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Only the Most Junior Flight Attendants at American Airlines Will Have to Work Flights in May

Only the Most Junior Flight Attendants at American Airlines Will Have to Work Flights in May

In a highly unusual move, the union that represents some 28,000 flight attendants at American Airlines has decided that its most junior members will be the ones who are expected to work flights throughout the month of May with more senior flight attendants paid up to 70-hours of flying time but not actually working any flights. Normally, the flight attendant contract requires trip bids to be assigned in strict seniority order.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) told its members in an internal update that a reduction in normal flying hours in May by as much as 80 per cent meant there simply wasn’t enough flights to go around. The PBS bidding system that builds flight attendant schedules works on assigning every crew member a roster with at least 75 to 85 flying hours but this clearly isn’t achievable.

Photo Credit: DFW

The outdated IT system, however, can’t be reprogrammed easily to account for the reduced flying hours so a decision had to be made as to which flight attendants weren’t even going to have the option to bid for trips. In an ideal world, APFA said they would ask for volunteers but in the meantime, they made an unusual choice.

Rather than following a long-held contract, union officials decided only the most junior flight attendants would bid and be assigned flights next month. APFA didn’t say why it had come to this conclusion, although it may be because junior FA’s are generally younger, fitter and less susceptible to serious side-effects caused by COVID-19.

The union has criticised American’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic and the lack of protection offered to flight attendants. At least 100 flight attendants have so far been confirmed to have contracted the novel Coronavirus in figures released by the airline over the weekend.

Until recently, American banned flight attendants from wearing masks and refused to provide them on flights. Only in recent days has the airline both allowed flight attendants to wear masks and them start provisioning them on flights.

“Oblivious to the seriousness this threat posed”

APFA says American “remained nonchalant” to concerns it raised about the Coronavirus pandemic and was “almost oblivious to the seriousness this threat posed”. It claims the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline “repeatedly downplayed or dismissed” its concerns and failed to share details about flight attendants who had tested positive.

American has offered a number of paid voluntary leave options, as well as an ‘early out’ for very senior flight attendants which can be used if crew don’t feel it is safe to fly amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. While technically possible to cancel one of these leave options to take advantage of a minimum 70-hour pay-out, APFA has warned its members that no matter your seniority, there’s no guarantee they won’t be assigned a line of lying.

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