Alaska Airlines is considering scrapping some parts of its inflight service because morale amongst flight attendants has hit the “lowest ever within recent memory”. The Seattle-based airline recently rolled back some of its pandemic-era inflight cutbacks despite opposition from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) which had spent “hours upon hours” in meetings with airline management trying to convince them to maintain a reduced inflight service.
Jeffrey Peterson, president of the Alaska Airlines branch of the flight attendant union told members on Wednesday that Alaska management appeared “profoundly out of touch with flight attendants” after the carrier made a series of pandemic changes despite the union’s objections.
Peterson suggested a number of immediate changes Alaska Airlines could make to improve flight attendant morale, including reducing the number of meal choices in all cabins and cancelling the planned reintroduction of a third beverage cart service on certain longer flights.
The union would also like to see Alaska reduce the choice of pre-order items and cap the number of passengers allowed to order pre-order food because the current system was leading to flight attendants spending an “extended time in the cabin”.
The union cited the Omicron variant and other possible future pandemic developments for wanting to reduce the time that flight attendants spent interacting with passengers in the cabin.
Alaska Airlines has already told the union that it is actively reviewing all of the concerns raised by the union, as well as the union’s suggestions to cut back service.
Last month, the union wanted flight attendants that “management and AFA are philosophically apart on the potential risks that Flight Attendants face as a result of expanding onboard service in the current environment.”
“The health and safety risks posed by additional interaction time with passengers and increased challenges with enforcing the federal mask mandate are likely only to be amplified with more food and beverage items being offered on the aircraft.”
The union remains concerned about the “increasingly hostile” interactions that flight attendants must have with passengers over the federal face mask mandate, as well as “continued anxiety over COVID transmission”.
To make matters worse, Peterson claims the airline is “missing the mark” with its approach to flight attendants because of an “unrelenting focus on an unachievable absence rate”.
Introducing a “$$$” holiday incentive scheme to encourage flight attendants to show up for work over the holiday season, Peterson suggests would be one way for Alaska management to improve flight attendant morale. In November, American Airlines offered flight attendants a potential bonus of 300 per cent pay if they showed up for work as scheduled over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday period.
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.