American Airlines has sacked as many as 50 flight attendants in just the last six months because they weren’t able to get to their assigned base airport within two hours of being called to work a flight from reserve.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents AA’s crew has warned its members that the airline is scouring flight bookings whenever a flight attendant fails to make it to work on time to determine whether they were AWOL.
Typically, newer flight attendants must work so-called ‘reserve’ duties every month where they can be called to work a flight with just two hours’ notice due to last-minute changes or sickness. The problem is that not all flight attendants live in the same city as where their airport base is.
These ‘commuters’ are expected to stay within two hours travel distance of their assigned airport when they’re on reserve but it would seem that some flight attendants are taking a gamble and hoping they won’t get called out.
This was a risk worth taking during long periods of the pandemic when schedules had been cut back and flight attendants were sitting idle at home, but with demand surging the chances of getting called out on reserve are now much higher.
In fact, high rates of sickness, coupled with periods of bad weather and air traffic control delays have created a perfect storm in which reserve flight attendants are needed more than ever.
In some cases, flight attendants have a legitimate excuse for failing to turn up at the airport within two hours of being called. A traffic accident can be excused but sitting at home in a totally different city makes it impossible to get to work on time.
The union warns that AA is so frustrated with the number of no-show reserve flight attendants that managers are now investigating every time a trip is missed.
“During this investigation, they will pull all your travel benefits history, including past, current AA listings, travel, and other airlines. They will use other evidence to substantiate their claim that a Flight Attendant was not in a position to report within the contractual timeline,” the union told its members in an internal memo.
There are “numerous’ investigations ongoing and at least 50 flight attendants have been terminated for going AWOL on reserve since November 2021. Flight attendants run the risk of being sacked for just one infraction.
It’s a sign of how seriously AA is taking the matter that the airline is willing to sack flight attendants when the industry can’t hire enough staff fast enough.
American Airlines has been contacted for comment. TOTH: View from the Wing.
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.