Flight attendants at disruption-hit United Airlines have called on the embattled carrier to “make amends” and “move beyond mere excuses and empty expressions of gratitude” after frontline employees got caught up in United’s operational meltdown last week.
In a grovelling apology email sent to customers last week, United admitted that the disruption led to a “rough experience” for passengers, but the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), which represents crew members at the Chicago-based carrier wants “genuine recognition” for the challenges their members faced.
“We need to move beyond mere excuses and empty expressions of gratitude,” the union said in a memo on Thursday. “United flight attendants require genuine recognition and concrete solution to address the challenges we face on the front lines”.
“Management has had sufficient time to implement our recovery plan and acknowledge the hardships we have endured. We are prepared to engage with management to address these outstanding issues in a meaningful way,” the memo continued.
United adopted some of the union’s proposals to help the airline recover from days of severe weather in the North East – including paying flight attendants up to 300% to work on their days off.
“While the current management has partially addressed our demands, our trust and morale continue to decline,” the hard-hitting memo warned. Sounding almost like a cry for help, the union implored United’s management to “prioritize rebuilding the employee relationship and boosting morale”.
At the height of last week’s meltdown, some flight attendants were forced to wait on hold to speak with someone IN United’s crew scheduling team for four hours or more. In one case, a flight attendant showed evidence of waiting on hold for more than 15 hours after the airline struggled to deal with reassignments and aircraft and crew that were out of place.
The union has long complained that staffing levels in the scheduling team, as well as departments that deal with hotels and crew transport, are woefully short, leaving crew in limbo as they try to call the airline when their schedules are disrupted.
Last week, United CEO Scott Kirby was left red-faced when he was forced to admit that he caught a private jet while the airline that he is the boss of was going into meltdown. Presumably unable to get on a plane with his own airline, Kirby chartered a private jet to escape the drama unfolding in Newark.
United said it had not paid for the private jet, which led to unconfirmed speculation that rather than hiring a plane for work purposes, Kirby chose to fly private to go on vacation.
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.