American Airlines flight attendants just filed a major complaint and no one is very happy

A lot of people usually want to become an American Airlines flight attendant.

“It’s a long way lower adoption rate than Harvard,” as former American Airlines CEO Doug Parker put it a few years ago. “We get the best of the best.”

At the time, he was probably right. Before the pandemic, American Airlines had about 500,000 applications on hand for 2,000 flight attendant openings.

Since then, however, the entire airline industry has been turned upside down, and some of the luster of the idea may have slipped from both American Airlines and its competitors.

Case in point: the recent announcements from the union representing American Airlines flight attendants, who this week ridiculed American Airlines about scheduling issues.

In short, the union says its members are “frustrated” and feel that American Airlines is “disregarding the well-being of our flight attendants” due to “high line averages and the increased number of hours pushed onto their schedules.” .”

Simply put, the union is basically saying that American Airlines is forcing senior flight attendants to take on overcrowded schedules that often don’t work due to cancellations and delays.

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As a result, the union, known as the Association of Professional Flight Attendants or APFA, says American Airlines, in turn, is putting too many flight attendants on reserve so they can be ready at short notice when other flight attendants are inevitably unable to staff. to staff. their flights.

“Our concerns and logical arguments have fallen on deaf ears,” the union wrote, adding:

“The allocation department blatantly ignores APFA’s input every month and continues to build sequences that cannot withstand weather and air traffic delays.

As a result, these broken sequences require AA to call in an entirely new reserve crew… The sheer number of reserve flight attendants used to complete these fragile sequences is shocking.”

In 2022 alone, flight attendants clashed with American Airlines management over everything from the number of drinks to be served in economy class to the policy of not playing flight attendants when boarding and alighting passengers.

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American Airlines and the union both even called on some flight attendants to create a secondary market for the best flights.

Basically, senior flight attendants would bid on desirable flights they had no intention of working, only to turn around and sell their right to work on the flights to more junior flight attendants.

In short, no one seems very happy. Incidentally, I have asked American Airlines for comment on all this, but have heard nothing more. If they have something to add, I’ll update this article.

Look, I want American Airlines to do it right. I want their flight attendants to be paid fairly and enjoy their jobs, and I want the entire American airline industry to be healthy so that we can all fly safely, reliably, comfortably and more or less affordably.

While that may seem daunting at times, my interest in this story—and probably yours—isn’t so much about the specific complaints of American Airlines flight attendants, but about what leaders in any industry can learn from the story.

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In this case, I think it has to do with the rather archaic, Byzantine flight attendant scheduling system that seems to be at the root of so many problems.

While reading all this, I came across the 122 page manual or one-spaced guide for the Flight Attendant Preferential Bidding System they use at American Airlines.

I am aware that this kind of policy is the result of negotiations between unions and airlines, with some 25,000 flight attendants and countless flights, but the complexity is striking.

As I write in my free ebook, Flying Business Class: 12 Rules for Leaders From US Airlines, this industry offers a non-stop parade of business school case studies that can help you overcome challenges in your business.

Today’s lesson? Keep things simple when you can. You may end up with happier employees.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not’s.

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