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American Airlines Flight Attendants Boast of Shirking Pre-Departure Service as Contract Negotiations Drag On

American Airlines Flight Attendants Boast of Shirking Pre-Departure Service as Contract Negotiations Drag On

a woman holding a book in front of her face

An American Airlines flight attendant has been caught out ‘proudly declaring’ that she no longer does any kind of pre-departure service like serving drinks in First Class specifically because of prolonged contract negotiations.

The flight attendant was overheard by a passenger on a recent flight out of Chicago O’Hare complaining of other crew members who were still doing pre-departure service even though that is part of their job responsibility and withholding work due to ongoing bargaining could be illegal.

“I’ve suspected that FAs [flight attendants] have been doing this lately, but it’s pretty amazing to hear them just outright declare it in front of pax [passengers],” the witness said on the popular frequent flyer forum Flyer Talk.

“I know the FAs don’t care, and AA probably doesn’t care either, but that sure does make me mad. If I declared my unwillingness to do my job in front of customers, I’d certainly get fired,” the passenger continued.

Pre-departure services in domestic First Class have become a pretty contentious issue during bargaining between American Airlines and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents crew members at the Fort Worth-based carrier.

The reason is that flight attendants don’t get paid for boarding so, apart from their basic wage, they are essentially working for free during what is one of the busiest and most stressful part of a flight attendant’s work day.

American Airlines has offered boarding pay as part of its proposed contract, but the two sides can’t lock down an agreement that they are both happy with.

In a rare move, the federal agency that manages labor relations in the aviation industry summoned representatives from American Airlines and APFA to a weekend session at the National Mediation Board’s headquarters in Washington DC last Saturday.

APFA had been expecting the NMB to declare an impasse and release flight attendants to strike. Instead, the independent but heavily politicized agency, pushed the two sides into another bargaining session.

Some progress was made, but a tentative agreement has yet to be reached.

In the meantime, APFA has repeatedly warned flight attendants not to take part in illegal ‘self-help’ actions like withdrawing labour by refusing to do pre-departure services.

Last year, the union cautioned flight attendants that crew members at other airlines had lost their jobs simply for liking or sharing social media posts about taking part in illegal self-action tactics before a release to strike is authorized.

Of course, the NMB’s reluctance to declare an impasse has made it even more attractive for flight attendants to take matters into their own hands, and there are plenty of other stories of crew members refusing to do certain duties because of the contract dispute.

View Comments (65)
  • This is not the case with us Phoenix based flight attendants. We don’t take our (non) negotiations out on our customers. We love our customers and don’t think taking it out on the them is the answer.

    • That’s a lie, Phoenix is probably the worst of all bases at American, old and nasty America West people. That’s the current irresponsible management of the carrier.

      • I’m a America west flight attendant and I’m not nasty or lazy. I always treat passengers and crew members with respect. That was really nasty for you to generalize us all being nasty. Can’t wait to work with you!

    • This is EXACTLY one of the many reasons I refuse to fly AA. I even have a credit for a ticket and refuse to fly.

    • Same with us DFW based flight attendants. Self help is not sanctioned and our customers deserve to be treated with respect.

  • I have noticed flight attendants not offering pre-departure drinks for first class on AA mainline flights quite often the last year. Ironically, the flights operated by AA regional airlines generally DO offer pre-departure beverages.

    • Simple explanation for that is the number of passengers in first class. Mainline AA has added more first class seats to its aircraft like its 321, but hasnt increased the number of flight attendants. It is easy for one person to do pre-departure beverages when there are only 8 or 12 people, and manageable with 16. However, 20 people is nearly impossible, especially with all of our other boarding responsibilities that passengers don’t see. I know that sounds crazy but it is true. As a flight attendant it makes me sad because I genuinely WANT to deliver excellent service to passengers, but AA has set us up to fail.

      • Jenny it is part of your duty as a flight attendant to serve 20 passengets if you’re working first class. There sre many of yoy that are not providing service that once was on all AA flights pre 9/11. You guys have it easy now but still fail to provide service as it should be. If you can’t do the job leave the company. There are new hires willing and able to do the job as it should be done. PERIOD

        • Watch your mouth, Chas. You don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about. If you yourself aren’t actually a flight attendant, you cannot provide accurate commentary without having personal experience to back it. And FYI, to denigrate American Airlines flight attendants for not providing the service the company once offered “pre 9/11” is LAUGHABLE and exposes you for the entitled, pretentious snob you are. The entire aviation world was knocked off its axis and took over a decade to recover due to terrorism. Mergers happened for many companies because absorption was the least detrimental option, financially. NO airline in the entire world was ever the same post 9/11. Jenny even mentions she’s sad that she cannot provide the service she wants to offer because her company dehumanizes her and her colleagues. She is not a robot. She is a human being and can only do so much in a short amount of time under pressure. Intolerable people like you who are lacking compassion and empathy for those in the service and first responder industries shouldn’t be using public transportation. If you want to act that way and expect that kind of service, take your money elsewhere and fly private. You owe Jenny and all other flight attendants an apology for being an uneducated, careless buffoon.

          • JFC Rich, get over yourself. I have been on MANY A321s where the FAs have been able to serve PDBs to the entire F cabin with no problem. Of course it’s not always possible. But VERY often it’s clearly very possible and FAs do not have any desire or motivation to put in the effort. I have been on multiple 3.5 hour domestic flights in the past 18 months where the FA just throws down a single drink and a meal tray and that’s it, go f yourself, they are not coming back to collect it until well into descent, much less offer another beverage. By contrast, I was on a recent 738 flight where the FA stood on his feet and worked the 45-minute cruise the ENTIRE time, providing multiple refills and multiple rounds of snacks. (And this is NOT about alcohol – I don’t drink it at all, ever, and neither does my spouse.) The point is that there is a LACK OF EFFORT among too many AA FAs, and it has NOTHING to do with “dehumanizing” or “being treated like a robot.” It has to do with LAZINESS, full stop. Any excuse so many FAs can cite not to provide service is thrown in our face when WE. PAY. YOUR. SALARY. Adjust your entitled BS attitude or find another job. We’d appreciate it, as would your colleagues who care and actually DO want to work.

        • Chas you clearly don’t have a clue! I hate it when people say “you have it easy”. Go walk a mile in that person’s shoes! Not everyone is happy in any particular job, so don’t lump everyone together. I fly American often, and I find it very disappointing when I see a passenger walk pass a flight attendant that is being nice, and the flight attendant gets rudeness or not even a grain of acknowledgement. I don’t blame them for wanting more, they have exhausting jobs, yes, majority of times the flights go without a hitch, however, when something goes wrong, that is when thier training kicks in. I hope they get every dime they deserve, frankly, Robert Islom is a subpar CEO that doesn’t deserve his healthy pay! He’s the one that has it easy!

        • FA’s have it easy??? Would you do work for free? FA days are long enough as is. Pay doesn’t start until that front door closes and ends as soon as the door opens at arrival. So NO pay for preflight briefing which we have to be at 2 hrs PRIOR to departure, NO pay while passengers are deplaning, switching catering/waiting for plane to be cleaned/boarding new passengers, NO pay when get to home base/final stop wait for passengers to leave the aircraft, walk through customs if international flight, and sometimes have a debrief.

          There’s 4 or more hours of a work day that we don’t get paid for.

    • I have meet some really good and nice FAs at American, however I have also meet the worst of the worst at American which has made me utilize other airlines ( even though American has the best schedules where I need to fly) it is nothing to see American FAs hanging out in the back galley gossiping as soon as they can get the carts put away. The negotiation has gone on for so long that I no longer feel sorry for them. But then again the culture starts at the top.

    • Did you have a chance to verify if the flight had been catered yet? AA managment is scheduling flights so tight, they are litterally being catered while passengers are boarding.

  • Whoever writes these are so out of touch. You can’t fire someone for not working while they are not being paid. “Oh if I didn’t do my job I’d be fired”. Weirdo.

  • Flight attendants are completely working for free during boarding. There is no “basic wage”. It is an hourly paid job and the clock starts after the door is closed and brakes released.
    I agree that passengers should get predeparture service but the servers should be paid for providing that service.

    • Being forced to work off the clock is illegal. Why doesn’t every single crew member report this violation to their respective state department of labor?

      Oh wait, because they agreed to it in their CBA in exchange for higher in-flight wages that benefits those flying longer flights. CBAs aren’t imposed by companies. They are negotiated and voted on by the union just as much.

    • And what is the hourly wage after the door closes? $40/50/60 per hour…can you think of some other unskilled professionals that don’t require an education that pay that much? Of course not.
      If you want to exchange an hourly boarding pay in exchange for a reduction in “block time” pay then sure I’d support that and you can now say that you’re paid from the minute you step onto the ac…….but you’re not looking for that are you?
      You can convince yourself otherwise but its a relatively unskilled job. It requires nothing more than a GED.
      Sure you have a training program but so don’t a lot of companies across many industries.
      While your training may seem difficult at times, realistically, anyone with a pulse should be able to pass it. Yes, I know that some lazy and unmotivated people drop but many of those people would fail at many other occupations also.
      As a passenger, you’d have my support if you played your cards right and kept your grievances with your company leadership but most of you won’t do that.
      You’ll provide a subpar inflight experience then turn around and wonder where our support is. You’ve burned your bridges with many of your passengers during covid and you continue to do so now.

      • Unskilled?? FA trained. I can put out a fire, do CPR, aid a diabetic having seizures, help a choking victim, , list goes on. Also, I had a passenger try to open the aircraft door in flight— right beside 3– count them 3 men!! Who came running to me my 120 lb self for help!! Yep, trained and took control landed safely. The 3 men said they deserved free drinks cuz that scared them. Told them if they ordered drinks I would charge them double— they were useless!!
        Do not tell ANT flight attendant they are untrained!! You have MO clue ! 42 years and people are shit!!!

      • Let’s use your highest number. With an average month worth 75 hours, thats $4,500 a month. Thats $54,000 before taxes, insurance, retirement, etc. And your low end figure is $36,000 when in reality a starting annual wage would be more like $27,000. So yes, I can think of MANY other “unskilled” jobs with less of an education requirement.

      • You obviously don’t know how FA get paid. Do the math. A FA has a 14 duty day. They are required to arrive 1 hour before Flight with no pay. Out of the 14 hours, between sit time,weather delays, mechanical,ect.They only get paid for flight time which on a Bad day could be less then 5 hours. Then to make matters worse they have a 11 hr layover. which starts when the plane lands. So a domestic Fa is away from home for 4 days and gets paid 20 hours. Your post is senseless,I don’t know why FA do it. Other then peide in their job.I know one thing I don’t think you could pass 7 weeks of unpaid training. Keep your job at McDs.

        • They take the job thinking they will get travel benefits which have gone by the wayside these day with so few seats open on flights.. When I started in the 60s the travel benefits were worth something. Today they aren’t .i started at $325.a with less days off than they get now. Less flexibility to adjust monthly schedule. We worked for slave wages but were treated w more respect because we were already refined, caring people not with the FA attitudes of today. A lot of elements are in play here. Glad I flew when I did. Wouldn’t want the job today. Today their salaries are much higher but all things are relative.

      • When negotiating a contract with any work group an airline sets a “budget” or has an idea what it is willing to afford or spend. That amount, in mind, is presented to the union and negotiatied in terms of pay and benefits. Fl ight attendants may complain about not receiving boarding pay, however, they may be receiving some other benefit. The point is that boarding pay may be sustituted for some other pay increase or additional benefit.

      • Try $20.00/hr! $40/hr AFTER 25 yrs plus of working at an airline.

        Unskilled…do you understand that one month EVERY YEAR that we retrain and have to get 95% or higher to continue to fly.

  • On 12 June 2024, my wife, her two siblings and I were at LAX In a very timely manner to catch our 11:40A flight to Chicago, Ohare airport. We were to meet our connecting flight to fly to Madrid, Spain to meet our cruise ship. We ended up waiting 10.5 hours later AA could find a crew to fly our plane. We ended up missing our cruise ship. We are trying to get a refund and although we have flight insurance, AA does not want to reimburse us. They are at fault. They take our money and failed to provide us with the services we paid for. Each flight is a revenue or money flight, that’s why they heard us in like cattle. I work in the aerospace industry and I’ve heard the airlines use the term revenue flight. That’s why they over book flights. They are greedy for the money.

  • So somebody bothered to write an article based on what they heard from some of they don’t know from an internet forum?

  • I rarely fly First Class, but it was offered recently as part of a premium cruise package. The primary perk is the lie-flat seat/bed and after that would be the better meals and drinks and more attentive service. When I got a pre-departure drink, I thought Why? I have to drink it all quickly or waste it before takeoff instead of nursing it for 30 min or so, as is my preference with a drink. I wish drinks were served with chilled re-closable bottles for these turbulent times.

  • I’m a Platinum for Life American customer but I try to never fly with them. On many flights, I have seen the FAs treat customers with disdain or even outright rudeness. This is especially true for the older FAs who seem to really dislike their jobs. I don’t see the same behaviors on United, Delta, Alaska or even chaotic Southwest. Something about the training or culture of American seems to foster a bad attitude towards customer. BTW – this is largely a US problem

  • Yeah— YOU go to work 1 hour before your required actual work time. Then go to your office and “set” it up and then :20 minutes later actually start your job but oh no— company doesn’t start your PAY clock for another :45 minutes. If no delay.
    So— how does that sound to you?? How much money are you- if an hourly worker- would you NOT earn/lose??? Is that fair/right?
    Did you not spend time WORKING for your company?? Is your time not worth anything? Don’t you deserve to be paid??
    Former FA

  • They don’t get paid for getting you a pre departure drink,or helping you with your bag,ect,once the door closes and the plane pulls away from the gate their pay begins. Worst part of a FA job is a stressful boarding and putting up with entitled pax who can’t wait 30 min for that 1st drink. I hate flying and watching how entitled people act.

      • Remember that statement when you are having a heart attack and the FA saves you by performing CPR and using an AED on you, Chris.

        There really is so much ignorance within this post and the comments. Service is secondary to safety in a Flight Attendants’ responsibilities. Is there some complacency? Sure – as there is in any role. We work up to 16 hrs a day and often get paid for 1/2-1/4 of that time. Last year, I paid zero federal taxes because I didn’t make enough money and I STILL got money back with taxes. That $40/50/60 is inaccurate and as a previous commenter stated, an average of 80 hrs is paid for often more than double that duty time each month. I choose to rise above rude passengers such and you and kill them with kindness, but don’t think if you continue to behave in a demeaning manner on my flight that my Captain won’t have my back and have you removed.

        Oh and FWIW…. I’ve got an advanced college degree and I chose to make a career change later in life to become a FA. I can assure – you training was more challenging than any course I ever took in college – or taught (I taught anatomy and physiology to nursing students).

  • AA FA here Former US Airways. Phoenix. The PDB thing is a hot topic for FAs. As has been pointed out elsewhere on this thread, AA seems to be operating too many flights for what we actually have capacity for. As a result, we are typically getting on the plane late because our plane arrived late.

    When we get onboard… The screen says something like “3 minutes until boarding”. In the US Airways days, this used to be rare. Now its every day, almost every flight.

    We walk down the jetway and usually the cleaners are still onboard. The captain wants to complete a briefing. Which I know they are supposed to do… But it’s mostly a waste of time. We are supposed to “preflight” and make sure safety equipment like fire extinguishers and oxygen tanks are in working condition. Now we are boarding. They send down passengers needing assistance first and they come on as if they are children and they are confused with everything and need help with EVERYTHING as this is their very first flight 🙄. Now catering shows up as we just began boarding. Ideally, the Company doesn’t want us organizing and setting up our galley during boarding. But… What choice do we have? If it’s a short flight I will set up during boarding anyway to at least have time to serve drinks during the flight. If it’s a long flight, I may wait until we are airborne to start organizing. And we have to make announcements. Laugh at unfunny jokes. We know you’re having the steak or the lobster 😑. Yes, I’m breaking ice to “relieve the stress” 😑. “I’m good. How are you.” [Please don’t ask “How are you?” at boarding. Just leave it at something like “good morning”. We are greeting 200 passengers.] The pilots want a Club Soda with ice. Gate agent is panicking that people aren’t seated and it’s time to close the door. I now have to take time out after level off after we takeoff to finally organize my galley. Someone taps me on the shoulder to ask for a diet coke 😡. Uh oh… They only catered me 12 meals when I have 16 passengers in first class 🤦🏽‍♂️

    Okay. Choose your own adventure. Let’s try something else…

    I decided that I am going to complete a PDB service! That means pausing boarding several times to take drink requests and serve drinks. Mind you… We were already late to board. Agent has scanned their last passenger, yet I have only served row 3 of 5. People keep asking for crazy things that we don’t have like… A martini. SMH! “So… What do you have?” WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT! Anyway… Agent comes down and sees me handing out drinks to row 4 and then sends a message to our supervisor that we were late closing the door because “flight attendant was serving drinks in first class.”

    Pick your poison 🥴

    Please be understanding with the PDB service nowadays.

    Do you want to start boarding on time and close the door on time? Or, be delAAyed and have PDB? If it’s option B, I recommend that you write to the Company and tell them that you prioritize having a PDB over departing on time.

    • So what you’re really saying is that even with a healthy increase in block time pay, boarding pay AND retro you still won’t be doing PDBs or anything else that you deem yourself to be too busy for.
      In that case since we know that quality won’t improve, AA might as well save the money. Let you strike, hire replacements then lock you out.
      There will be little to no different in inflight service anyway….hell, many passengers may not even notice a difference.

  • It is important to note that airline employees are required to perform certain tasks before the boarding door closes, even if they are not being paid at that time. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) emphasizes the importance of safety during this period, and it is surprising that airlines are allowed to conduct pre-departure activities at all.

  • As a retired flight attendant. I look back on all the years I wasn’t paid to offer predeparture beverages, stow luggage, take care of the cockpit, and take passengers unruly lip! Now crew members get it!

  • This is very accurate because it happens to me many times where is no service, or we have turbulence the plain goes smoothly and still no service for over 30 minutes on fly. Now if you sad you work is what you do., you should do work. And if you not up for that job quite and let someone else to do it. Symple is that. I have FA friends who’ll never stop working and they’re proud of what they do. Be one of them! Thank you

    • If the captain says remain seated, expect turbulence due to other planes sending turbulence data , the flight attendant seats. That’s the end of it. If you hit the ceiling , brake a rib, workers comp will not cover your medical bill , because the captain will be asked if he/she advised about tubulance , the report will also ask if the seatbelt sign was on . So , not happening . Flight attendants flight multiple flights a day , every day and know better than any frequent flyer .

  • Well, I read these comments to the very end. I’ve been a FA 45 years and I still love my job. The industry has changed, passengers have changed, and the times have changed. I STILL LOVE MY CAREER. As a note, weather you consider us skilled or not I have a BA, MS and a PhD. The first people to lose their lives on 9-11 were FAs. We didn’t run into a burning building, trained to save lives we simply got on the plane to do our job. I’ve learned so much in these 45 years about how front facing employees are considered by customers: how is the math done when we pay an average of $450, I said average. For that amount you purchased 2-4 pilots, 4-10 FAs, a seat, 2 gate agents, baggage handler, and a coke or coffee. WOW! I still love my job. I’ve worked 14-16 hour days and had to stay over a day when we were delayed and could not get home because we chose to extend our work day on Christmas or Valentines day to get others to their loved ones instead of going home to ours. I’ve worked for 5 airlines in 45 years, regional, commercial and private and let me clarify EVERY AIRLINE HAS ITS PROBLEMS. Being professional is not about how long you’ve worked or how much education or training you have. It’s an attitude and a mind set.
    I am a professional because I take pride in what I do and I do it exceptionally well. Every day I step on a plane I put my life on the line, my family can only pray I come home safely because I ❤️ MY JOB. Serving pre departure drinks in FC is part of our training. But let’s be clear the coke and a snack isn’t why we are there. Safety is our primary function, and since 9-11 that includes security. A writer once wrote ” these are the times that try men’s souls” The world is in need if a heart transplant. Thousands pass through airports every day and don’t know what the person next to them is dealing with. including flight crew members, we have families and feelings. But we are often treated as if we are invisible. Again. it’s an attitude. So as we watch this industry evolve and unfold remember we ARE our brothers keeper,

  • Well, all pretty and riled up, but the FAs are there not for drinks, food or any passenger pampering, those are extras that you and I get as a passenger. Their job and responsibility is your safety. End of story. So even if you get your pre departure drink, and a warm meal served with plenty of snacks and refills, and have a nice lie flat sleep, after 10 h that airplane breaks down on the runway, and however much of an a….e you have been to them, they will still be responsible for one thing, getting you safely out of the airplane, no matter what, and also to the cost of their own life. So, sorry to say it, but you should actually be the one serving them, and making sure they are well rested and healthy, because that uneducated, underpayed, not always smiling FA, if shit hits the fan, will be the one pulling your sorry a.. out of the plane if you no longer can do it yourself, and the next day will be working again as if nothing happend, because that is part of the job description.

    To rile up the politics again, yes, entirely a US problem alone as the airlines there disrespect their crews to a point you don’t even see in Africa these days..

  • It is about CHOICE… and GREED.
    The FA chooses to be a FA
    The FA chooses the company to work for.
    Many, many alternative occupations and companies to choose from.
    As for the passengers, CHOOSE companies that serve your needs well. Drop the rest.
    Think of teachers, prepair teaching plans, dealing with unruly entitled students and parents, buy school materials for their students in poor areas, after a long day go home and spend more hours grading papers and plan for the next day. Overworked and severly underpaid. And I am not even a teacher. Gratitude for what you DO have, always works.

  • Delta FA here. No union, no union dues, boarding pay, no contracts ending 5 years ago and waiting 5 years for anything.

  • Margaret,
    Many passengers on your flight are sales people who make nothing unless they generate revenue. Many are away for a week at a time from home. No sales, no pay. Its not jyst FAs. Meanwhile you are overhead and complain about not being paid. The minute you joined a union, the control over your wages was taken out of your hands..

  • Ok. This explains a lot. I need help with boarding. First flight. No issues. Staff explained everything at the desk and at the door. They were interested in how my scooter folded and informed me of the battery requirements and asked if i could manage the battery on my own. Second flight, completely ignored. I asked how to check my scooter. “Just leave it outside “.
    Another customer helped me to my seat and store my bag with oxygen.
    Then halfway thru boarding here comes the flight attendant with questions. Good thing the first flight the staff was attentive so I knew folding the scooter made it easier. Let the staff know the weight, how to lift it and, yes I can remove the battery and carry it.
    Didn’t know about the strike until reading this article, but felt something off with the Chicago O’hare flight attendants.

  • Your a POS. You don’t know chit about being a F/A and the duties and responsibilities they take on each and every flight

  • There are too many scenarios . Planes are being flown to capacity , and block time between flights is very narrow , give absolutely no room for error , catering always come to serve first class last , the inbound don’t have enough stuff to make the PDB and the ice is either gone or melted . Now during summer flight attendants have too much going on the baby sitter role , with up to 40 unaccompanied minors in a si for flight , and they don’t board at the same time , we have to file documentation for each and every one .
    And for whoever said that serving 20 predeparture drinks on the 321 , you have no business making that opinion , because you simply do not know . It is one fa doing everything and FYI PDB is time permitting , and on time door closure has priority over drinks . Everything that ii said doesn’t come from fas, it is management call.
    A boing 787 has 20 first class seats , just like 20 seats at the 321 . Big difference is that the 787 is staffed with 3 fas and the 321 with ONE. The 787 has two aisle , the 321 has ONE, the boarding door on the 787 is the 2 L door , so doing pre departures don’t affect the flow of boarding .

  • Headline: flight atendantS boast of not …
    And the story says AN AMEICAN airlines flight attendant.
    Quit your lies. One FA is ALLEDGED to have said something.
    Just look at the comments from the passengers, mostly disdain for the people serving them. That smacks of entitlement. If you people only knew.
    The FA’s aren’t paid until the plane is in motion. And YOU are paying so little to them. The median paid from your air fare is $0.25 an hour per FA. That’s right, from your $1000.00 ticket for a 4 hour flight, Each flight Attendant gets $1.00. Even if they get a 40% raise, ticket prices should go up a maximum of $6.00.

  • Travelers like you should find alternative transportation. Flight attendants have a challenge every working day and it’s people like you who make their jobs much more difficult. Get over yourself !!!

  • If a flight attendant is on an airplane about to depart the airport, they are at work. I don’t know the technicalities about their pay. If it’s hourly, of course, they should be paid. They provide all kinds of assistance while boarding. Most of them with a smile on their face. But I don’t think the tactic of taking it out on the customers is a wise strategy. We can’t change your pay. I’m thinking leaving the customer upset is only gonna make things worse for you.

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