With more service elements returning but staffing remaining stagnant, the union representing flight attendants at United Airlines is encouraging flight attendants to file so-called “marginal service reports” to self-report when things go wrong onboard, including poor service.
Union Encourages United Airlines Flight Attendants To File “Marginal Service Reports”
In a memo to union members, the AFA-CWA concedes that service quality may be slipping:
“With the recent increased workload onboard our aircraft, we know that reducing staffing levels or eliminating certain positions, can result in longer wait times for passengers to receive their meals, drinks, and other services. This can lead to increased frustration and dissatisfaction among passengers and may result in a decreased level of service quality.”
As a very frequent flyer on United, the only case in which I have seen understaffed service is on the 767-300 with 44 seats in busienss class, though even on that plane United has added back one flight attendant which has helped service to move a bit quicker.
The union is soliciting feedback from flight attendants on service levels:
“We all want a return to a service we can be proud of and aligns with our mutual goal to be the best airline in the world. However, it’s important that if we have constructive feedback about difficulties or challenges, we encounter, we need to provide that information and suggestions to our Union to advocate for the change that will realistically align the service with the goals that management has set to provide a premium experience to our passengers.”
This will be done via “marginal service reports” forms provided by the union:
“As we work to meet these goals, we encourage you to provide specific information on the marginal service conditions that exist. Using the Reports & Forms section of our MEC website, file a Marginal Service Report which will provide the MEC Officers with specific information that can be used in our discussions with management as we continue to advocate for change to the Established Staffing Guidelines in light of the increased service levels on our flights.
“Therefore, it is important for crew members to provide detailed, specific information on how the staffing and recent increased service changes have adversely impacted passenger safety and service. This can help our Union assess the impact of the changes and take appropriate action to address with the company any safety or service concerns.”
I applaud this move. I think this is constructive engagement with management, even if the end goal is simply to increase staffing. The flight attendants that I typically encounter do seem to come to work ready and willing to provide the best service they know how. For so long during the pandemic their ability to do so was constrained by cost cutbacks onboard masquerading as safety precautions.
Finally, I’ll just remark that staffing levels do matter when it comes to service. For all we praise the flight attendants of East Asia, in some cases the advantage is not the attitude of the flight attendant, but how many are onboard. For example, I recently flew a Singapore 737 MAX 8, which features 154 seats onboard. That flight had seven flight attendants! The United 737 MAX 8 has 166 seats on the same plane but only four flight attendants.
While adding flight attendants is not realistic at this point, I certainly think we must be patient when it takes some extra time to serve food or drinks onboard…that is not flight attendants being lazy, but the reality of minimum staffing onboard.
The AFA is asking United flight attendants to self-disclose service shortfalls via a “marginal service report.” While the ultimate union goal is to add flight attendants onboard, there is a potential that these reports could lead to better service onboard and better working conditions for flight attendants, therefore I am for them.
image: United Airlines
This is the time for crew to help marginal crew get onboard with being and working at the best of their own ability. Self reporting is perfect because everyone on the flt is responsible, accountable, and transparant. No excuses now crew, you gotta work 100% or ya gotta go!
How true, the crew needs to be responsible, accountable and transparent; this can only improve the level of service and hope mgmt. will add more staff to the flt.s. Good comparison of Singapore Air and United. I’m still puzzled as to why they serve salty snacks in econ. or bus. Flying in low humidity is a tiring activity, so you don’t want more sodium, you want to stay hydrated during entire flight for your own health, and for hours after the flight experience.
The difference between Singapore and United (also American and Delta) is that Singapore serves full meals to passengers seated in coach on their 737s. Passengers can choose between a local, Western or regional inspire dish on flights up to 3.5 hours. For flights over 3.5 hours that are on a 737 Singapore Airlines offers the same level of service in coach that one would find if they had flown on a Singapore widebody. With that level of service you absolutely need 7 flight attendants.
Here in the US when all you get is a drink and a free snack in coach it is more laziness than anything you don’t need 7 flight attendants to serve 150 people in coach (166 minus the 16 people in first class) a cup of coke zero and a strupe waffle. Its not like United or any other US carrier is going to bring back hot meals in coach.
Agreed. In Singapore Airlines’ case, with 7 flight attendants, you have 1 working the Business Class galley, 1 FA serving Business Class passengers, 1 FA working the Rear galley, and 4 FAs serving the Economy Class Cabin, inwhich each passenger is given a meal as well as their choice of drink, so you probably have 2 carts rolled down the aisle at the same time with 1 FA at each end of the cart.
Hope it gets staffing back to levels that lets United board a full catering complement again – no more rushing through the appetizer and salad before the main course gets cold
It’s funny don’t you usually slam the afa union and butt kiss Delta even though they lack one and FA’s can get terminated for calling out sick more than 3 times in a year?
I beg to differ. It is the right time to add FA’s back to service, given in no small part, the tremendous hiring spree UA has been going on lately. In fact, twice already, both on a B737-700 that normally holds only 3 FA’s I’ve seen an extra pair of hands. And also, once, on the B737-900 that normally holds 4 FA’s, I’ve seen 5 so, yeah, it is pretty possible to increase current levels.
Four flight attendants on a 737-800/900/900ER has been standard since before the merger with Continental. United 737-700 going to Central and South America have an extra 4th flight attendant onboard, but if the 737-700 is operating a domestic flight there are only 3 FA’s onboard the aircraft.
It is possible to add a 5th flight attendant because there are a total of 5 FA jumpsuits onboard all United 737-800/900/900ERs but if you add that 5th flight attendant you are taking away a guaranteed seat from flight attendants who use that jumpsuit to commute back and forth to work. United has a lot of FA’s that commute to work and with the 737-900ER/MAX being the largest fleet in United’s overall fleet I highly doubt if this was put to a vote to add a 5th FA or leave the seat open for jumpseaters I highly doubt there are enough FA’s who live in base that would support adding a 5th FA’s knowing that it would end the possibility of any FA jumpseating on any 737-800/900/900ER/MAX
What a piss pour reason to not justify staffing increases. Ride in the back then.
Dolt, the reason that FA’s rely on riding the jumpseat to commute is because there are no available seats in the back to sit in. Ergo, they ride the jumpseat – which comes with restrictions, like not being allowed to close your eyes, prohibited from wearing non-business-attire, or having a personal bag under your feet. FA’s prefer a passenger seat.. not the jumpseat.
In any case, 99% of FA’s would welcome an extra 3rd FA in economy (or a 5th extra FA on 777’s in economy) on the routes where it makes sense, such as any transcon flight, any flight to Florida, or any flight to godawful LAX. Do you think the company does that? no. they’ll randomly staff an extra FA, or convert a deadheading FA to work, on empty 40 minute flights like IAD>EWR, where it makes no sense and is unnecessary.
The reason a nonworking flight attendant would take a jumpseat when commuting to/from work is because there are NO seats remaining on the flight. Taking the jumpseat is a seat of last resort and it is the most uncomfortable seat on the aircraft. With the number of flight attendants that commute to/from work on United who absolutely need that jumpseat there is no way the union would ever go for adding a 5th flight attendant to 737-800/900/900ER/MAX aircraft because it would by all accounts end the commuting option on the largest fleet United Airlines has.
That sounds like it was their choice to live out of base then.
I think that increasing staffing levels on board is safer & service wouldn’t have to be so stressful for both the FA’s & the passengers. The airlines desperately need quality new hires to fill so many positions. This won’t happen anytime soon.
Airline staffing just mirrors most industries of the country. People can speculate where workers have gone (retirement, other countries, underground economy, etc.) but most companies have staffing issues and it isn’t improving.
Part of the problem are the companies themselves who seem to view employees as servants and they think they can dump more and more on people without them getting adequate compensation in return. I’m all for holding people accountable and there are too many people in the workforce that are simply incompetent but the same is true for companies and many people in management.
I’m in a situation where I probably no longer need to work and over the past year have interviewed for jobs in technology. Most are well paid jobs. The interview process is broken, most don’t want someone working less than 40 hours which baffles me. If you are seriously short staffed wouldn’t having a good employee working 24-32 hrs a week be better than no one at all? Especially if that person doesn’t even need any benefits like health insurance?
Despite getting offers, I think I will just enjoy life in retirement and avoid the idiots that run most of these companies.
Staffing doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that FAs don’t proactively pass through the cabin on long-haul flights after the first meal service is done. It also doesn’t have anything to do with not serving PDBs on flights that depart early or on time.
Is unbillable the new policy of UA regarding the personal presentation of some of the fly crew disregard for official US uniform, personal presentation of some fly crew tattoos, and hair arrangements mem with hand nails painted, etc. most like they just look like Hippies instated o a reputable representation of the Air Line. not to mention the poor service they do to passengers,
To see clowns I go to a Circus
This isn’t about domestic, it’s about international – domestic staffing levels haven’t shifted as significantly as International/Polaris services. Removing a Galley FA from Polaris on the 772 and the 787 has a big impact. If you are in B Zone (mini cabin) Right Aisle on the 777-200, the FA is working your aisle and running galley for both aisles – it is ridiculous. You get completely overlooked / forgotten about. Same thing for A Zone where the Purser works the aisle – any form of issue or distraction on board, the Purser has to attend to it, and service stops. It’s a huge problem.
Also, it’s not going to be the Lazy FAs filling the MSR out – it’s going to be the dedicated, quality FAs that want to provide a good service and care about the long-term competitive positioning of United. Business travel is not coming back, and the Q1 numbers are starting to show the transition cracks. We shall see.