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American Airlines Warns Veteran Flight Attendants They’ll Have to Work Longer and Harder if They Don’t Retire Now

American Airlines Warns Veteran Flight Attendants They’ll Have to Work Longer and Harder if They Don’t Retire Now

As American Airlines seeks to convince more flight attendants to voluntarily leave earlier than they may have originally planned, management has switched tactics warning veteran crew that their working life will change considerably for the foreseeable future… and not for the better. The Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier currently estimates an overage of up to 10,000 flight attendants by October 1 because of the drop in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic but so far only around 400 crew members have opted to take an early out.

On Friday, American’s senior vice president of flight service, Jill Surdek sent a memo to flight attendants warning of a “new reality” that may convince more veteran crew members to take up the offer of voluntary early retirement or extended leave of absence.

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh International Airport

“The reality is our business is going to change, moving forward and for the long-term,” Surdek said in the emailed memo. The enviable work/life balance that many long-serving flight attendants have come to enjoy, Surdek cautioned, will change and longer duty days with multiple legs per day and shorter layovers are likely to become the norm.

Involuntary furlough legal notices have been sent to roughly 37 per cent of American’s 28,000 strong flight attendant workforce. If American furloughs all 10,000 flight attendants at risk of redundancy, it would hit staffers who joined the airline as far back as April 2002.

Long-serving flight attendants who enjoyed the benefits of seniority would once again find themselves at the bottom of the seniority list and may well have to spend more time on reserve and working less-popular trips that are normally given to junior crew members.

Surdek claims as many as 80 per cent of flight attendants could find themselves on reserve rotation while flying hours will likely increase. On top of that, American has already announced plans to cut crew complements, meaning flight attendants will be working harder than they’ve become accustomed.

The perks of international flying will likely remain a rarity “through at least end of 2021” Surdek continued and displacements could be possible because of significant overages at several bases including Miami, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

“We have some unique offerings that are on the table when it comes to alternatives to flying. That’s why I wanted to paint a realistic picture of what life will be like beginning this fall,” Surdek urged.

American is offering several early out and voluntary leave of absence schemes but insiders claim uptake has been much lower than other U.S. airlines such as Delta and notably Southwest because the offers aren’t nearly as generous. Contractural quirks, especially through American’s merger with U.S. Airways has also compounded problems.

Last week, American reported a second-quarter pretax loss of $4.3 billion after seeing travel demand plummet because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A gradual domestic recovery has since been stopped in its tracks because of Coronavirus spikes in a number of southern and western States. Total passenger numbers passing through TSA security checkpoints are stalled at around 20 – 25 per cent of last year’s numbers.

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