American Airlines Is Reportedly Firing Three Times As Many Flight Attendants As Usual

When American Airlines was trying to convince flight attendants to take early retirement, using taxpayer bailout cash to fund a reduction in workforce, then-Senior Vice President Jill Surdek told cabin crew that they wouldn’t like the work if they stayed. She was talking about the schedules flight attendants would have to work, consistent with their contract and the evolving network of the airline during the pandemic.

Now, the American Airlines flight attendants union is reporting, the airline is firing three times as many cabin crew for cause as they would in a normal year. This isn’t a bad thing, for customers or for flight attendants!

The rate at which American Airlines is moving to terminate flight attendants for a variety of disciplinary issues has allegedly tripled in the last year and the union that represents crew at the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline says it is “inundated” with requests to help flight attendants facing the sack.

…Despite well-publicized staff shortages across the aviation industry, American Airlines has made no secret of the fact that managers are looking to strictly enforce a wide range of rules and policies that may have previously been allowed to slip. The flight attendant union, however, is concerned that some of its members are being moved to termination without meetings or “attempts to mitigate”.

The flight attendants union and airline are moving slowly on their contract negotiations. July 19 and 21 and discussed scheduling and met again August 10 and 11 and discussed scheduling some more. Negotiators will meet again September 7 and 8.

The American Airlines flight attendants union may not like the increased number of terminations. And the reasons in any given case may be disputable. For instance earlier this year one Hebrew-speaking flight attendant trainee was fired after a Middle Eastern crewmember snitched on her during an observation trip. But in any company with over 10,000 people serving in a role, there are going to be some people who aren’t good fits and should be asked to leave.

Southwest Airlines famously manages to terminate around 7/10ths of 1% of its union workforce each year. By moving out the very small fraction of employees who are a bad fit for the airline, they’re able to preserve their culture.

The majority of employees who remain don’t have to pick up the slack for crew that don’t pull their weight, and they don’t become despondent realizing that poor contributors are rewarded just as well as crew that go the extra mile. As a result, Southwest’s unionized workforce usually presents itself as happy to be at work.

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