American’s Flight Attendants React to Their Lack of Service Training

Update: See statement from American Airlines at the bottom of this post. I have also updated the title of the post.

At the beginning of last week I wrote about American’s service training for new flight attendants. Basically they don’t get any although the airline says they’ll start offering a (very) modest amount next year.

American’s Vice President – Inflight explained to employees at an internal question and answer session,

We’ve heard that feedback for several years that new hire training we’re not providing as much service training as we should. That’s very fair feedback.

We’re in the process right now of taking the curriculum — we’re not expanding the number of days… but we’re taking two days and we’re going to be adding more food service training… more service and more training and bidding experience in the program that starts in 2019.

Several flight attendants have weighed in on this discussion. Here’s what they had to say:

Current management eliminated service training

No, there is no additional training for the premium cabin service beyond the one day basic training. None whatsoever, which is a big problem. And during that training, I don’t think that the instructors are emphasizing how demanding certain positions on the aircraft are, such as working the galley positions in first or business.

…We never had junior flight attendants blocked from working in the premium cabins before at legacy AA, but we had extensive training and had a clue before getting on the aircraft. …It’s only in the past 2 or 3 years that proper food service training was eliminated. The legacy AA flight attendants hired 4 or 5 years ago still had a lot of training.

Most flight attendants watch a food service in training, they don’t even get to practice it.

I think what the flight attendant in question has said is that she feels our standards are set very low for her new co-workers, who receive one day of food service training, and it’s not enough. From what I hear, only the “stars” in each class participate in a mock meal service, while the others sit in passenger seats and “observe.”

So the new hires come onto the line without ever having seen a true international meal service. Imagine working a full 777-300 to LHR with half of the crew being brand new, and they don’t even know what the service is in coach, let alone First or Business.

…I flew with a new flight attendant and she was working in coach to LHR. The crew told me that she served the passengers their meals, but neglected to give them the tray with them. The flight attendant following her on the beverage cart noticed that all the passengers had a meal in the little plastic dish, but no tray or cutlery. He had to chase her down the aisle and tell her that the passengers need a TRAY besides just the hot meal. Now multiply this by 6 or 7 flight attendants in a crew, and you can imagine the chaos, not just the cabin but the galley.

American used to provide a week of training for international (because most of a flight attendant’s job isn’t safety..)

International Flagship Service training used to be a week of training, and you had to have the seniority to be able to fly international because it was a separate division from domestic. And during that week of training, EVERYONE had hands on experience. It’s fine to teach the new hires how to be nice, but 80% of our job on a routine international flight is food service.

Flight attendants start not even knowing how the ovens work.

At AA it’s just the one day of food service during the six or seven weeks the new hires go through now. Some don’t know how to use the ovens or know how to properly heat up the meals, and the more experienced F/As have to give them “on the job” training

Ultimately when American is going to reprimand flight attendants for waiting on catering to deliver plates for international first class service prior to departing or when a double-catered international flight has no first class catering at all and manager stand on the jetway deriding the flight attendant who insisted on getting some all the training in the world isn’t going to help.

American has to get its gate staffing, its techops, and its catering all functioning properly before it can ever achieve D0. Telling employees to sacrifice service for on-time departures they can’t meet anyway isn’t enough.

Update: American Airlines provides a statement,

Your headline, “American Airlines Doesn’t Even Teach New Flight Attendants How the Ovens Work,” is inaccurate and misrepresents the training our new flight attendants receive.

We train our flight attendants on both domestic and international food service—and for all cabins of service. Before they ever step foot on a plane, our new hire flight attendants spend more than 36 hours learning galley prep, food service (including oven operation) and service standards. New flight attendants also learn via live, hands-on training during two domestic roundtrip flights before they graduate.

We are incredibly proud of our 27,000 flight attendants and actively encourage feedback from all team members. We use their input to evaluate and improve existing training and will continue to do so.

I have updated the title of this post to “American’s Flight Attendants React to Their Lack of Service Training”

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. Interesting, as I found on a round trip ORD-BOS in First over this past week their was a very young, relatively new FA on each flight. These FAs were very spunky, hard working; knowledgeable how to cook lunch and properly serve it; offered pre-flight drinks and basically an open bar en flight. Sure surprised me, given my past experiences on AA’s ORD-LAX route.

  2. the Garbage Mentality Of America West At Work….. Parker and His Circus Clowns need to Be Shown the Door….Do It! Tired of Their “ShitShow”.

  3. I think all you guys are all missing the point: American Airlines does not provide “service.” As such, why would they train anyone to provide something that the airline does not offer? It’s actually not that complicated. American does not exist outside of its current management, that is a logical falicy. The company is how th pie company is run. If you want “service,” you should choose an airline that offers that as an aspect of their experience (Delta, Alaska, JetBlue). If you keep flying AA and keep complaining that they do not give you the “service” they have clearly decided not to offer, I think that is on you, not them. How many times do they have to crAAp on you, and then laugh at you, before you get the message?

  4. I’m getting really tired of all the AA talk. We all know they stink, the only reason to use AAdvantage is for partner space. Enough already, quit bringing up more mundane details about how bad they are!

  5. Parker, Isom, Eberwein and Surdek need to be shown the door by the AA BOD. All they care about are bonuses, parties, perks and shareholder paid vacation homes in resort cities. Parker flies on private jets and laughs at the passengers and hard working employees. Frankly, we are tired of fixing their mistakes. The vendors and contractors are crooks and pay off the management with freebies. No accountability. One of the most corrupt corporations in the USA. A disgusting group of so called management. We cannot stand them. No class and no morals.

  6. Having many friends who are FA’s with AA, not many new hires get to fly the premium routes since they can’t hold a line yet, and if get an international flight (while on reserve) they are not in a position to work in F or J. Even 10-15 yrs ago new hires never held a international trip and most of the time, it taught as you go alone.

  7. This is disappointing, but I suppose not suprising. Saw it in practice on a recent flight. Young F/A could not get the oven turned on. A more senior F/A was jumpseating and got it going. I can remember when it used to be kind of a “thing” to go to AA Purser training.

    I get the idea of focusing on the basics of departing and arriving on time, with luggage, but basic service matters too. Of course, AA seems to struggle getting basics right lately, so I suppose good service with a respectable soft product is a bit much to ask for.

  8. Maybe those who fly AA all the time in int’l biz class will feel differently, but I’ve never had a real “training” problem with an AA flight attendant (or a flight attendant on any other USA airline). What I sometimes experience is a “motivational” problem. The reality is that the job becomes a bit of a grind, and a significant percentage of flight attendants become less motivated the longer they do it. But the perks and pay are too good to give up, so they keep working.

    Given the unionization/seniority issues that would be crazy difficult to solve, I don’t think this fundamental “motivational” problem will be resolved anytime soon. You could argue that management should hold its flight attendants to a higher service standard, but the obvious thinking among all 3 of the mega-carriers is that a “stick” approach to motivation would be more harmful than helpful. Maybe they’re right — I’ve never had to motivate a workforce of flight attendants, and almost everyone else who reads this blog is in the same boat.

  9. This may explain why the breakfast sandwich I was offered this past Sunday morning was served in its frozen catering state instead of being heated up in the oven as it should have been.

  10. Seriously, how much training do you need to know how to operate an oven or include cutlery on a meal tray? I’m not buying the training argument.

  11. Hey Richard Anderson. . .want to come out of retirement??

    AA has some great people, they just need a leader! I love AA, now need to give them a leader!

  12. I’ve got news for Sun Viking 82: Anderson is busy tearing apart Amtrak. He was hired as President/CEO and is eliminating services and employees as much as he can. Recently it was announced that the reservations office in Riverside, CA will be closed in February 2019, thereby putting 550 people out of work. Yes, maybe a handful can transfer to other positions IF they are qualified to work the new position, but do you think that Amtrak is going to pick up the moving expenses? NOT! And recently, a non-union reservations office was opened in Florida, and those people know how to answer the call with “Amtrak Reservations” and that’s about all they know. Having worked for Amtrak for 37+ years, it is no longer a ‘family’ working together, trying to satisfy the traveling public with service to non-airport locations mostly, as well as showing the passengers what America looks like from the ground instead of looking down on clouds, crammed into a too-small seat space. We older retirees gave it our all, and back then not only did management appreciate it, our passengers and co-workers did too. Now its a whole nother ball game, mostly with foul balls hit.
    So Mr. Anderson should either go back to being retired or go work for Mr. Trump and chop off government employees or government programs.

  13. How much negligence does it take for an airline’s management to be replaced? We’re talking about putting planes in the air with paying customers and this management doesn’t properly train F/A’s for its inflight service?
    Why doesn’t the F/A union revolt at this news?
    And btw @gary – keep this news coming. It’s very revealing to bring up safety-related articles like this so the paying public is aware of this.

  14. “No, there is no additional training for the premium cabin service beyond the one day basic training.”

    I mean, this is crazy.

    Beyond crazy.

  15. Another 37+ year Amtrak retiree here. I second everything Randy said. In talking to people I was told that the Riverside contact center often got calls from customers who first were connected to the non-union facility in Florida (which handles calls from many different companies, not just Amtrak). The Florida employee took thirty minutes to screw up the passenger’s reservation, and the Riverside agent took two minutes to fix it. I only hope Amtrak survives this era and continues providing nationwide service to the people and taxpayers of the USA.

  16. Sounds like Doug should managing Amtrak. At least if the passenger gets fed up with the crap seats and tight commodes they can still jop off at the next stop.

  17. There also hiring very young mangers at the base to manage 20,30, 40 year old seniority flight attendants. These young mangers are given free range to bully, harass and just be awful to them with everything. How about doing a article on they way AA treats these Flights Attendant. Go to Bottom line that are trying to drive them out. In the #metoo movement completely wrong.

  18. @ Carleton MacDonald — Amtrak’s problem is that the “taxpayers” you speak of don’t want to have the government running a railroad where passenger tickets only cover about half of the railroad’s costs. That’s an insane loss, especially since so few Americans actually use Amtrak, and the vast majority of its route network makes no economic sense. Anderson is obviously trying to reduce these losses, because there really isn’t another option unless you convince Congress that Amtrak’s service is so worthwhile that it deserves even more subsidy. Good luck with that.

  19. Note, not specifically on FA problems.

    A lot of situations at AA are created by their attempts to save nickels and dimes. On a recent four flight round trip, I was designated as four different variations: 1. paid first class, 2. paid first class, flying business due to FC seat unavailable, 3. paid first class, economy seat due to FC seat unavailable, 4. paid business, flying first class, no business class on flight.
    I got crap on every flight about luggage charges. FAs fought between themselves about that (he doesn’t get charged, he paid first; yes, but he is flying business. He still doesn’t get charged. Sir, will you get your bag and go back into the terminal to check it, please.) Every one of FOUR flights. And, I got nonsense on every flight about the seat I was assigned. I was pushed around and changed from seats AA had assigned. One FA would change my seat. Another would come along and change it back. Another would change it again.
    Years ago there was a situational designation in family therapy called: “let’s play brouhaha.” And that’s what this was.
    These people had NO idea what they were doing. This was on short, but international flights with NO business class seating on any flight (i.e. a business class charge possible, but no BC section.)

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