Americans across the nation face unprecedented economic challenges due to the pandemic and its management. One group which has been hit particularly hard is flight attendants. I share the story of Anna, a furloughed American Airlines flight attendant, to underscore that mass layoffs are not merely statistics, but impact real people.
How An AA Flight Attendant Provided For Her Family
Syndicated columnist Elliott Hester, an American Airlines flight attendant, shares why flight attendants get along so well…with each other:
There’s an instantaneous camaraderie among cabin crew members, a palpable level of comfort that comes with wearing the same uniform and working for the same airline. Crew affinity is forged in cramped aircraft cabins during duty days that can drag on for up to 16 hours.
And when the plane lands in Kansas City or London or Saõ Paulo, Brazil, we rely on each other as tour guides, safety monitors and dinner companions because the crew is your out-of-town family.
Flight attendants of all backgrounds united by a common uniform reminds me of my time in the military. There is something so unifying about wearing the same uniform. Now, of course, flight attendants face mass furloughs due to the pandemic.
To humanize the situation, Hester tells about his colleague “Anna.” Anna, 27, has been a flight attendant for five years and earns $35,000/year…well, she did earn $35,000/year. She lived in a one-bedroom apartment and struggled to make ends meet. Why didn’t she live with roommates to share expenses, like many flight attendants do?
She shared the tiny apartment with three people: her boyfriend who had lost his job in the restaurant industry; a teenage brother with a drug problem and no prospects for employment; and her mother, who was battling cancer and relied on Anna’s company-issued medical insurance to help pay for chemotherapy.
Anna paid all out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
Anna paid for groceries so four household members could eat.
Anna paid for utilities and a cellphone family plan.
Anna paid the rent.
And now Anna has been laid off due to a system that protects flight attendants solely based upon seniority. Thankfully, Anna gets to keep her healthcare for two years as a furloughed AA flight attendant…many Americans don’t have that benefit.
Anna’s story is hardly unique. American Airlines laid off over 8,000 other flight attendants, many who could tell a similar story. We’ve seen layoffs like this across many industries. This is a winter of discontent for millions. Let us not forget the cost of mismanaging this virus and now the cost of continued lockdowns.
Some of us are in good shape. Some of us are in a position to help those in need. Let’s do it. Maybe it’s just spending time with a friend who is doing poorly. Maybe it is a little cash. Or maybe it is just carefully voting in less than two weeks. But let’s understand the momentous struggle so many of our neighbors find themselves in.
Anna, you’re brave. I admire your sacrifice and your love of family. I pray for your mother will prevail in her battle against cancer, healing for your brother, and that you and your boyfriend will soon find fulfilling work. In the meantime, I tell your story to remind many more that we must set aside our political divisions to help those around us. It starts with understanding.