American Airlines Employees Reveal Low Morale And Disconnect With Management

Southwest employees are happy. Delta employees are proud. United Airlines employees are a mixed bag. Oscar Munoz made progress on the culture while he was CEO. On the other hand flight attendants union AFA-CWA has a scoring system at United which reports on cabin crew unhappiness at United. 91% of their members reported feeling unvalued by their company and 99% felt their issues are unresolved.

But what about American? In 2017 American Airlines surveyed employees on the state of the company and the results were abysmal. For instance,

  • Only 41% of American Airlines employees believed that the airline’s management makes “the right decisions that take care of customers” and only 32% believed American’s leaders listen to and “seek to understand the frontline team member experience.”

  • Only 33% believed leadership makes “the right decisions that support” employees. Fewer than half believed they have “the flexibility to meet the needs of our customers who fly American” when things go wrong.

The next year American repeated the exercise but shared only a snapshot of results with employees. Employees kept asking, but management kept things close to the vest.

They didn’t like the results, so they didn’t repeat the survey for 2019 and eventually they just stopped asking the questions.

A thread on social media draws out some of the current themes. Bear in mind that online comments will generally skew negative. People are more inclined to post complaints than praise, and the more indifferent won’t post at all.

There weren’t any positive comments posted. Here’s a sampling of what employees shared.

  • A mechanic offered,
    America West management (LUS) has trashed the place. I mean this in the sense that the management team doesn’t have a clue how to dig out this airline from the financial / operational hole DP put it in prior to Covid.

  • It’s not a place to be proud of,

    I feel like I work for America West Airlines circa 2004. It’s not a terrible place to work, but man our product is so lackluster compared to the competition.

    America West/US Airways destroyed this place. AA had its issues, but we were proud of the brand prior to the merger.

  • The place has changed and no longer tries to be the best.

    I’m a 2013 AA hire and as much as I still love my job, this isn’t the company that hired me. At the time we were competing with Delta and United to be the best product in the US. We’ve given up that fight to be the cheapest product possible while still qualifying (aka charging) as a mainline airline instead of a low cost carrier.

  • Constantly cutting corners:

    Honestly this is exactly it. When I was hired by LAA in ’14 they told us they wanted to be the airline people would pay a little more to fly because the producer was better. Ever since FOI it has felt like every corner possible has been cut.

    That aside, I’ve never been at a company where the work force and exec level management have SO much distain for each other

  • Declining quality and no sense of purpose.

    When I joined AA, Bob Crandall was the CE0 and he was stainless steel. Ever since the merger and within the past 11 years, I have seen an uncontrolled free fall in the quality we are delivering to customers, and it’s embarrassing to say I work for AA. Personally, I think we need a complete reset with NEW management, not those brought over from LUS. New hires don’t give a shit. It’s just a paycheck. We need to be a leader and NOT a follower. We need to adopt the core values of Chick Fa LA , service purpose driven and pursue what’s next

  • No longer premium.

    America West/USAir has totally destroyed AA. Turned it into a bargain basement airline. Parker AND Isom both said they want to be “just like Spirit”. Premium product is a joke compared to what AA was. They turned American to the worst airline in the world.

  • Operational reliability is all that matters (but they still lag in reliability, and they need both reliability and quality to attract customers):

    I do think it’s obvious to the majority of employees that upper level management doesn’t really care about the quality of the product. Emphasis is placed on hitting performance targets above all else.

It doesn’t matter if some of the claims are over the top, like “worst airline in the world.” They obviously aren’t that! But the point is that it’s how some employees feel about their company and their job and they bring it to work.

And my sense is that they are largely correct that the emphasis is on cost-cutting and operational metrics; that the focus for several years has been on competing with low-cost carriers and not premium ones; and that there’s been little attention to detail paid.

Getting the little things right isn’t something that costs more, but it’s not something that’s been rewarded at the company. Often paying attention to the details saves money, and failing to do so is costly. The seating debacle of Oasis – American’s new domestic interior program – is a perfect example. They didn’t build a mock up. They didn’t notice how bad the premium cabin configuration was or how tough the galley set up was. They then had to retrofit the retrofits (Project Kodiak).

Paying attention to what meals and wines are serves, rather than just checking a box that there are meals and wines, gets better quality for the money. You’re already paying flight attendants to be on board, so offering consistent service standards that get more than lip service doesn’t cost much more. But these things haven’t been core values at the airline.

American Airlines used to talk about ‘making culture a competitive advantage’ but lacked a mission statement and employees didn’t even know what they were trying to deliver or shoot for – a low cost carrier experience or a premium one?

Then they sought to passionately pursue efficiencies and employees have been even more lost. Meanwhile “caring for people on life’s journey” sounds like they’re an assisted living community. Can you really blame employees for not seeing a clear path to quality?

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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Comments

  1. I have read everywhere that a lot of companies have bad management. Try working in the public sector where the management is more into politics than doing the right thing. I know Austin PD is hiring. So all the FA’a out of Austin can get a job right now. Plano PD, which is not far from DFW is starting pay at $108,000 a year. Oh, I forgot one thing, you need a college degree in Plano. Not sure of the requirements in Austin, but most major PD’s in Texas require experience, some college or a degree. So the high school grad FA’s now know why they don’t get paid as much even though they do get some nice benefits, which cost money! Work hard and do the customers right. I gave the best service possible when I worked, because if you have a better image, you get more support from the public.

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