Airline Efforts To Avoid Canceling Flights May Be Spreading The Virus

Flight attendants at American Airlines are getting paid big bucks to work the holidays, and to show up even when they’re sick. Back on November 13 (pre-Omicron) I posted the question,

Maybe not such a good idea when the airline has pushed out its vaccine mandate until after the holidays?

The airline’s pilots union unanimously rejected a holiday pay increase, saying they wanted to fix system contract issues instead (negotiations have dragged on). This was meant to leverage contract negotiations but is costing pilots money in the short-term.

However American is also giving a $1000 perfect attendance bonus to CWA-IBT-represented Airport, Premium Guest Services, Travel Center and Reservations; TWU-IAM-represented Fleet Service; TWU-IAM-represented Tech Ops; PAFCA-represented dispatchers; TWU-represented Flight Crew Training Instructors; TWU-represented Flight Simulator Engineers. It requires working all assigned shifts Nov. 15, 2021 through Jan. 2, 2022.

Of course American is hardly alone incentivizing holiday attendance. Airlines don’t want to get caught out on key travel days with full places and lots of media scrutiny cancelling flights due to lack of staff. JetBlue is offering a $1000 perfect attendance bonus and Southwest is offering Rapid Rewards points, for instance.

The problem now is that, for several airline employees, calling in sick when they’ve got Covid-19 costs them their attendance pay. For flight attendants at American that can be thousands of dollars. The incentive program drives employees to show up for work, but it drives employees to do that even when they’re sick and even when they’re potentially infectious.

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. They could modify the program so you would still get the bonus if you have to call out sick and you supply a positive test result. But that would require a little innovative thinking. I think they would get a good PR boost if this is how the program was structured as well.

  2. You complain about mask mandates and demand normal travel. Flight schedules then expand, you complain when flights get canceled due to short staffing, so airlines issue incentives to work.

    And now as crew get sick (same is true in hospitals, but god forbid health professionals take a sick leave), you complain that they are spreading the virus, amongst the same passengers who would rather be maskless. We all get what we deserve.

  3. Seriously, Gary.
    7 billion people waking up every morning exposes the rest of us to the risk of covid.

    AA and WN and others couldn’t get staff to show up on holidays even before covid. Surely you can post data showing us how much infection disease transmission went up on AA planes in previous years. It’s not like covid is the first contagious respiratory disease in human history.

  4. Leave it to Grievance Gary to find a way to spin every possible outcome into something negative. Go write political articles, there’s plenty of negativity there. The airline industry doesn’t need you to armchair quarterback. Your opinions are never helpful. You only ever present problems with no solutions. What a miserable person you must be.

  5. The world is changing as airlines now has to “bribe” employees to work. In the past when you signed up to work for an airline it was understood and agreed you will work weekends, holidays, shifts, and be on call 24/7 (reserve). If employee doesn”t want this “deal” they should work in the office or work in another industry.

  6. Many businesses are having trouble getting employees to come in to work, and to hire new employees. Trying bribes might be one way to fix this, but once the bribes stop, will they stop working again. As an employer, I’ve had trouble finding new employees for positions in the 70-80K range, and some current employees appear less inclined to put in 100% effort.

    As someone who flies almost every week, I’m thankful for the airline employees that do show up, and especially those that have to put up with the increasingly bad and boorish behavior. For front line employees, those bonuses could be considered hazard pay.

    As a side note: the biggest areas of Covid transmission concern for me are baggage claim (when several flights are unloaded and there are dense crowds – many of which are understandably but unfortunately maskless after long flights) and airport clubs (many of them seem to be packed to the gills and have buffets without sneeze guard type protection).

  7. Oh noes – the vaccines don’t work! Masks don’t work. Lockdowns don’t work.

    How about for once – just accept the fact you’ll get covid sooner or later.. and deal with it.. just like the flu every year prior to 2020.

    If you all keep living in fear, I can assure you the authorities love seeing you flinch

    Fauci lied – people died.. and not necessarily from Covid.

  8. @Ready to Retire
    Where do I apply for the jobs you have paying $70-80k? I retired ally just because find such a job!

    FYI, I not nearly as nutty as most Floridians. I know that is not saying much.

  9. looking for candidates with expertise in hazardous waste management, hazardous materials transportation, and ESG. Also, marketing the above. Location: North Carolina

  10. @John L
    So show us where Fauci lied and what school you received your Epidemiology degree from. Only liar I know is Chump, who Fauci worked for. Keep drinking that bleach, Chump Fool.

  11. @10 years in the Industry; talk about opinions that aren’t helpful! Your comments are just a rant.
    If you have that much experience in industry then you should be able to help offer positive solutions yourself and not just gripe about a blogger commenting on his experiences.

  12. Umm there is a simple solution to this issue. They still get the bonus as long as the reason they were not at work was due to a positive covid test. Why the hell would you ever incentivize people to show up sick to work in the middle of a pandemic? So they can infect everyone else?

  13. It isn’t just airlines. It is our society as a whole. People have always come in to work sick because of the “punishment” they would receive for calling off sick. Until it becomes accepted to call off sick without having to worry about losing money on paychecks or losing jobs people will still go to work sick or continue to send sick kids to school because they can’t stay home with them.

  14. FA on my flight yesterday had ‘laryngitis’ do the purser had to do all the talking and take everyone’s meal and drink orders on my side of the aircraft so said FA could serve with minimal talking.

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