American Airlines Asks Flight Attendants To Take Leave With No Pay

Yesterday One Mile at a Time shared what American is offering to pilots who are willing to take early retirement or a leave of absence. Here’s what they’re offering to flight attendants and it’s nowhere near as generous.

For pilots there’s an extended leave option that won’t make sense for very many people There’s also

  • 1, 3, and 6 month leave options at around two-thirds pay
  • Early retirement for pilots 62 years old and older who can take around two-thirds of pay until age 65

There are two voluntary options for flight attendants:

  • Early retirement: 24 months of medical, dental and vision coverage at active rates, no pay but can keep retiree travel if eligible. This option requires 15 years with the company.
  • Leave of absence: 6, 9, and 12 month options while continuing to receive “medical, dental, vision, life insurance and AD&D benefits at active rates” plus non-rev travel privileges.

Flight attendants are being given until Monday, March 23 at 11:59 p.m. Central time to take one of these options if they choose.

American is warning that flight attendants shouldn’t expect long haul international flying to come back for quite some time and flight attendants can largely expect to be working domestic and short-haul international. They’re encouraging flight attendants who don’t want to fly domestic to take leave or early-out calling these “great options.”

The flight attendant reactions I’ve seen have been uniformly negative, unhappy that pilots are being offered partial pay on leave and they are not being offered any pay.

Reservations are not being offered leave “due to high call volumes.” It’s a good thing the plan to eliminate home-based reservationists hasn’t gone into effect yet, though the first tranche to go was scheduled to be the Reno office (closing in March when lease expires) followed by Dallas Fort-Worth on April 26.

Unless there’s some sort of commitment not to furlough employees as part of taking the government bailout package airline CEOs and their lobbyists have been pushing for, I’d expect to see furloughs coming next.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I feel for them, but this is kind of the same as if a hospital were laying off staff and the janitors wanted the same package as the doctors. You can train a person off the street that has never even been in an airplane to be a fully qualified flight Attendant in like six weeks, and they are all pretty much qualified on all of the aircraft, making them interchangeable. Legacy airline pilots require years, if not decades of training in the $100,000+ range. But that’s not even why management agrees to this. It is purely a cost/benefit calculation. Furloughed pilots require retraining in expensive simulators. Also, the pilots they don’t need right now are mostly the more senior widebody pilots. If they furloughed the bottom 3000 junior narrowbody pilots, they would have a hugely expensive and cumbersome retraining requirement to get the senior pilots qualed on the smaller planes. So for something perceived to be temporary (less than a year let’s say) it is cheaper to offer targeted leaves of absence. In order to get the pilots to agree to this, they have to be paid leaves of absence. The moment management thinks that straight furloughing pilots with no pay is And retraining is cheaper, they will go to that.

  2. At least in health care, their are bio ethicists to weigh in and ensure no targeted group gets screwed financially, especially is they lack the political and financial power.

    Frankly, I don’t give a damn how the pilots are feathered. But what I do do care is what is obviously missing from our war planning. Before a $1 goes to American, I want to verify:
    1-Parker, every executive officer above base VP, and all Board members will forfeit their pay. Nor will they collect a dime before the FAs return to work are made whole.
    2-Parker’s approach to labor relations and support of his FAs is a disgusting disgrace.

    With all the BS flying around, Parker would easily blend in well with Red China’s lack of transparency.

    Time to stop beating on the most vulnerable labor force. Time also for the FAs to get a tougher union!

  3. Flight attendants are well trained and critical flight crew members, but Pilots go through years of school, 6 figure loans and thousands of hours of flying and sacrifice to get where they are. With a HS education and an interview and Flight Attendant gets their job and 2 months later on the line. I have NO IDEA why they think they expect the same options.

  4. Flight attendants shouldn’t receive the same benefits as pilots. Though I think they should receive paid leave. It’s such a shame how far the US lags behind in paid leave/vacation.

  5. I said it in my first post and someone else stated it as well. Yes, it is true that pilot training is longer/more expensive than flight attendants. But that honestly doesn’t matter to management one bit. It is cold, hard expedient facts involving training costs/requirements and qualifications. The two critical differences here that benefit pilots in this instance are 1) A pilot is only qualified to fly one aircraft type at a time and 2) training a pilot to fly a new type takes about 4 weeks and costs many thousands of dollars per pilot in simulator time. Let’s say AA needed 30% fewer pilots and FA’s. You can furlough the bottom 30% of FA’s and the other ones will still be able to be assigned to all other aircraft. If you furlough the bottom 30% of pilots in this specific coronavirus situation, you will lose almost all domestic, narrowbody pilots. You would then have to retrain the top 30% of the pilots who are mostly widebody international pilots (the group with the least amount of flying currently). This would take months and tens of millions of dollars. By the time all that was done, the coronavirus issue will probably (hopefully) be getting better. Then you would have to turn around and retrain all those pilots back to widebodies and retrain the furloughed pilots. If this were a traditional downturn where the company thought it would be several years before things improved, none of these paid leaves would even be a consideration. It would be unpaid furloughs. But what they want to do here is reduce the numbers of pilots in targeted groups for a short period of time and to minimize the training burden now and when things improve. Again, non of these are considerations with flight attendants, hence no paid leaves. It has nothing to do with pilots being better than flight attendants or FA’s not being valuable members of the crew. It purely boils down to what the company has to do/pay to keep those pilots qualified.

  6. @Mark – My feelings exactly……and the same goes for those other two pig head airlines.

  7. And yet in 2003, when AA was downsizing and the employees had to agree to concessions the flight attendants were offered a $40k separation package. Many people took it and instead of laying off 5000 flight attendants the layoffs were less than 1500. Other airlines have offered the FAs even more than that. What people are missing is that flight attendants lost retiree medical and their pensions were frozen during bankruptcy. Not to mention all the concessions that have been given in the past two decades. 20% of pay and vacations to keep the company out of bankruptcy and protect our pensions. Then the company went through bankruptcy anyway and the pensions were frozen. No. Flight attendants don’t incur the cost of training that pilots do. But we are highly trained group that has supported American in endless ways. Many have spent their whole adult lives working for this company. And to see pilots that are not even active employees yet, securing a paycheck for their families because the company “wants to do the right thing by them,” while at the same time doing NOTHING for the flight attendants that are literally putting themselves in harms way right now, just as many of us did after 9/11. It is incredibly offensive to those of us who have repeatedly gone through one shit show after another for decades. No doubt concessions/bankruptcy is next. Again. And people that have been doing this job more than 20 years are at risk. So forgive us if we are a little pissed off that the company is so quick to just show us the door without so much as a severance check.

  8. What is the status of the mechanics and ramp workers at American? My understanding is their new union contract is currently out to vote by their membership with the results due 3/26/20. Will these employees get their promised signing bonuses and wage increases (after 4 years of negotiations)?

  9. John C – in 2001, the day after 9/11 happened, the best contract the flight attendants ever had was confirmed. It was anticlimactic, obviously, because we knew it wasn’t going to last. And it didn’t. It wasn’t long before that contract was gutted. I imagine the same thing is going to happen to the mechanics soon. I think we were able to enjoy our new contract for less than two years before the concessions went into affect.

  10. @ Ryan Don”t trust American Airlines if accepting early retirement. Thousands of Flight Attendants accepted early retirement in the past with the promise (in writing) they will continue as D2 non-rev pass riders. Parker came to American and found some some way to disrespect all retirees after they accepted this provision in their retiree contract.

  11. @Ryan Do not trust American Airlines if you plan to accept a early retirement. Thousands of Flight Attendants accepted early retirement in the past and was promised (in writing) to continue as D2 pass riders. Parker came to AA voided this promised benefit!

  12. @Ryan Do not trust American Airlines if you are considering taking early retirement. Thousands of Flight Attendants accepted early retirement with the promise (in writing) they will continue as D2 pass riders in the past. Parker came to AA and voided this promised benefit.

  13. @Ryan- most people in the US no longer have retiree medical or pension plans. That is not unique to the airline industry.

  14. @Segments – Understood. But I doubt most people gave up over 20% in pay, benefits and vacation in order to keep their pensions and then had it taken away from them anyway.

  15. Warning, this is just a rant: FA’s are a dime a dozen and hence are treated as such. As stated above, Doctors would get a better package than a technician etc. Thats how life works. The more in demand your skill, the better you will be treated. Moving right along, I also agree that before one stinking dollar in bailout goes to the airlines [as a whole], some concessions best be made that those A-holes like Parker and company at US Air dba AA need to give up a lot and I mean more than just salary. I don’t feel one ounce of pity for the airlines as they have put the screws to the passengers over the last 10+ years. Now its time to put the screws to them. I see why they are getting the bailout, airlines are like utilities, you need them to have a vibrant economy etc. That being said, I can’t say that I’m shedding a tear for their problems. On another topic with oil under $27, I hope that they are hedging their future purchases.

  16. Like with any other industry the pilots and flight attendants should think long and hard before they turn down these offers. Typically the “early retirement” offers are more generous than what comes next. BTW don’t tell me the union agreements don’t let airlines fire workers. I’m sure they is language that could be invoked due to these circumstances and, if not, a bankruptcy filing is a way to void the contracts

  17. @Segments – doesn’t matter if nobody in America has retiree medical or pension plans. Even if they were stupid to do so, the airlines freely signed contracts with their unions promising both. Why can the airlines unilaterally renege on a contract? Oh I forgot: contracts are only binding on little people. If you’re big enough, you can afford lawyers to null-and-void any contract you sign.

  18. @Ryan — What you and other employees will have to realize (and, based on psychology, you will eventually get there) is that bad things happen to good people. It’s no one’s fault. This is the ultimate black swan event for an airline: zero revenue. No airline could be built to survive with the status quo for very long without government assistance for such a scenario. You have been very well paid for your job for several years. Those were the good times. Right now is the bad — very bad — times. You will have to sacrifice, one way or another. Tens of millions of Americans are in the same boat: the advantage you have is that you were paid better than most of them the past 5 years. Good luck and, remember, there are millions of other people who have been hit harder by this than you have been. Including, perhaps, me.

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