Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
Flight attendants at United Airlines say the carrier’s decision to resume buy-on-board snack and alcohol service on certain domestic flights is causing a “toxic environment” and they are “struggling” with mask enforcement. The situation has been made worse by “glitchy” sales software and inebriated passengers according to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA).
United dramatically scaled back inflight service as part of its initial response to the pandemic but brought back its buy-on-board service on certain flights over 800 miles last November in an attempt to address customer complaints over the lack of food and drink offered on many of its longer domestic services.
The inflight bistro was initially limited to flights from Denver to Boston (BOS), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Honolulu (HNL), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Washington Dulles (IAD), and Washington National (DCA).
The Association of Flight Attendants says, however, that the rollout of buy-on-board snacks has been beset with problems and that management need to start taking their complaints seriously.
“The new addition of snacks and the rollout of alcoholic beverages in particular, creates an even more difficult situation for working crew,” an AFA memo to flight attendants explains. “In addition to already prolonged contact with passengers, reports are that United’s sales software is glitchy creating frustration for both crew and passengers alike.”
“We’ve said this before, but introducing alcohol to this mix creates even more problems,” the memo continues. “In addition to having the mask off longer to consume alcoholic beverages, it’s a fact that alcohol reduces inhibitions and impairs judgement and creates a toxic environment for Flight Attendants already struggling with mask compliance.”
Mandeep Grewal, United’s Vice President of Customer Strategy and Innovation told flight attendants at the time that their concerns were “definitely warranted” but that “by providing additional food and beverage choices, we can better control how long customers are without their face covers and have better control of what comes on board, allowing for safer handling of trash.”
Grewal said contactless payment would only be accepted with passengers having to first register their credit card in the United app – a solution that is now proving to be “glitchy” and forcing flight attendants to spend more time in the cabin than intended.
“While we are on the road towards recovery with vaccinations and federal mask mandates, we are not yet at a place where the sale of food and particularly alcohol, amidst a continuing pandemic is the right decision,” the flight attendant union said of the experiment.
“United wants to ‘meet the needs of our passengers,’ they should also more importantly ‘meet the safety needs of their Flight Attendants’,” the memo continues.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Delta Air Lines plans to bring back buy-on-board snack options on domestic flights starting April 14. The Atlanta-based airline intends to serve a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, as well as sweet and savoury snacks and coffee and tea.
Last month, Delta said it would introduce contactless card payment devices onboard its flights and that flight attendants would be able to email receipts to passengers.
Photo Credit: First Class Photography / Shutterstock.com
Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing - Mateusz has been there and done that. He's got the low down on what really works.