American Airlines is hoping to head off the potential for a nightmare before Christmas by offering flight attendants big bonuses if they show up for work as scheduled over the busy holiday travel season.
The Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier was plagued by mass flight cancellations over the Halloween weekend and executives are said to be desperate to avoid a repeat in the run-up to Thanksgiving.
Flight attendants will rake in 150 percent pay if they turn up as scheduled to work flights between November 23 and November 29, as well as between December 22 and January 2, 2022. Those earnings could then be doubled to 300 percent pay if flight attendants don’t go sick between November 15 through January 2, 2022.
Officially, AA’s Halloween operational meltdown was caused by bad weather in the Dallas area which initially just delayed flights but then spiralled out of control because flight attendants and pilots were out of position and there weren’t enough reserves to pick up the slack.
It may well have been a coincidence that the meltdown occurred during a big holiday weekend but sickness rates spiked at the exact moment that AA needed some extra resilience.
Flight attendants acquire points for going sick which in turn can lead to disciplinary action but the system was reportedly recently reset as a gesture of goodwill for the effort that staffers had put in over the course of the pandemic.
Without the usual threat of the points-based sickness programme to dissuade flight attendants, AA has instead opted to incentivize crew to work their assignments over the holiday period.
Announcing the bonus offer, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) told its members on Friday: “First, we would like to acknowledge every Flight Attendant’s sacrifices over the summer, especially towards the end of October.”
“Reschedules, cancellations, lack of hotel rooms, and transportation plagued this airline with a frequency we had never seen. These disruptions affect our mental well-being, stress levels, family and personal relationships.”
The union, which represents more than 20,000 flight attendants, said it had “negotiated incentives with American Airlines to bring some well-deserved relief to our Flight Attendants during the upcoming busy holiday travel season.”
As well as extra incentive pay, American Airlines will make it easier for flight attendants to get to work by offering positive space for commuters on flights over the holiday season.
The airline has been forced to offer positive space for commuters on several occasions throughout the year due to a lack of availability of staff. AA is currently scrambling to recruit new flight attendants, with 600 new hire crew expected to come online by the end of December.
In addition, 1,800 flight attendants returned from long-term pandemic leave at the start of November.
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.