There’s every chance that the flight attendants on your next American Airlines flight might be slightly grumpier than usual. The airline has been forced to invoke a special condition that could see flight attendants being forced to work on their scheduled days off. It comes as the carrier grapples with a critical shortage of staff.
The news was made public by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) following notification from senior managers at the airline. The trade union of AA flights attendants represent nearly 30,000 members at the world’s largest airline.
American and APFA have a shared rule book – referred to as the Foundation Document that sets out mutually agreed work rules. The document covers everything from uniform (including the need for flight attendants to buy their own first uniform), through to expenses (The hourly rate for meals away from base is $1.50) and even parking arrangements (in 1998, American Airlines agreed to pay the cost of a parking permit at the flight attendant’s base airport).
So here’s the important part – In Section 9L of the Foundation Document, American sets out the circumstances in which it might require flight attendants to work on their scheduled day’s off. According to APFA, the change has been made “in response to a critical manning shortage” across the entire American network.
So what does this mean in reality? Well, flight attendants get a different roster every month, with scheduled days off between flights built into the roster – or in aviation speak ‘duty free periods’. These should be periods where flight attendants can completely relax – just like office workers know they won’t be called to do any work at the weekend (hopefully).
Unfortunately, due to the staff shortage, American is now struggling to fill the schedules and still have enough flight attendants on standby as well. So they’ve informed APFA that the company will start calling flight attendants into work on their days off. Admittedly, there are some rules around this – and clearly, American can’t call a flight attendant into work who hasn’t had federally mandated minimum rest. Nor can they force a flight attendant to work who has already exceeded their maximum flying and duty hours for the month.
Nonetheless, American flight attendants are not happy with the situation. In response, APFA has issued advice about the conditions that flight attendants could be called into work. The first is that ‘first party contact’ has to be made – simply put, a flight attendant has to answer the phone to American’s scheduling team on their day off. You also can’t operate a flight if you’ve had any alcohol in the proceeding eight hours. Two clever loopholes which will likely preclude most flight attendants from being called into work.
In the meantime, American is in the middle of a huge recruitment drive. The airline is desperately trying to fill positions at its home base of Dallas Fortworth as well as Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Dallas/Ft Worth, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Raleigh/Durham, NC; San Francisco, CA; St Louis, MO and Washington, DC.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.