Flight attendants at American Airlines have once again been accused of “illicitly” trading or dropping trips from their schedule. The practice has been ongoing for years and in 2018 some senior flight attendants at the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline were alleged to have created a side hustle by selling desirable trips to junior flight attendants for $200 per flight.
Illegal trip brokering has, though, become a lot more obvious in recent months because the premium international trips that are so sought after are in such short supply that suspect patterns and behavior are standing out to management and fellow flight attendants.
American Airlines operates its flight attendant bidding and scheduling system in seniority order so veteran long-serving crew members are much more likely to secure bids they want, while junior flight attendants could be stuck working reserve with little choice where and when they work.
The seniority system is sacrosanct in U.S. legacy carriers and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) views trip brokering as ‘circumventing’ the seniority system.
Flight attendants are still allowed to trade and drop trips, or ‘sequences’ as they are known, but the system was designed or intended for flight attendants to offload their sequences for additional financial gain.
“Management has made it clear that this illicit trip activity is prohibited,” the union warned its members on Wednesday. “If you are trading or dropping trips outside of the intended means of our scheduling systems, you will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination.”
“Flight Attendants who are disadvantaged by these activities have grown tired of this behavior,” the memo warned.
Back in 2018, American Airlines said it had introduced new technology that would actively monitor bidding and trading systems in order to look for suspicious activity. The flight attendants union initially resisted the move, saying the bad behavior of a minority risked turning into a “witch hunt for the majority”.
More recently, however, APFA has told its members that it “do all that we can” to bring illicit trip swapping to an end.
Similar accusations have been levelled at a small number of flight attendants at United Airlines who were accused of improperly ‘parking’ and holding trips for their personal gain.
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.