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American Airlines is Accusing its Own Flight Attendants of Theft in Bizarre Rolling Delay Bidding Hack

American Airlines is Accusing its Own Flight Attendants of Theft in Bizarre Rolling Delay Bidding Hack

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American Airlines is accusing its own flight attendants of theft in a bizarre rolling delay bidding hack which awards crew members with pay protection for trips they never intended to work.

It’s not known how long flight attendants have been exploiting this hack, but the loophole has now caught the attention of senior scheduling managers at the Fort Worth-based airline, who are threatening to haul flight attendants into the office for disciplinary action, according to a memo sighted by aviation insider Jon NYC on X.

The hack takes advantage of AA’s long-derided rolling delay policy in which the airline posts delay upon delay when a flight is affected by a late arriving aircraft instead of simply advertising a realistic delay timeframe from the outset or trying to rework the schedule by assigning a new airplane or crew.

American Airlines believes flight attendants have been playing detective to identify trips that have been hit by a rolling delay and bidding to pick up last-minute assignments on these flights.

Along with scheduled trips that flight attendants have posted to their roster in advance, AA’s flight attendants can also bid to pick up last-minute trips – to cover sickness, for example, if they have some spare time in their schedule.

Working a full published schedule along with overtime in the form of last-minute trips is one way that many flight attendants make some extra cash, but it can be pretty exhausting. That’s where this hack comes into play.

By assigning themselves to a last-minute trip which is suffering from a rolling delay, the hope is that the delay will push them off a trip they already had in their schedule, which then triggers automatic pay protection.

For example, flight attendants need to have at least 10 hours of rest between ‘sequences’ (trips), so if a flight attendant picks up a last-minute assignment which is affected by a rolling delay, they’re hoping that the final flight of that assignment will reduce their rest to below 10 hours – as a result, they can’t work their original assignment and pay protection kicks in.

“Crew Schedule Seniors are examining each and every one of these last-minute pick-ups that result in pay protection to determine whether there was intent to manufacture an illegality resulting in pay,” a memo sent from the flight attendant union to its members warns.

“The Company has notified APFA they consider this theft,” the memo continues. “They will take a deep-dive into when you picked up the trip, when the delay began, what did the crew know and when and potentially bring you in to investigate”.

Essentially, even though AA doesn’t tell either its passengers or crew that a flight is going to be much more delayed than they let on, the airline says flight attendants are aware of the true situation and are taking advantage of it.

“In the event the company determine you had no intent to fly the trip they will take the pay away and potentially bring you in for investigation,” the memo warned. “Please ensure you only bid / pick up trips you have an honest intent of flying and are confident you will be legal to fly to avoid the Company’s scrutiny”.

The warning comes at a pretty dire time for flight attendant morale, with the union and airline at loggerheads over a long-delayed new contract. Crew members at the carrier haven’t had a pay rise in years, and American Airlines is refusing to increase its offer of an 11% rise.

View Comments (5)
  • Is this really theft or is it just finding a way of using a loophole to benefit them? I can see why the airline is annoyed, I would be feeling the same if one of my employees used a clever loop hole in my gutter cleaning business! But to say its theft is crazy. Maybe they need to just change the rule?

  • senior pilots at the majors have been doing this for decades. it was sort of considered a privilege of seniority. Not saying it’s good (or bad) it’s just a way of gaming the system

  • I have had to fly AA for years because many routes have no meaningful competition. What I’ve learned is that AA’s business model is 1) to give its public-facing employees little-to-know authority and 2) have policies that disregard customer convenience. This article shows another brick in the wall of evidence of how sociopathic AA’s business is. Here, AA has a policy of lying to its customers (the rolling delays), but flight attendants using that lie to their own advantage is not allowed. Unreal.

  • Sick that at the same time, flight attendants that got to the airport on time to crew a delayed flight get no pay to sit at work for untold hours. They only get paid once the plane pulls away from the gate. American screws the flight attendants and now they want to punish them for trying to benefit from the same delays?

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