. @sforamper – Are you for real? Like you’re a real flight attendant and travel? Because I do. And it’s the business travelers who get one soda or maybe one drink. And let’s be honest also pays your salary. It’s the leisure traveler who splurged and orders 5 bloody Mary’s on a 40 min 6 am flight.

    I stand by my comments. You’re grave train has run out. Oh darn. Maybe get a job at Wendy’s because that’s about all you Karen’s are qualified for and then complain about serving customers.

  26. @Shawn If SFORamper’s handle describes his/her work, they have never been “above the wing” except when using their pass privileges. 🙂

  27. Here is what I do not understand. Since Covid is the main reason people do not fly, instead of loosing billions, why don’t the airlines invest in instant Covid test machines such as the ones by Abbott. .They can advertise Covid free flights (to the extent the tests are reliable). Yes, will have to get to airport early, but if I knew everyone onboard had an negative instant test, I would start flying again tomorrow!

    I realize there are otter impediments to travel such as concerns over what happens at TSA and what happens after you land, but Covid free flights could turn things around.

  28. The party is over-” laissez Le bon temps rouler”. Hope all the f.a.’s with college degrees have a usable degree.

  29. @Anon1234
    Wonderful idea!! Your comment addresses the root cause of customer reluctance to fly. Airlines should invest in efforts to develop something similar to what you suggest; the first airline to implement such a COVID risk mitigation will make a mint!

  30. I wish them well. Although I’ve had my share of bad service aboard A/A , I’ve also experienced good service. I usually travel 1st class or business. Many passengers are assholes and expect more than what they pay for but it still doesn’t deserve attitude and bad service. I disagree that flight attendants are there for safety. A video pretty much describes what needs to be done in event of an emergency and for the most part, he or she will be in just as much panic as the rest of the plain. Providing information and comfort during the flight is the primary job. If you think safety is the primary job you are seriously missing the boat, or plane, if you will. I support your position of authority on the flights and that position shouldn’t be abused because you don’t like your pay or job. I wish you all the best.

  31. @Thomas Esposito Sorry to hear that you feel flight attendants aren’t there for our safety. I’d like to ask that you take some time of your day today and think back to US #1549 and if it weren’t for the ENTIRE crew, which includes three FA heroes, everyone on that plane probably wouldn’t have survived.

  32. I’m a retired AA flight attendant and it really hurts me reading these negative comments about my past fellow employees. I flew for 28 years and Internationally for 17 of those years. I made sure that my passengers enjoyed their flights. I can only remember a few flights where we had a flight attendant that was not particularly nice. I spent most of the flight making up for her nastiness. But once again my passengers left with smiles! Sorry you weren’t on my flights!

  33. All I can say is: Brace for impact people! This is not a time for denial of the reality. The plane IS going down, and you’re in it, so brace yourselves and prepare for impact. If you have time, read “Who Moved My Cheese ?” Are you “Sniff,” Scurry,” Hem” or “Haw.” My guess is that most of you will, just like Haw, stay in your comfort zone believing the cheese is coming back. Wake up. Go out into the maze (World) and look for new cheese (another type of work). They’re not going to bring the cheese back. Do it – now! BRACE! – BRACE! -BRACE!!! Where will be one who survives on Oct. 1st?

  34. LAX MAN,it is a very hard job, probably the hardest, time sensitive, breathing regurgitated air,then PASSENGERS .

  35. Greetings from a current, 30+ year AA flight attendant who STILL meets every passenger with a smile, and cares about making your journey SAFE and enjoyable. The Comments from those who have received less than this inside our metal is unfortunate, and as in EVERY customer service experience, with each individual boarding we immediately recognize and sense positive/negative energy. Although your trip may have just begun onboard with your crew members, the drudgery of airport arrival, security screening, redundant PA’s in the gate area, and the boarding process create a hurdle for your crew to transform your travel from point A-Z into a pleasant and memorable journey. That being said, the ‘doom and gloom’, the nay-sayers, and those that believe our ship has sailed, instead let me offer a group of highly trained individuals for the unexpected moments from an aborted takeoff, loaded with fuel and hot braking action, to Inflight aircraft anomalies, and WITH EVERY FLIGHT the possibility of a Planned and UNplanned evacuations on a complex amount of aircraft with doors/windows/commands in our memory banks. Adding to that, also being medically proficient to handle your health (especially cardiac) emergencies at cruise altitude, and definitely the calm in the storm when passenger conflicts and unanswered needs to be resolved with confidence, satisfaction, and professionalism. In recent years, we’ve added training for terrorism, biological agents, and runaway thermal batteries. This compilation means the learning never ceases for your flight attendants, and it takes decades to ‘roll with the flow’, in order to deliver the seamless product our passengers expect. Please keep these scenarios in mind when YOUR next trip takes place, because we are! Your flight attendants are onboard to manage not just your beverage/snack/meal service delivery, but also are willing to participate in a major life event that each passenger may experience onboard, no matter the length or destination. Most flight attendants are also college educated, and we have certainly attended the greatest school in existence – the School of Life. Welcome Aboard!

  36. It is a failure on the part of AA leadership to create a culture that is customer-centric. AA needs to reinvent itself by starting with new corporate values; values that are shared by every employee in the company, especially F/As who are representing the company on the frontline. Then, it’s about every employee instilling those values that are reflected behaviorally in their interactions with everyone they come in contact with. Even when passengers can be difficult, it is incumbent on every F/A to use the best conflict resolution skills in real-time to resolve issues – always with a smile. The behavior of flight attendants, with direct or indirect contact with passengers, is what will drive the company’s strategies, goals and performance (customer satisfaction levels with good feedback) that will contribute to passengers’ favorable feedback. But, instead, company management, I would assume, is too “transactional, putting numbers before people. This is what I believe contributes to the extent that so many AA F/As receive such negative feedback. They probably need to be treated better (more respected by management) so that they feel more connected to the company’s values and vision. Instead, and sadly, because there are so many good AA F/As, the company will end up (for some of the very same reasons as Pan Am and TWA), continue in a downward spiral with a crash. It’s not too late, and if AA can encourage all of those “Senior mamas” to move on, the younger F/As can be part of creating a new culture at AA that puts passengers first. Advice to some entitled AA F/As: lose the attitude. You are in those cabins to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency. You are also in those cabins to provide the best level of In-flight service to passengers. When that is not happening, your junior teammates are hating on you and your attitude (thoughts, feelings and observed behaviors) begin to be modeled by others. When these poor non-customer-centric attitudes are projected on to the negative attitudes of passengers, YOU are creating your own, and the company’s, downfall. I hope that there is some level of intervention on the part of AA leadership to wake up, smell the coffee, and get this company turned around – quickly. COVID-19 is an opportunity to re-create the company and it begins with YOU, creating a a positive culture (with the values, beliefs and behaviors) that drive strategy, goals and performance results to become one of the World’s leading airlines. So stop putting numbers before people, and being so ego-centered, and realize that by focusing on culture, you can make your job a lot easier and Wall-Street analysts will begin to value the company more too. All employees win then! DO IT!

  37. When is the last time anyone saw a 70+ year old EMT or Lifeguard? I’m an AAdvantage member who flies weekly – still do. I don’t feel safe anymore watching great aunt Mabel who can’t stand up, sit down, close bins, close the door, and has no clue how to use that device she’s issued. What happens to passengers when the physically able flight attendants disappear? Passengers have to save all four flight attendants and ourselves in an accident?

    American and the FAA need to start retiring old flight attendants for public safety. Keeping physically feeble individuals in this job isn’t cute. It’s dangerous.

  38. I’ve been a EP for several years now and it is troubling to know there will be more bitterness and inconsistency from AA’s senior FA’s for the foreseeable future. The problem for AA is they have an aging workgroup who still believes they are entitled to something from the airline while they are doing the absolute bare minimum; especially in this current environment. The junior FA’s are easy to notice, they attentive, energetic, and friendly! It is sad they’ll be pushed out, they made my flying just a little more enjoyable, even nowadays.

    The senior Susan’s and Kevin’s talk badly about the company in front of us (we are listening Susan, my noise cancelling headphones are just on my ears) and bad mouth those junior to them. I can only imagine what kind of toxic environment is festering elsewhere within their ranks.

    But, I’m glad the airline is going to work them like a crab boat Captain does his greenhorns on the Bering Sea if they stay on. I hope they like that weak coffee in the galley because they’re going to need it.

  39. I really don’t care what happens to American Airlines. My last flight with them was in 2009 after a flight attendant was just downright rude to me. I’ve heard it over and over that flight attendants tell passengers that they are on board an airplane for our safety. That is true but you are also there to be kind and respectful to passengers and to provide the utmost comfort to passengers and to provide exceptional service that reflect favorably on the company’s goals and Mission. Being rude to passengers is not the way American Airlines intended it. Flight attendants come a penny a dozen. Surely, American Airlines can find better. After they trash all the bad ones during this situation, maybe they can be more selected in their process of hiring. Either way, I will not ever flight American Airlines again. Fly Southwest or JetBlue all the time. Outside the United States, Fly Lufthansa, Air France, or KLM.

  40. @donato – If the FA was sitting buckled into the jumpseat while you and your wife were using the lav, it sounds like there was probably a little light over your seat that was illuminated, requiring you to sit in your seat with your seat belt buckled. It’s not a suggestion. You and your wife are adults… you can plan your lav visits and hold it if you need to. Perhaps the reason you received a frosty response from the hard working DAL FA is that she was tired of every time the chime dings and the seat belt light goes on, passengers like you take it as a signal to take that one last trip to the lav. Not to mention the fact that instead of talking to her like a human being there to help insure your safety, you chose to give her a dirty look to show your entitled displeasure. Imagine what a smile and a conversation could have accomplished?

    @TommyEsposito – Did it ever occur to you that dealing with clowns like you might be the reason FAs get jaded on occasion? As for “a video pretty much explains everything…” honestly, when was the last time you looked up from your phone to pay attention? And good luck getting the video to open the door in a dark, smoke-filled cabin. Think the FAs will panic like you? Think again. Don’t believe me? Why don’t you check out what FAs do in initial and recurrent training? Where’s your empirical evidence that FAs don’t contribute to the safety of the aircraft? An example of an FA not engaging during an emergency? Rather than seeing them as servants to wait on you hand and foot, try talking to them and finding out how they are your partner along with the entire flight crew to get you to your destination safely. I have seen so many of your kind in my 20+ years of weekly business travel. Fortunately, I can choose to ignore idiots like you. Unfortunately, you subject the cabin crew to your behavior and attitude every time you fly.
    As for me, I’ve made too many friends with wings on their chests who are now in peril. I cannot suffer fools like @donato and @TommyEsposito any longer. Are there FAs who have been on the job a long time? Yes. Are there problems with that? In certain circumstances. Is this the same as in many professions? Absolutely. Do they still deserve human decency? Without question.
    Here’s an idea… next time you board an incredibly complex machine designed to move you quickly and safely, regardless if you turn left or right on boarding, smile and say hello to your flight crew. Talk to them as professionals and people, because that’s what they are. Even if that means pausing for a moment as you roll your armoire-on-wheels down the aisle.
    I have flown on most domestic lines, and quite a few international carriers as well. My wife and I have worked in the industry over the years in various capacities. There is good and bad in the industry, as in all industries. Let’s not make it worse by failing to realize the humanity of this extraordinary situation.

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