It is becoming “the new norm” for flight attendants to sleep on airport hallway floors, claims a top union boss who fears that airlines aren’t doing enough to look after frontline employees during operational meltdowns caused by bad weather, air traffic control problems and internal IT issues.
Gary Peterson, vice president of the air divison at the Transport Workers Union (TWU) says the thought of flight attendants having to sleep in the airport during what the industry refers to as ‘irregular operations’ or ‘irrops’ for short was unheard of until recently.
“Sleeping in the hallway at the airport – that never used to happen in the industry, and now it’s becoming the new norm,” Peterson told The Gaurdian newspaper.
In recent months, there has been a slew of cases in which flight attendants say they have been abandoned by their very airlines during irrops and left to fend for themselves.
Airlines failed to provide basic necessities like hotel rooms and transport so flight attendants found themselves sleeping in the airport. Recent cases involved flight attendants at American Airlines, as well as low-cost airline Spirit where fed-up crew have started to wage a new campaign to drive improvements.
“We had flight attendants who were getting kicked out of airports in the middle of the night,” said Don Reno Intreglia, a flight attendant at Spirit and the airlines’ vice president at the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA).
“It’s been horrible on the morale for the flight attendants, because you’re sleeping on an airport floor, you’ve got pretty much nowhere to go
The Miramar-based airline has been hit hard by a spate of bad weather and air traffic control issues in the Florida area but the union claims they way Spirit handled the irrops only exasperated the problems.
Intreglia told Insider that some of Spirit’s flight attendants were left stranded for around 30 hours during a recent operational meltdown. During that time, no one from Spirit allegedly made contact with the crew to make sure they were okay and the airline made no lodging provisions for them.
Instead, the crew found themselves sleeping on an airport floor until Spirit finally found a plane to get them back to their home base. “It’s been horrible on the morale for the flight attendants, because you’re sleeping on an airport floor, you’ve got pretty much nowhere to go,” Intreglia said.
The union suggests this isn’t an isolated case and that another operational meltdown this summer could spell an even worse incident.
No wonder, then, that Spirit’s flight attendants have started picketing the airline at airports across the United States. The Association of Flight Attendants says Spirit has broken promises and is continuing to break the flight attendant union contract.
A spokesperson for Spirit didn’t comment on specific allegations involving flight attendants sleeping on airport floors but in a statement, the airline said it “was committed to finding ways to better support our Team Members and address the issues of most importance to them.”
“We’ve been through so much together throughout the pandemic, and we are committed to making the necessary investments to build a stronger and more resilient airline for both our Team Members and Guests,” the statement continued.
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.