Flight attendants at American Airlines say that this year’s International Flight Attendant Appreciation Day, an annual commemoration that is observed around the world on May 31, will be marked by them feeling anything but appreciated.
In fact, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents crew members at the Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier, says its members feel “grossly underappreciated, unsupported, and ignored.”
On its social channels on Wednesday, American Airlines proudly professed its admiration for its 26,000-strong flight attendant workforce, describing them as “the best in the business”, but the union claims flight attendants are normally treated like little more than a number.
Frustrated flight attendants are in the midst of protracted contract negotiations with the airline, while the union has been battling a ‘draconian’ sickness and attendance policy for years.
The union blasts that through this policy, their “management’s lack of empathy and respect for their hard-working employees could not be more evident.”
Miami-based flight attendant Pete Enriquez says American Airlines didn’t support him after he suffered a black eye when an unruly passenger ‘sucker punched’ him straight in the eye during a flight to London.
“All they wanted was to make sure that liability-wise, they were clear,” Enriquez says after the flight diverted back to Miami and the passenger was arrested.
“They took me to the hospital, they made sure I was okay, and then after I could go home, I didn’t hear from the company after that. I didn’t get a call or an email. The company weren’t even present at sentencing”.
“They showed me how little they care about us. I was assaulted on the job, and the company didn’t care,” Enriquez continued.
Unruly passenger incidents in the post-pandemic world may have officially reached their peak in early 2021, according to DOT figures, but they are still well above pre-pandemic levels and flight attendants at airlines around the world are having to grapple with a new era of disruptive passengers.
What Enriquez experienced is by far an isolated or unusual incident, but it’s good practice for airlines, like any employer, to provide staff with follow-up support in the hours, days, and weeks following a traumatic incident such as a serious assault.
It’s not generally accepted that airlines should support staff leading up to a criminal trial. After all, airlines have corporate security departments whose jobs involve making sure staffers provide evidence in unruly passenger cases. It makes sense, then, to support a key witness through the trial and for someone from the airline to be present at sentencing.
American Airlines hasn’t publicly responded to the latest allegations from the flight attendant union, although both sides are still locked in fraught contract negotiations that are currently going to mediation in an attempt to break a deadlock in some key areas, including pay.
Earlier this month, the union warned its members that if progress wasn’t made in the latest round of contract talks that they could move to a strike authorization vote, although no date had yet been set.
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.