Flight attendants at American Airlines have warned they are battling “enforcement fatigue” as they face constant issues with face mask non-compliance while spending much of their time “de-escalating arguments”. At the same time, with nearly 8,000 of their colleagues involuntarily furloughed, remaining flight attendants say so few remain they are now working “fatigue-inducing” trips.
In response to the claims from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), a spokesperson for American Airlines said they were working closely with the flight attendant union to address concerns and are “working together to resolve any issues” they may have.
“Our flight attendants have been, and remain, on the forefront supporting our operation during the pandemic,” an emailed statement continued. “We are incredibly grateful for their continued care of our customers.”
But on Sunday, APFA national president Julie Hedrick accused American Airlines of “using the pandemic as an excuse to worsen our work lives”. Hedrick claimed the Dallas Forth Worth-based airline had “also implemented staffing changes, creating an unreasonable workload… without any involvement from APFA”.
Hedrick did, however, say the union had been successful in seeing off the return of full beverage service in the Main Cabin until some point in 2021. “With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the last thing we need is increased opportunity for passengers to remove their facial coverings on the aircraft,” she explained.
“The battle for a safe environment on board is already challenging. We have kept this airline flying, and the care and treatment of the front-line employees should be this Company’s number one concern.”
American Airlines has required all staff and passengers over the age of two to wear an approved face-covering since May but enforcing the sometimes controversial policy hasn’t been plain sailing. Initially, flight attendants were told not to intervene but rising levels of non-compliance soon led to toughened rules.
Since June, American Airlines has moved to ban passengers who refuse to wear a face mask from future travel. The airline then went one step further by refusing to carry anyone who can’t, for medical reasons, wear a face mask.
While American Airlines hasn’t publicly revealed how many passengers it has banned for breaking its face mask policy, Delta claims to have placed at least 600 passengers on its no-fly list for face mask non-compliance.
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.