Since October, American Airlines has been running a controversial ‘Flight Attendant Attendance and Performance Program‘ that one staff association says has “disrespected” its members and ushered in a new low in the relationship between management and flight attendants. The program was introduced after the final merger of legacy American flight attendants and their counterparts at the former U.S. Airways – what was supposed to be the successful culmination of years of work has descended into a farce.
Effectively, the program awards points for attendance and performance issues. If a flight attendant accrues enough points in a 12-month period, instead of winning a prize the staffer can expect to receive a formal warning or even face dismissal. Critics have quite rightly pointed out that the system doesn’t allow for individual circumstances or the unique stresses of being a flight attendant.
For example, a flight attendant who accumulates between 4-6 points would have to face a performance review, while collecting 8 points in a rolling 12-month period could leading to a final written warning. Flight attendant’s who amass 10 or more points in the same timeframe would face dismissal.
Circumstances in which points could be collected are wide-ranging but include reporting late or being a no-show for a flight, as well as taking two or more personal days. Going sick over so-called ‘critical’ periods like Thanksgiving and Christmas would also lead to points being issued.
Up until now, we’ve understood the program to be purely an attendance management tool but sources within the company suggest American is conflating attendance and performance into the same tool. Worryingly, flight attendants now believe complaints that are way beyond their control could result in points being awarded against their performance.
We reached out to American Airlines who denied customer complaints or other performance metrics are or are going to be included. A company spokesperson told us: “that is not correct. Points are for attendance only.”
The spokesperson clarified that “performance issues are evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” which would suggest that arbitrarily issuing points wouldn’t fit this model.
But flight attendants remain less than convinced. Several assure that the Attendance and Performance Program does include customer complaints – even for problems like delayed or cancelled flights, broken in-flight entertainment and catering issues.
Lori Bassani, the President of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents the 26,000+ flight attendants of American Airlines wouldn’t be drawn on the allegations but did tell us the union had filed a grievance against the airline.
“The company instituted a new points-based attendance and dependability program on October 1st, which was the date of full operational integration. The union immediately filed a Presidential Grievance on the Attendance Program,” Bassani told us.
The grievance is set to be heard in late February at which point more details may be made public.
If the rumors are true, this would mark a very worrying development in the relationship between American’s flight attendants and the airline. It would also be incredibly unusual – performance metrics such as customer complaints and satisfaction are normally used to decide additional awards such as bonuses.