The union which represents over 26,000 American Airlines flight attendants has warned of a “critical” staffing shortage at all of its bases with the exception of Raleigh-Durham airport. The situation has now got so bad that the airline has implemented measures which could see flight attendants forced to work during their ‘Duty-Free Periods’.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) sent out a message to its members on December 26th, with a warning that AA had invoked a special clause in the flight attendant’s contract. In nine airports across the U.S., the situation has got so bad the airline can now call upon flights attendants on their days off.
The affected airports are currently: Boston (BOS), Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), San Francisco (SFO), St Louis Lambert Airport (STL) and Miami International (MIA).
The measure is the most extreme American Airlines is allowed to invoke and comes under the controversial Article 9.L flight attendant foundation document – effectively a document agreed between APFA and American over every important aspect of a flight attendant’s life at the airline.
New hires are most likely to be worst affected as those picked will be chosen in reverse order of seniority. However, APFA does have some sneaky tricks that it’s more than willing to share with its members.
The union is telling flight attendants that Amerian has to make “first party contact” – in other words, the airline has to be able to tell a flight attendant that they’re being hauled into work on their day off. Members are therefore being asked whether they really want to answer their phone to that unknown number.
Should they make the mistake of answering that call, APFA has another idea. You see, Federal regulations prohibit crew members from consuming alcohol within 8 hours of a flight – which might just get some unfortunate flight attendants out of working a flight on their rest day.
We don’t know how long this situation is going to last but American doesn’t seem to think it’s anything to worry about. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said it wasn’t “unusual for this to occur during peak travel periods.”
They were also quick to reassure that the situation hasn’t affected any flights and all their aircraft are going out with a full complement of crew. For now at least, American said it would continue to operate its full schedule.
It’s not that long since American faced controversy over a pilot scheduling fiasco when too many flight crews were given time off over the Christmas period. What the root cause of this current debacle is, remains a mystery.
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.