American Airlines CEO: After Furloughs, Even Our Crew Miss Having Young Flight Attendants

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker makes a point of talking to cabin crew on his flights. He’s even a good sport when they drop a tray of drinks on him.

He uses the stories from these encounters as homilies, whether about race or explaining how he sees his legacy. Parker explained last summer that it was a flight attendant encounter that really drove him to get government subsidies to rescue America West after 9/11, and that he’s seen his role in paternalistic terms ever since.

It’s no surprise now to see him take to LinkedIn to tell the story of a flight attendant encounter, emphasizing why he sees more government subsidies for airlines as important. Only this time his argument is that his airline, which furloughed more employees than any other carrier by a wide margin, has gotten too old. Or at least that a flight attendant tells him that furloughing younger employees means they now miss the youth on board their planes.

Parker says the flight attendant he met said of these younger cabin crew, “We miss them” and that “”they help her to understand technology.” Now, she says, “her work environment” has changed. Given the age breakdown of American’s cabin crew furloughing 8000 flight attendants meant dropping nearly everyone under 40, and many employees in their early 40s too.

In 2017, long before furloughs of younger flight attendants increased the average employee age significantly, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker said that “on crap American carriers…you’ll always be served by grandmothers” and was roundly and near-universally criticized for it. Here Parker of course was just ‘repeating what he says someone else told him’.

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 miss the grunts that are lowest on the totem pole and consequently get the scut work. Touching. I tell ya, that makes me well up just thinking about it. Maybe if American had promised – and followed through- that every cent of any aid would strictly go to non-executive employee pay, these people would still be employed there.

  2. Parker accepts billions of tax dollars and furloughs 800 AA aircraft maintenance workers. Parker than uses these U.S. tax dollars for aircraft maintenance to be done overseas by foreign workers. Do the folks in Washington know this? How does Parker keep his job?

  3. “They miss the grunts that are lowest on the totem pole and consequently get the scut work.” yep. Being the senior employee isn’t that great when there is nobody beneath you. Besides having younger employees around adds some energy into the atmosphere.

  4. Why are there flight attendants for foreign countries still employed? Those flight attendants should be furloughed instead of USA flight attendants! 1,000 jobs could be saved!

  5. John C. Boy do I agree..if people only knew, repairs being done in South America by workers maybe being paid 2.50 an hr. Its unconscionable. Bring jobs back to USA, or stop taking our dollars. This is criminal.

  6. As a brand consumer, I can speak loudly *for* the juniors. What they lack in experience is more than made up for in passion and enthusiasm. As a long time customer, I have regretted the aging of the FA population, though I do understand the events that got us here. Let’s get those juniors back ASAP … they’re our future.

  7. Are there ever any negative reviews about other airlines on here? I wonder why it’s always American this editor have a problem with?

  8. Personally, providing they are professional and promoting a safe environment , give me a younger crew every time. Who the hell wants grandmother
    Seniority within US airlines whose staff think their entitled without making the effort. Most do not comply with their guidelines for appearance and could learn so much from quality airline staff like Emerites or Cathey.

  9. That’s ok their time is coming. These dinosaurs screwed everyone beneath them and American thinks they’ll rebuild an Airline by ruining young people’s lives. The older should have been furloughed first .

  10. Shame on American, older ones have had their chance, now time for younger ones to be given their time.

  11. Nice talk. I am one of those ole grandma’s who took retirement. I was only late for work once in 30 years. Can still wear my new hire uniform and out work you desk jockeys. I also run a farm . I will take a aging flight attendant over you beer belly suits any day.

  12. I am a flight attendant for American, 23 years. I hate to see anyone furloughed, but my experience is that most of the newbies show no imitative, only do the minimum that is required, and on long flights after service is done, easily 75% of them put in ear buds and watch movies and shows on their smart phones and tablets and let the seniors handle the pesky duties like call bells and cabin walk-throughs. The rest of us have paid plenty of dues, including 9/11 furloughs and the big pay and benefits reductions associated with that. To suggest that they furlough from the top is to dismiss all everything those of us who have stuck it out through bankruptcies, economic collapses and events beyond our control is a little rich, and also smacks of the objectification of the (mostly) women who work as flight attendants. If you’re keen on seeing younger, attractive women, perhaps you should fly another airline like Allegiant or Frontier. Turnover rates are very high there, so they have A constant stream of young people quitting and being hired.

  13. All airlines have an aging population of flight attendants, first officers and captains. Younger people aren’t getting much training as before. We’re lucky to have experienced people on board. Maybe some of you forget flight attendants first responsibly is to save your asses.

  14. @dlc … As a passenger, this is exactly the opposite of my experience, and other passengers have said the same thing. Could this not be a junior/senior issue? How to get to the bottom of this? (I sure admire your pushback!)

  15. Obviously reading some of the above comments for certain individuals, they have no idea the concept of, or even worked in an environment where ones working contract within a union outlines what seniority means. Yes it’s unfortunate the junior younger group have been laid off. But is it fair or actually legal to lay off the senior employees? Of course not! That is what employer/employee union contracts protect. Obviously those individuals above are anti-union and never worked within a union “shop”. Comments about having a “grandmother” as your flight attendant are strictly “sexist” & age discriminatory comments. Not acceptable in today’s society. If those individuals above feel my superior about flying on the likes of Cathey or Emirates then go for it!

  16. I am having a very difficult time listening to ANYTHING that American Airlines has to say about CARING, and needing HELP during this pandemic. My husband and brother are both First Responders, and my sister in law is in the medical field. When a wedding we were supposed to fly to in Saint Lucia in May got canceled due to Covid, and the travel band was enacted, I attempted to get a refund for their tickets, NOT mine only theirs, because they cannot travel due to the pandemic and being essential workers. I was told too bad so sad, no refunds, only no charge for changing the tickets. We have NO reason to travel now, and they still cannot leave the US. I guess we will have to just eat it on the $3,864 that we spent and cannot use….but they will be getting a second bail out. I am done with American!

  17. The comments in this thread reek of sexism! We are in the throws of an election where the 2 best canidates we could muster up for the most important job in the country are both over 70 years old! Give me a flipping break!

  18. After September 11, I was furloughed for 10 years. It was hard emotionally and economically and I like many of my compatriots survived. We survived and came back to work tagged at the bottom of the seniority list even though many of us had many more years of flying than more than 50% of the people now senior to us. We came back; we work the hard trips with long days short nights, lack of food and rest but we did so with dignity and respect, we come to work when asked to, wear the uniform we are given, we don’t abuse sick calls or have scam Family Leaves for when we don’t like the very hard trips that we are given. Yes, it’s true many of the younger generation of Flight Attendants are very good at technology but it’s no wonder because they spend most of their time on the phone or on down time oblivious to you; watching movies, playing music or watching the Súper bowl and ignoring call lights or the required 15 minute walk through the cabin.
    Yes; we are older but we were the ones whose back the airline built back up on well enough to be able to hire about 10000 new Flight Attendants.
    In a so called diverse and equal society, it’s disheartening to know that people resent the experienced worker who spent long tarmac delays during extreme weather; delays that were sometimes upwards of 4 hours running up and down the aisle sweating in the slow festering airplane to give you water. Regulations now forbid this.
    We are the ones before defibrillators that would provide you with manual CPR until everything hurts to save your lives; we are the one experience enough to recognize a “shoe bomber” intent on killing everyone on board a transatlantic flight. We are the ones that DO come to work and don’t keep you waiting at a gate for a crew member that decided this job was not worth it for them to show up or even advise they wouldn’t come.
    We are the ones that watch our co-workers and friends die along with our brave passengers on 911 to keep terrorists from killing more people on the ground.
    We are the ones still here, resilient, steadfast and thankful that you are still flying us.
    Yes, we are older but we are wiser and much more experienced; but when you are having a seizure or a heart attack on the airplane; I am certain knowing how to access the internet is not the knowledge you want from your flight attendant.
    I am not “senior” but I have earned my right to be here, to exercise my contractual right to work for as long as I can. I earned it with sweat and tears, endured abuse and being forgotten at times in a crappy hotel somewhere in this world; gotten hurt on a airplane; contracted viruses from around the world and yet I am here, standing at the entrance of your airplane saying hello ready to serve you even though I risk getting a killer virus that does not care how old you are…

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