Flight attendants at American Airlines are mounting a campaign to restore pre-pandemic staffing levels, arguing that premium cabin passengers are not getting the service they deserve due to insufficient flight attendants onboard.
Flight Attendants At American Airlines Want Increased Staffing To Provide Great Service
A note from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), the union representing flight attendants at American Airlines, highlights the issue:
Management continues to blatantly refuse our request to restore staffing levels to pre-pandemic levels. With full services now returned and, in some cases, additional service levels added, APFA is demanding that staffing levels be restored. Our Flight Attendants take pride in delivering a premium product to our customers. Management appears only to be concerned with lowering labor costs with no regard to the impact of staffing reductions on our Flight Attendants and their ability to provide a high level of service, especially in our premium cabins on the 777-300 and A321T.
It is evident that Management never thoroughly evaluated the impact of one person performing a premium service that includes much preparation, multiple meal courses, plating, and delivering a premium service in our highest premium cabins. Based on the reports we have already received, the workload has become unreasonable and unrealistic for one person to effectively complete service to the level that our customers expect.
Previously, the APFA had pointed out, “On the premium A321T transcontinental aircraft, first class passengers are served by the galley Flight Attendant, diminishing the service our First Class customers have come to expect. Our premium customers deserve better.”
Clearly, the flight attendants do not like the increased workload without the commensurate increase in staffing. I do think AA flight attendants enjoy providing good service because that makes for happier passengers…who become more quiet passengers.
But the problem goes beyond just staffing levels.
View From the Wing proposes that AA restore staffing in exchange for targeted performance metrics for onboard service. This is a great compromise and one that will promote accountability. Just like any airline, American Airlines has great flight attendants and some bad apples. Some would argue AA has more bad apples than others, but that has not been my experience.
Nevertheless, setting clearly-defined performance standards will promote transparency and encourage good service. Off the top of my head, that would include things like:
- Proactively collecting coats and offering a pre-departure beverage
- Addressing premium passengers by name
- Thanking elites for their AAdvantage status
- Monitoring the cabin every 10 minutes throughout the flight to ensure beverages are refilled
- Wiping off the edges of meal dishes that may have splashed in the oven and arranging the tray so that it look presentable before serving
- Thanking every premium cabin passenger for their business prior to landing
These are all little things that should be occurring now…they largely do not. Current staffing levels are within the contract and FAA guidelines. If flight attendants truly want to offer premium customers better service, they should be open to more accountability in exchange for more staffing.
American Airlines’ flight attendants argue that premium service onboard is virtually impossible with current staffing levels. As the onboard offering returns to pre-pandemic levels, their concern is legitimate. However, American Airlines should not simply restore flight attendants onboard without cutting a deal to ensure that the service delivered actually is premium.
image: American Airlines