United Airlines says it will take a “zero tolerance” approach to accusations that some flight attendants are swapping trips with their colleagues in return for cash and other payments. While flight attendants at many airlines around the world are allowed to swap or ‘trade’ work assignments with colleagues, the whole idea is to allow flight attendants to better manage their work/life balance.
The swap in itself is meant to be mutually beneficial to both parties and gaining a financial advantage from the swap is strictly prohibited. According to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), many of its members have “grown tired” with the behaviour of some of their colleagues and have “lost interest” in protecting rogue flight attendants who have been breaking the rules.
“Many of you have voiced concerns about illicit trip brokering where certain individuals have been improperly ‘parking’ and holding trips for their personal gain,” the union told flight attendants in a memo sent earlier this week.
“The noise on this subject has continued to grow to a point where management has been left with no alternative but to investigate these concerns and to take the necessary actions to address these ongoing concerns.”
While both the union and United Airlines maintain that the vast majority of flight attendants act within the rules, there are concerns that the actions of a small number could see big change made to the swapping system. Some misbehaving flight attendants have even been so open as to ask for “expressions of appreciation” when trading trips on a company internet swaps page.
Similar concerns were raised at American Airlines last year where some longer-serving flight attendants were accused of using their seniority to park trips and then sell them to more junior colleagues for $200 per trip. American Airlines responded to the complaints by introducing software that actively looked for suspicious patterns in the bidding and swaps system.
The airline said that any flight attendants caught selling a trip would face disciplinary action.
Earlier this month, United Airlines fired 35 employees, including some flight attendants, for selling significantly discounted travel passes. In an internal memo, the airline said it had “uncovered a brokering scheme where employees were soliciting pass travel privileges from their colleagues to put up for sale.”
The memo continued:
“Some of the employees who gave up their passes received payment, while others were deceived into giving away their pass travel privileges based on the pretext that the passes were for a good friend or a relative (although even that would be against the rules).”
Staff travel passes are a unique, sought after but sometimes frustrating perk of working for any airline. However, they’re only intended to be used by the airline employee or their friends and family. Selling travel passes is most definitely not allowed but many airlines have faced similar issues in the past.
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.