May 31st marks the annual international Flight Attendant Appreciation Day – it’s not quite a Hallmark event just yet but if on you’re a flight today or happen to bump into a flight attendant then show them some appreciation. For all the amazing benefits that come with being a flight attendant, it’s also physically and emotionally tiring, often-times very lonely, full of twists, turns and ever-increasing demands.
Like many airlines around the world, American Airlines has also got into the spirit of recognising its in-flight crew today. In fact, American Airlines says it celebrates its 28,261 flight attendants not just on Flight Attendant Appreciation Day but every day.
“We are incredibly grateful for our flight attendants, who travel great lengths to serve our customers,” explained Jill Surdek, Vice President of Flight Service at American.
“Our flight attendants are the best in the business,” she continued. “I’m proud to say that our teams are made of dedicated and passionate professionals who truly care for our customers on life’s journey.”
Pickier than all eight Ivy league schools
Yet, despite the huge numbers of flight attendants currently working at American, don’t think any of them landed the job easily. Last year, American received 130,000 applications for just a few thousand open positions – only two out of every 125 candidates were selected. A ratio that American describes as more selective than all eight Ivy league schools.
Once you’ve gone through that kind of selection process and completed an average of 900-hours training, no wonder you might want to stay put – in fact, the average length of service for an American Airlines flight attendant is a whopping 21-years.
But some of those flight attendants (even the longest-serving) might be questioning whether American really does appreciate them. Sure, the job and the lifestyle is great but has American got their best interests at heart?
Does American really appreciate its flight attendants?
It’s an important question because despite American saying it wants to promote its workplace culture as a competitive advantage, the airline seems to be at loggerheads with many employee representatives, including the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA).
The list of grievances and disputes seems to be steadily growing without any sign of a positive resolution coming soon. Even seemingly easy fixes are going ignored – take the new law that should guarantee flight attendants a minimum of 10-hours rest between flights. Congress signed-off the law last year after a growing stack of evidence on fatigue and flight-safety risk – a policy shift that flight attendants have been campaigning on for many years.
But while the FAA is dragging its heels in implementing the law, American could abide by the will of Congress and update its policy today. It chooses not you and appears to be waiting until it’s forced to.
Refusing to listen?
American also refused to listen to the concerns of flight attendants over the Boeing 737MAX and didn’t ground its fleet until the FAA ordered it to do so. A flight ban on services to Venezuela was only introduced when pilots threatened a stoppage.
Meanwhile, flight attendants have been advocating about the risks of shrinking seats and lavatories on American’s newest aircraft – it’s so-called Oasis project. Again, those concerns went ignored until American noticed its share price slumping. A reversal, of sorts, might not be the pipeline.
Then, of course, there’s the total mismanagement of the toxic uniform scandal (over 5,000 flight attendants have now suffered adverse reactions to the new uniform) and the out-of-touch sickness and performance policy.
American’s flight attendants are clearly loyal and they clearly want the airline to be the very best it can be. They also want the resources and product to serve customers well – yet American doesn’t seem to be appreciating their feedback at all.
Instead, airline managers have taken a path that has alienated its workers and its passengers. No wonder its stock is tanking.
Obviously, not every flight attendant feels this way. And the vast majority no doubt are very proud of the job they do and the airline they work for. It would also be wrong to say that American doesn’t entirely appreciate its employees – but a lot can and shoud be done.
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.