After Furloughing 10 Years Of Hires, The Average American Airlines Flight Attendant Age Will Be 56

American Airlines has about 27,500 flight attendants. I broke the news three weeks ago that American could furlough as many as 30% of its flight attendants and 20% of its pilots.

American Airlines plans to send WARN Act notices to 8000 flight attendants, or 29% of the total work group.

My rough back of the envelope calculation is that the current average age of an American Airlines flight attendant is 48 years old. One flight attendant is over 85, and one flight attendant has been working for more than 60 years (they’re not the same person).

Here are demographics of American Airlines flight attendants (age and seniority):

On a straight seniority basis 8000 furloughs will include nearly every flight attendant under 40 years old and some in the first half of their 40s. And it will include nearly every flight attendant hired in the last 10 years. Every one hired since US Airways management took over, though, can expect to be let go. And after the 8000 least senior flight attendants are furloughed, my back of the envelope is that the average flight attendant age at American Airlines will be 56 years old.

Of course the airline maintains that it hopes to eliminate or limit the need for furloughs through voluntary leaves and early retirements. However they don’t appear to have been nearly as successful attracting candidates for this as Delta reports to have been, and their package isn’t nearly as generous as Southwest’s.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Awful awful awful. They should be firing the old grandmothers and middle-aged Karens, not the young crew who provide great service and are happy to do the job.

    US unions are absolute crap. The first domestic airline to get rid of the stupid seniority system and provides high-quality service with younger staff will get my exclusive business.

  2. Given the upside to how Delta and Southwest have managed an improved experience re FA layoffs, is it no surprise that penny pitching American falters and fails in this area of management?

    It would be interesting for American’s management to be included in the potential loss of FA jobs. At this point who
    would miss those managers who created the serving of gruel; installing the most uncomfortable seats, etc?

  3. Just to be fair, we are going to see ALOT of airlines tilt older once the firing date for CARES passes. AA is one of the worst, but its not alone.

  4. The whole thing is so counterintuitive to the goal. Let’s shed employees to save money, but the ones kept will be the highest paid.

  5. No it won’t. Per the image you shared, there’s about 9000 people with 9 or fewer years of service, so it should only hit those with less than 10 years. There are 160 flight attendants with 10+ years in their 30s.

  6. @Eric, thats the AIM. Otherwise companies would get rid of the senior employees all the time, just like BA just did…that way they can keep pay low, and discriminate against those who are older.

  7. Airlines would be better off firing everyone. Union contracts are null and void if no one is working for the company. The next day, they can hire for fair market wages. It’s ridiculous airlines have to be held down by inflexible and parasitic unions. Flight attendants in the U.S. are rated very poor because the demographics tend to be the worst of the worst. In Europe, 99% of flight attendants are under 35. It’s not a career. People need to move on to jobs and careers suited to raising a family. A couple of pursers in their 40s. That’s it. I’m sympathetic to older people. They can be doctors, engineers, and accountants into their 80s. But flight attendants, that’s wrong.

  8. No new early out program has been announced yet so we don’t know how many will be taking it. Plans should be announced this week.

  9. Why does someone’s age matter? A 56 year old can be just as sharp and effective as someone who is 26. This particular post is absolutely ridiculous and screams discrimination! No wonder why we are such a fractured country. Bigotry should never be tolerated under any circumstances.

  10. I’m guessing AA won’t be doing the Vietjet Air “flight attendants in bikinis” commercial anytime soon.

  11. If your hospital was laying off young doctors and the average age rose to 56, would this be a bad thing?

  12. Seniority is so stupid. The first people who should be furloughed are those who cause issues (ex. the guy who touched the PAX because he thought she stole a blanket). When things get better and FAs are being recalled back to work, bring the employees who are least problematic first. Maybe the “bad apples” might voluntarily retire or get their act together when they get back to work.

    Just because FAs are younger doesn’t mean better service either. A lot of my negative experiences on AA have been with the younger FAs who make it clear that they don’t want to work and instead would rather gossip in the galley or look at their phone the entire flip. It should be more of a merit/demerit system instead of seniority but I’m sure this would never work because of the unions.

  13. WOW! You people are the reasons Unions were created and STILL very necessary.

  14. Wow. I am 60. A GREAT flight attendant and I have accolades to prove it. You do realize agism is against the law? You also seem to have a ton of stupid readers. Get a grip, Gary.

  15. PS WTG Dante Harris! It is discrimination and this is from a dude that can’t even write without being offensive. Maybe we can talk about his weight.

  16. I would imagine the bitter and ageist people posting here probably dont have the personality ,or even enough money ( im talking to you mr concierge key) to be able to get a date in a whorehouse. They can only get someone to put up with them by being locked into a tube flying at 400mph.. keep dreaming you nasty one , young or old wants you on the plane either.

  17. @Dante

    Discrimination is only a bad word because of 70 years of propaganda from partisan forces. Discrimination means having a preference. I fully support people discriminating against 65 year old flight attendants. It’s not reasonable to have someone that age offering service.

  18. What is a Flight Attendants who is 85 years old working for ??? … this is not safe … Flight attendants are the first one to tell you “Our first concern is your safety” Please tell me how an 85 year old is going to help save passengers when they can hardly move themselves ??? … wow !!!!

  19. I’d take a 56 year old Susan who’s put her time in than junior know-it-alls that only complain about the company, passengers and work conditions … all over social media.

  20. I’m guessing all the negative comments are from middle aged, white men who have nothing better to do than bash airlines. Get a life.

  21. Accolades to Dante and skygal1. What a horrible post. These are people’s jobs and lives you are talking about. Is there any other industry or role where you would talk about peoples ages in such a derogatory way?

  22. I’m going to assume all this nastiness is jealousy. Jealousy that I have some modicum of job security. It’s frightening to be middle aged and at your peak earning potential. You are ripe for downsizing. Too expensive. Too bad more people aren’t unionized. Then maybe you wouldn’t be searching for a job at age 55. Good luck. No one’s hiring.

  23. If any of you think for 1 second that a senior flight attendant would or should be let go because of seniority I have some cheap property in Manhattan to sell you. I was a flight attendant for many decades so I know it will never happen. It wouldn’t be put up with. Period.

  24. If agism is against the law, how can AA get away with firing based on a proxy for age? I hope they get sued.

    How come they don’t retain those who do their job sheet like any normal business would do? Isn’t hard work and meritocracy the American way? Are they doing socialism now?

    No wonder their service is terrible. What a screwed up company!

  25. Ive never in my life read so
    Many stupid and IGNORANT comments!!!!!
    Really, being a Flight attendant is not a career? Who the hell are you to decide whats a career and whats not…..its been my amazing career for 30 years !! While raising 3 amazing kids and the support of my husband.
    Seems to me that those that comment the most are JEALOUS!
    If you find a career you love it will never be just “a job”…think I will have dinner now in Paris …Read it and weep.

  26. Ageism is against the law? Tell that to the health Insurance providers I use for my employees, whose rates go up commiserate to their age every year. They actually come straight out and tell me each year to, “hire younger people so you can get your rates down as a whole because your employees stay with you and you need to find a counter to that”

  27. ” YOU BROKE THE NEWS?” Everyone in the industry already saw this coming with every airline. Trying to ride this storm out like the rest of the country. Even your beloved Delta with no union to protect their employees from age discrimination will unfortunately go through the same. Trying to stay POSITIVE like all my brothers & sisters in the industry. Feeling better now smiling.

  28. Wow. The bigotry and ageism is real. Some of these posts are absolutely disgusting. Many of us will stand up against HATE. It’s sickening. Nothing good will become of ageist bigots. You will never win. Absolutely disgusting.

  29. You know, I have to wonder if low-seniority furlough practices aren’t a major source of the “impending pilot shortage” we’ve been hearing about for a while (which seems to have been forestalled for a moment, at least) since when combined with lower wages really creates a lousy set of incentives for folks to pursue that line of work given the cost and time involved in the training. I know the article is focused on FAs, but it seems like this would be an issue across the board with airplane staff since I think the rules are similar…

    …and it would seem to create a serious risk, on the pilot side, of getting “hit from both sides” if/when traffic rebounds since…well, in a year or two some of those pilots or FAs might not be up for coming back if they’ve had to move to work with a family situation.

  30. Wow, as a beautiful 58 year old “Karen”, I have 34 years including TWA Piedmont USAIRWAYS UsAir, now American, I am volunteering to retire to all you know it alls, not, can deal with the gum chewing peckers, oops, I mean texters, that wear tight skirts, tight pants, males, and are all over Twitter Instagram etc during boarding taxi and takeoff, I have already reinvented myself into an amazing career while still being paid. I will retire come November. I loved every second of being a flight attendant! Hats off to all you self righteous men, sit back relax and enjoy the ride while it lasts, thanks to all knowledgeable people who responded. PS The complaint department is closed permanently please go bash someone who cares. Buh Bye

  31. If anyone wants to know why airlines needed to engage in illegal stock buybacks to deceive their investors just read skygal1’s comments.

  32. What can I say, your whole article reeks of sexism and ageism. Do people judge your employment on age where you work? Do they watch over your shoulder minute by minute with cameras? I think not. The job has become impossible, glad I was able to retire. I cannot imagine what this job is like today. It’s a job, with expected benefits well earned. Trust me age has nothing to do with service. Flight attendants are not your nanny, nurse, secretary, mother, bellman, maid, butler, doctor. Policeman, guard, petsitter, girlfriend, masseuse, friend, or anything between. They are there for your safety in an emergency with perhaps a beverage if possible. Deal with it. What a Neanderthal.

  33. To all those who have strong resentment towards airline cabin crews,

    Try working different days of the week, every week.
    Try working different schedule (hours) every time you work.
    Try working in 3 or 4 different locations of your company in a day on a regular basis. (Multiple legs in a day).
    Try going to work 1 to 2 hours before your scheduled start time and not be paid.

    I know you all are going to say that no one is forcing them to do this. But that is exactly the point. No one is forcing them to do this but they happily do it. So my respect and appreciation for all of you cabin crew members.

    These folks do not have the luxury of going to the office in the morning, making a fresh cup of coffee, sit down and enjoy it. They don’t have the luxury of stepping outside their office to get some fresh air, or sun. They don’t have the luxury of stepping outside their office and take a deep breath when a passenger is nasty to them. They are not perfect but they have to put up with lot as well.

    And no, i do not work for an airline.

  34. There are clearly some strong feelings out there. I think the bottom line is that neither age nor seniority is related to quality of service. Ideally, a business would fire the worst performers first. Once you eliminate the ability to use performance to guide layoffs, any method you choose will be unfair. It’s unfair for younger workers to automatically get the short end of the stick, same as it would be unfair to start with the older workers who cost more. By imposing seniority-based layoffs, heavily unionized industries encourage the development of skill gaps, damaging the entire industry’s ability to rebound when recessions end.

  35. The airlines should have initiated a fixed term contract based employment and follow the model of legacy Asian carriers. Once the contract term is up, it’s only renewable based on several criteria.

    In essence, it’s never a career, but more like a right of passage. It will lock down the wages and make the cost a fixed line item instead of a variable unpredictable expense. The money saved can be used towards recruiting cheaper new crew.

  36. Great article! Maybe you could also write about ticket agents, ramp workers, mechanics, and non union management/administration workers.

  37. I’d love to hear the story of the FA that started with the airline when they were between 6 and 14 years old.

  38. @Gary didn’t see anything coming. he saw what was inevitable and obvious. Doesn’t take a web-based blogger (not journalist) to figure out that no money coming in = revenue loss= problems.

    While the seniority based system is rigged and TENDS to deliver less value on the hourly rate. Mainly due to an older person not having the stamina of a younger person. That’s just science. Can’t dispute it. There is, HOWEVER, no concrete “old people suck- new people rule” fast and hard fact. What everyone here has stated are observed opinions based on their experiences.

    I’ve seen terrible service from all age groups on all carriers. What would be most effective is the union to support the removal of BAD performing employees-regardless of age- purely based on performance in their records.

  39. It amazing to me how using data and stating facts about numbers could be perceived as discrimination. Obviously US companies can’t fire someone for their age, that is discrimination, but simply writing about what the mix of the employees could look like isn’t.

    Someone made a comment that we wouldn’t be upset about firing all of the young doctors, I would have a problem with that. If you had no one to continue to develop and grow their experience who replaces those who are the most experienced when they are ready to leave the workforce? You need balance.

    In the end, unions drive this behavior and the belief that a corporation won’t do the right thing for employees based on merit. Until airlines move away from this, we’ll never have the same consistent levels of service, because if they did this in the best interest of AA and its customers they would be letting go of the poor performers and not based on seniority. Maybe the concept of seniority might be viewed as age discrimination against those which are younger?

  40. It can be fun having older crew as they remember the glory days of travel and still make it fun. Perhaps they can furlough the negative Nancies and Neds.

  41. The American airlines just sucks, I worked there and went through the bankruptcy.
    The only thing they do is to fire the best employees and keep the worst dotards.
    Anyone wants to help the company and criticize the management = “you are fired”
    This time around the dotards should be gone.

  42. Lmao I have such a bad experience on US carriers because there are so many old Karen FAs who are completely disenchanted with life and their service quality is absolute garbage. Get rid of them and age stops being an issue.

  43. One of the things I hate most about unions is the seniority rules. Airlines would be a lot better having the older, higher paid flight attendants leave and go with a younger group. I realize current union agreements don’t allow this but maybe this would be a good reason to go through bankruptcy and void that agreement!

    I’m 62 and I can assure you NO ONE over 65 should be working on an airline. I have around 3 million miles on American (lifetime Platinum for years) and can’t stand the old grandmothers who usually are some of the most unpleasant, least customer service oriented flight attendants. Hopefully the fear of COVID will get many to retire or take a buyout.

  44. I am an ExecPlat and I am offended by this ageist post. Age has NOTHING to do with service. AA FA’s (and I should know – I fly over 600K miles a year on average – 400K this year) are very good no matter the age. If you look at people based on their age, I hope you have a fountain of youth that freezes your age at 40. Madness. People are as good as you are to them. Occasionally there may be an issue – happens in any environment and it can be addressed. If you are put out big time, write to AA Customer Relations – i get responses the same day with over the top apologies and compensation that I deny most of the times. If passengers stop being “Karens” chances of encountering one on board are much lower too. And Gary – you are better than this – this is an ageist post and in this day and age – has NO place in civilized discourse.

  45. “Grandmothers” are the only women who will serve Grandfathers with bad breath and beer bellys for money.

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