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’.