American Airlines Capitulates To Flight Attendants – Will Cut Service

The American Airlines flight attendants union asked the airline to cut service levels for passengers because they don’t want to work because they’re concerned about the spread of Covid-19.

  • Offering service means coming into closer contact with passengers
  • Passengers eating and drinking means more time with masks off (though passengers may bring their own of course)

The union asked for single tray service in international business and first class and reduced beverage service in coach on all flights. And American has more or less agreed, as first highlighted by aviation watchdog JonNYC. Starting January 26,

  • International first class will serve the first 3 courses (appetizer, salad, soup) all at the same time. There will be no changes to business class. Coach will get beverages at the same time as meals, with no separate beverage service beforehand.

  • Domestically there are no changes to first class (still no predeparture beverages) while coach will not get a second beverage service on flights of 1500 miles or more – passengers will have to request it.

This is such an odd decision on several levels.

  1. Cross country flights in coach won’t get a second drink. But if a customer wants it they’ll have closer contact with flight attendants, walking back to the galley, or flight attendants will be running up and down the aisles responding to call buttons.

  2. American just said this week that they aren’t eliminating first class but then a day later effectively eliminate the meal service flow difference.

  3. The flight attendants union isn’t reminding flight attendants to wear masks, encouraging them to wear better, more effective masks or distributing better masks. The biggest concern I’ve heard from flight attendants has been close contact with other unmasked crewmembers, not passengers.

  4. Crew aren’t being told not to go out to restaurants during layovers. The union isn’t asking the airline to end shared bus transportation to crew hotels. They aren’t trying to keep flight attendants away from crowded spaces they are asking for less work while they’re in relatively more protective environments.

  5. American has been encouraging and rewarding employees to get exempted from vaccination. If they hadn’t been doing this, perhaps there wouldn’t be as much risk to cabin crew and they’d be in a better position to deliver the product customers are paying for.

  6. Despite the need to ‘reduce touch points’ they won’t be cutting back distribution of infight credit card applications.

Needless to say, starting mid-next week, on your next American Airlines flight in back you may be thirsty. Plan accordingly.

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. Cabin crew will oft remind us that their purpose is to provide safety, not service. That being the cases it is time to figure out a way to automate the provision of safety and remove the idea of cabin crew altogether. That way those aging, non-rev pax (i mean, cabin crew) can stay safely ensconced in their hovels.

  2. Like union school teachers, the union flight attendants will do what ever it takes to get paid the same for doing less. It’s not about COVID, it’s about “we will hold the ______ (fill in the blank) hostage until they cave to our demands.” And one wonders why American is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to US flag carriers.

  3. I hated their decision to re-start service so soon. Allowing people to unmask while eating and drinking is the stupidest loophole there is.

    Cut isn’t enough, shut the service for <2hr flight altogether.

  4. How’s eating or drinking for a few minutes on a plane any worse than when I sit in a crowded restaurant for hours unmasked

  5. This airline is as useless as it’s flight attendants. What a wast of taxpayer money to bail this thing out. It was a missed opportunity to simply let this doppelgänger of UselessAir, err, sorry, USAir die.

  6. What a joke. Continuing to use the Covid cultists as an excuse. AA gets to save money and FA’s get to sit on their a$$ more instead of offering real service. Customers continue to get treated like muzzled dogs. END THE NONSENSE.

  7. This was an APFA initiated showdown with incoming CEO management Robert Isom to determine the path of labor-mgmt relationships and service at AA.
    Isom lost.

    Omicron is waning and other airlines are providing and will provide more in-flight service than AA.

  8. On my next transcon flight in Economy on AAL, I will ring the call button relentlessly. This is just another way AAL is reducung cost and service.

  9. We all lose except the air waitress union members. They wonder why we don’t want to listen to them and ignore their safety speeches.

  10. My flight on AA two weeks ago:
    I was in the domestic 1st class section with only two others. The male FA rewarded his gf in coach to come up front after take off. He then sat beside her in 1st class the entire flight until 20 minutes before landing.
    It was an evening flight and I was trying to sleep. But the two carried on loudly with laughing the entire time.
    Never experienced anything like this before from a FA.
    I’ve not been an AA basher in the past but I might have to join your bandwagon.

  11. No joke. No sarcasm. This all fits.

    During COVID, when in-flight service was reduced, the number of flight attendants on each flight was reduced. But, when in-flight service was restored, AA did not return staffing to pre-COVID levels. The reduced number of flight attendants — particularly in Flagship First — were having difficulty. Over the past six months, I’ve flown eight Flagship First routes and have talked with the flight attendants — this is the consistent narrative.

    How does management maintain this cost-cutting measure? Management and the union agree to reduce the workload (service) and publicly position that reduction as COVID safety (wink). Both get what they want. But, it might also explain the accidentally leaked Flagship Business Plus — once everyone is used to the reduction, it becomes permanent under a rebranding. Don’t be surprised.

  12. Canceling my Flagship First flight next weekend and rebooking elsewhere

    Not paying more for “first” if it’s going to be watered down by a union demand that takes science hostage. That premium for first vs biz was pure profit that could have improved the chances the flight attendants get the retirement benefits they seek

  13. @Reno Joe

    The FAs would have my sympathy if they simply stated it’s a staffing issue instead of hijacking science and health as cover for a more fundamental business negotiation

  14. AA should have said, sure, this all sounds reasonable, so long as you quarantine in your hotel rooms on your trips.

    The problem with the way organizations have responded to this pandemic is the lack of logical consistency in their solutions and policies. I’m all for reducing Covid infections among flight attendants but doing so by reducing service that people pay for must also be met by reasonably curtailing other activities that are equally or more risky while off duty.

    I think we all see through this cramp and shame on AA management for not knowing when enough is enough.

  15. There is no real competition in the US domestic market as the 5 or 6 major air carriers simply divide up the demand for air travel, thus the air passenger has to accept whatever is offered. I have been Ex. Plat for several years and often sit in 1B on domestic flights where I can observe the “work” or lack thereof of the service crew. There are so many ways to make costless changes for improvement but they won’t occur as long as the passengers continue to fill the seats. Complaining and criticizing does not produce any changes. A different mindset and model of expectations is needed to truly treat revenue passengers as a priority. Perhaps discontinuing ALL of the loyalty programs and only using base fares and just ONE class of service for all domestic flights would return some level of competitiveness and provide more priority attention given to passengers. . .

  16. I don’t get it, Passengers sit shoulder to shoulder in coach but flight attendants don’t want to walk down the aisle to serve the passengers (except for credit card sales).

  17. At American Airlines, we know first class starts on the ground. Even though we have cut service to decrease COVID infections transmitted by passengers while they enjoy Flagship® First Dining, customers willing to overpay can look forward to the appearance of enhanced reduced service. Our new watered-down level of service was due to union demands for improved safety. Our complimentary First-class dining experience is now available inside select Flagship® Lounges for passengers willing to pay more. In collaboration with the James Beard Foundation, which celebrates and supports the people behind America’s food culture, expect to be upgraded to a cloth napkin served with your hygienic American Airlines paper ‘bistro bag.’ Your breakfast might include options like an imported banana and a freshly unwrapped shelf-stable muffin. Bon appétit.

  18. Even pre Covid there was a high percentage of AA and American Eagle flight attendants who looked for any excuse to sit on their butt and do nothing or stay in the galley and visit, read, or use their phones or iPads. Especially if there were flight attendants dead heading to visit with too. Flight attendants and their union are milking this for all it is worth. It is why they want permanent mask mandates. Then they are appalled why passengers are rude. Not excusing rudeness but you can only cram people into tiny seats and treat them with contempt for so long before a few rebel.
    Personally, I have given up flying. Driving is so much nicer, and I do not have to put up with the garbage AA dishes out every day.

  19. I’m curious. And this is a true question, not a catty comment masquerading as a question…

    Do AA managers… e.g., the ones who’ve been there for awhile at HQ… acknowledge the total downfall of this airline? Like… Does everyone know it’s turned into such an awful airline? Or do they drink the Kool-Aid and maintain that it’s great?

  20. Public awareness, at least for the air traveling public, of what the annual salaries are for the different crew members based on longevity, etc., and for the mid and upper level management, might bring some sense of responsibility and improved service. Perhaps a posting of names of poor service providers along with a list of those who are doing it right could also be made public.

  21. I think @ Reno Joe has it perfectly.
    This is bullshit. I will go back to BA, and I *never* thought I’d say that.

  22. If only Spirit actually upped their game just a bit and introduced a premium product. …they’re almost there with the Big Front Seat. Abandon the bullshit with the “pre-reclined” seats and installed seatback IFE, I think they could really give AA a run for their money. Sourhwest are you listening?

  23. Is it fair My hard earned money pays for hard working people who provide good service Not to the lazy workers domestic or overseas.
    I wont spend my money on any Bad customer service companies period.
    PS. You are the voice the flyers Keep up the good work Gary Leff.

  24. Not sure this is so different from the rest … I flew Delta One, Atlanta to Santiago de Chile yesterday, and the whole meal was served on one tray, and the purser was busier catching up with his buds than serving drinks.

  25. So, let me get this straight, AA wants to cut basic service like serving passengers in coach while going from 0 to Alec Baldwin the second a passenger’s mask slips under their nose yet want us to pay more $ just to be treated better & to sit in better seats,& the suits at AA wonder why Delta gets better customer service scores than they do.


  27. Done with AA and their garbage service, if you can call it that. And the useless, lazy Gestapo trained FAs are a disgrace. All they know how to do is attack imperfect worn masks. Like a previous comment, I’ll drive when i need to go anywhere domestic and fly another airline internationally. AA…. worst airline in the country !

  28. Was delayed in DFW a few weeks ago – because we had to wait for a replacement FA. That lady never crossed the line from the galley to Row 1..but she was chatting with a female passenger in the galley and they were fluffing each other’s hair (like teenage girls).
    Utter nonsense that covid is used as excuse – enough crew lower their mask when in the galley or sitting down.

  29. I’m flying to Europe on Sunday on AA. First I have to get a Negative PCR test, then suffocate in a mask for hours and be treated like a hostage. By the way, there is zero social distancing pre boarding and then you’re squished next to a stranger for hours in tiny seats with little access to a tiny , dirty bathroom. The mask is nonsense. Flying over we received one meal in 9.5 hours on board. Then offered bad melted ice cream twice with ritz crackers….I pay 100$ extra for more leg room since I can’t afford first class. Flying has become a stressful, awful ordeal. I remember Pan Am and TWA …what a change.

  30. Wow, you MUCH MORE experienced AA travelers than I am have scared the crap out of me with what, across the board, appears to be some extremely legitimate complaints about flying with AA & their oft times bullying stewardii as I remember much better experiences on board other air carriers “back in the day” like Pan Am, TWA, Braniff and yes, even the Seaboard World stretch DC-10 I was on during my trip to Vietnam in mid 1967 as a 23 year old U.S. Army Ranger (Airborne) and returning fairly intact 366 days later (a freakin’ LEAP YEAR) on a big assed Flying Tiger bird that my girlfriend was a “stew” on for 1/3rd of my trip back to the “world” on the Yokota, Japan to Anchorage, Alaska portion of the trip at night & she REALLY made that part of my trip home very joyous, most definitely!
    A Vietnam Ranger buddy of mine since “The Nam” is coming with me on a 3 week roundtrip to Costa Rica but he doesn’t fly much either so this upcoming trip on American Airlines should be REAL INTERESTING as neither of us take ANY S#!T from anyone & can both “handle our mud” very well, thank you! OUT!
    Sergeant Bob

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