American Airlines will make further cuts to its inflight service after facing pressure from the flight attendant union which wanted its members to spend less time around passengers. In an internal memo, the airline said that while it wanted to return the onboard service to pre-pandemic levels it had agreed to “temporarily modify” some service elements to limit customer touchpoints.
Earlier this week, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents AA crew members called for the airline to trim back the current inflight service because of the perceived risk of flight attendants being infected with the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The union made suggestions that would “lessen the time that a passenger will not be wearing a mask and, in turn, limit Flight Attendant exposure.” American Airlines has adopted many but not all of the union’s suggestions.
On international flagship routes, the meal service in First Class will be adjusted so that the appetizer, salad and soup are delivered at once before continuing on to a normal service routine. The service routine in Business Class won’t be altered but in the Main Cabin, there won’t be a separate beverage cart service and instead, beverages will be offered with the main meal.
These changes won’t take effect until January 26.
Meanwhile, on domestic routes, AA will eliminate a second beverage cart service on all flights of 1,500 miles or more. The service in domestic First Class will continue as normal for the time being.
The lack of a second beverage cart service will affect some of AA’s longest domestic flights and passengers will be expected to press their call bell to get a drink on request.
“As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to assess ways to thoughtfully return the onboard dining services customers are asking for while keeping safety front and center,” the airline told flight attendants in a memo explaining the temporary changes.
“We appreciate the APFA’s collaboration as we continue to navigate the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic,” the memo continued.
Earlier this month, Alaska Airlines also cut its inflight service over Omicron fears. The initial service cutbacks were authorized through to the end of January but are likely to be extended even as Omicron infection rates drop.
American Airlines has not updated its masking rules for flight attendants despite recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC now advises Americans to “wear the most protective mask” available to them including N95 and KN95 masks.
Respirator-style masks are particularly encouraged for workers who interact with large numbers of the public and on airplanes.
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.