Heard: American Airlines flight attendant talks about management
A senior American Airlines flight attendant had a lot to say about the state of the airline, labor relations, management and the near future of the airline.
To be very clear, the conversation I overheard was off-the-record involving a senior American Airlines flight attendant and is, by its very nature, hearsay. Statements by the FA are their own, are unverifiable and are their opinions only. That said, when people speak candidly about their experiences, I find it important to listen even if their feelings or observations are not based on objective facts.
This particular FA has been with “American” for over two decades, but the first half of their tenure was with US Airways. They had been used to the management in place at the carrier for much longer than former American Airlines employees.
This flight attendant, along with many peers who would have agreed, have serious questions about American Airlines’ leadership team and its ability to handle the current influx of challenges.
“No one knows where someone is.”
The employee described situations where management does not know where the personnel are, but in this situation, specifically, the flight crew members. The struggle to update flight schedules, delays and cancellations is something that plagued American Airlines before the pandemic, but is now being amplified. That’s why my own travel agency gets a head start on replacing canceled flights because our technology knows before the American Airlines app updates its own customers or even gate staff boarding.
“I don’t know how long this can last.”
The stewardess was openly considering how the airline could continue in this state.
“New boss, like the old boss.”
The current management with Isom at the helm appears to have the same challenges as Parker, but in an amplified environment given the external pressures on airline performance. The flight attendant expressed little or no confidence in the ability of airline management to run an airline, even without the qualifiers “efficient”, “excellent” or “helpful”.
The stewardess expressed outrage at the issue of pilot shortages.
“They have known this problem for twenty years [and did nothing.]”
For that, it’s not just American Airlines. The entire industry has watched this idle freight train for decades and done nothing to materially address it.
Some would cite airlines that have created their own flight schools to onboard pilots with their own systems in place, help with tuition and get more pilots flying. However, those same detractors should consider the size of the promotions that came nowhere near offering an effective replacement for retired flight crew, let alone the expansion and growth plans that the airlines clearly have. presented to investors. JetBlue was a pioneer in this model, but before the pandemic, fewer than 100 new co-pilots had graduated. It’s seeing the problem and taking action, but the problem was so big and the results so small, that it left JetBlue desperately trying to buy Spirit like they do now to gain access to more pilots.
Airline lobbies had been busy for years before the pandemic, demanding restrictions against foreign airlines that are subsidized by their governments, creating an unfair competitive space (but they ignore their own subsidies, naturally.) But without addressing the mandatory retirement age, requesting waivers or changes to required flight hours, or even just paying these brand new co-pilots a living wage, especially in light of their massive student loan debt. Some co-pilots earned as little as $25,000/year according to this Skift article from 2013.
“For a first-year co-pilot at Republic Airlines, for example, that translates to a gross weekly salary of just $495 per week.
For a pilot with 10 years of SkyWest experience, the weekly gross salary might be around $1,312.
“Despite only being clocked 21.5 hours a week or 85 hours a month,” pilots are typically away from base and family, about 240-300 hours a month (or about 60-75 hours per week), “according to the Airline Pilots Association.
For Mesa Airlines’ lowest-paid co-pilot, who earns about $22 an hour, that imbalance equates to $6.80 an hour for a 60-hour workweek. – Skift
There’s been a push, mostly by fast food workers, for a $15 minimum wage that’s still not a national standard (although in practical market terms, good luck hiring first-rate workers). line right now for less than that.) But let it deal with a time when a pilot, straddling $70,000-180,000 student loan debt, was earning less than the proverbial burger-pinball to take you, you and your family, at your destination. This is why there is a shortage of pilots today, and even American PSA did something about it in 2019 by more than doubling the salary, it would still mean the right seat on the plane was being flown by someone earning a clearly unsustainable salary.
“It’s not just a driver issue. Many do not return. [New flight attendants] too.”
Think you’re frustrated with the current flight status? The crew members quit. The way this stewardess phrased it seems to suggest that we haven’t seen the wave of departures yet to come, but we have no doubt that they have. There is no doubt that these are difficult times for passengers and for flight crews and the employee’s assessment is that the big resignation may soon spread to the airline industry.
The flight attendant, who considers herself very loyal to the carrier, said she was appalled at the state of operations of American Airlines. Their comments about management just not knowing what’s going on in the airline line up with the customer experience in many cases. Although management disputes this claim, communications of delays and cancellations are a visible representation of the truth of this. Clearly the FA sees and understands the attention being given to the issue of pilot shortages, but feels there is growing resentment from flight attendants and other staff who are not being billed. that she might otherwise command. Whether or not the employee is right about employees choosing to leave the company in the coming months remains to be seen.
What do you think? Do the comments of these air hostesses appeal to you?