American Airlines is facing a staffing “debacle” and will be short of frontline employees over the holiday weekend warned the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents flight attendants at the Dallas Forth Worth carrier on Wednesday. The shortage comes nearly two months after American involuntarily furloughed nearly, 8000 flight attendants along with 11,000 other employees after federal payroll support dried up.
The flight attendant union warned its members were “exhausted” and being “pushed to the max” as a result of staffing shortages. As a result of long sit-times, flight attendants were also being exposed to COVID-19, the union claimed, with pandemic-related sick leave running much higher than had been anticipated.
Along with United and Delta Air Lines, American has previously claimed that rates of COVID-19 infection amongst its flight attendant workforce are significantly lower than the general population. Flight attendants, however, say longer working days and multiple legs have “greatly increased potential exposure” to the novel Coronavirus.
“Flight Attendants are being rescheduled, worked into Reserve off days, and treated as if they are expendable,” the union blasted, saying the “easy” answer was to bring back some furloughed flight attendants sooner than had been planned.
After APFA complained its members were working fatigue-inducing trips, a spokesperson for the American Airlines said it was working closely with the union to “resolve any issues” they may have.
But on Wednesday, the union again complained that management was ignoring feedback it was providing and was now facing a staffing debacle because of a “poorly thought-out scramble to combine wide-body and narrow-body flying.”
Last week, American’s senior manager for communications and contract administration Keith McCarty told furloughed flight attendants that the airline was hopeful it could start recalling staff in the first quarter of 2021. Such a move, however, would rely on a number of factors including the widespread rollout of vaccines and the extension of a federal payroll program.
Despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for American’s to avoid travel ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, over two million people passed through U.S. airports last weekend. Passenger numbers, however, remain down by about 60 to 65 per cent on the same period last year.
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.