American Airlines Fires 50 Flight Attendants For Leaving Their Bases While On Reserve

Earlier this month I covered a memo from American Airlines to its flight attendants threatening to fire them if they aren’t near the airport when called to work a flight while on reserve. It turns out, according to the flight attendants union at the airline, that they’ve already terminated 50 cabin crew over this.

When flight attendants are on reserve they may never get called to work, but they’ll get paid. Some of them – disproportionately an issue with American’s younger crew, I understand – will roll the dice and guess they won’t be called in. So they stay home in the city they live in, rather than the one they’re based at for work (where they may have a shared crash pad). Then when they’re called for duty they aren’t available, and may say they’re sick.

When flight attendants are scheduled for a ‘reserve availability period’ they have to be able to report to the airport within two hours (three where a co-terminal is involved). American has been investigating instances of,

  • flight attendants ignoring their call up and missing a trip
  • no shows and missing a trip
  • calling in sick after they’re told they have to work reserve (when they’re sick they’re supposed to call out sick, not wait until they’re assigned a trip, of course this may get them attendance points)

What American will do – to potentially terminate a flight attendant after a single incident – is investigate their travel to see whether they were really in the city they were supposed to be in. Cabin crew, it seems, aren’t very good at covering their tracks.

[T]he Company will conduct a travel audit and compare it to your reserve schedule. They will conduct a 35R investigation. During this investigation, they will pull all your travel benefits history, including past, current AA listings, travel, and other airlines. They will use other evidence to substantiate their claim that a Flight Attendant was not in position to report within the contractual timeline.

Already American has fired 50 flight attendants in the past six months over this, and numerous additional investigations are underway.

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. Necessary. I’m a crewmember and it’s so frustrating to us and the passengers when we’re paired with unreliable coworkers, thankfully it’s pretty rare. Airlines have strict attendance policies for a reason and if you’re not dependable then you need to be weeded out.

  2. Zero-tolerance policies and setting up an internal team to pore over personal details of their colleagues with the goal of taking away somebody’s income and livelihood — that’s a hell of a corporate culture.

    AA should be looking inward for ways to use positive reinforcement to get their reserve crew to stay in their reserve base.

    By the way, how do DL and UA handle this situation? If this problem is particularly bad at AA, then the problem lies in recruitment and hiring.

  3. Let’s keep posting on your IG channels, YALL!

    So tired of these FAs and even pilots promoting their side hussle slash wanna be social media influencers.

  4. “Side hustles” exist because real wages (adjusted for cost of living) have dropped precipitously over the last few decades. And you could be amazed at how much revenue a YouTube channel generates. Check out CNBC Make It which has featured at least two YouTube “creators” who spew 10 minutes of incredibly basic financial advice per day into a camera and rake in the high seven figures of income from ads and affiliate marketing. A senior partner at McKinsey would be lucky to make half that while they have to wake up at 4am to catch flights to their low IQ clients in s**thole destinations.

  5. Where I’m from, this is called fraud. Zero tolerance where it can be proven without a doubt. No remorse here.

  6. I hope the American Airlines HR manager does not say “buh-bye” when firing a flight attendant.

  7. 50?…….it’s a good start. Who’s going to throw 3 year olds and autistic children off of planes now???…..well, not these 50 at least….Finally a story about AA doing some positive. Keep up the good work!……oh, any chance they can do something about Vina Joseph at the MCO ticket counter too?

  8. A previous comment said that they should incentive people to be there and provide positive reinforcement. They do; it’s called their paycheck. These are employees that are being PAID not to work; just be on standby in case they need to work

  9. Ayenus – boo hoo. They knew the deal.

    Good riddance to lazy fraudulent trash with entitlement Issues.

  10. @ayenus – what’s a positive reinforcement for someone to show up to work? You need to show up to work. Also, the data they are reviewing are company data, not personal. Just like all the website visit history on company devices – same thing.

  11. Ayenus – shut up. They knew the deal when they signed up. Lazy entitled trash being got rid of. Good riddance.

  12. I am a reserve flight attendant for another airline and I while I agree with these FAs being terminated, I can also empathize with and understand why they may have done what they did. The notion that we’re
    being “paid not to work” is based on the assumption that a this is a positive aspect of the job that we should all be grateful for but do we really have a choice? We’re paid a guarantee of a set number of hours each month but since Reserves are mostly junior, we are paid significantly less hourly so many of us actually would love to be able to work more hours so we can surpass our guarantee to have a somewhat decent paycheck, but that isn’t really an option when youre on Reserve because in the 20 days “availability period” you might work all 20 days or just half of those days and be well below your guarantee, this is where the need to have a part time job comes in but you have no availability other than the remaining 10 days you are not on Reserve and run the risk of not ever having sleep/a life. I am
    not saying what these FAs did are acceptable, we all
    know airlines are a business that demand reliabilty and consistency from their employees but being on Reserve is tough and I’m not surprised if some
    of them had another job on the side that coincided with when theyre called for an assignment

  13. @AAguy,

    Yes that will help with the airline pilot staffing problems, different rules, different contract, different requirements for sitting reserve.

  14. It’s interesting that to be on reserve you are clearly pretty junior. My take on this is that AA is obviously not training properly the importance of what reserve means and what it takes. These are not senior FA’s. These are most likely under three years since hire. So, while, yes, it’s pretty obvious there is a problem with who they are hiring, there is also a problem with developing the culture. It works top down.

    Funny, never have a problem with my barista being there and ready at 5AM every morning. As I say over and over, let Starbucks run FA hiring and training and to bring in people that actually enjoy their jobs and public interaction. The culture of FA’s is corrupt, lazy and is breeding the same.

  15. @PHLPHLYER – just wondering. What happens if a crew member drives from their home city to their operating base? Can they claim that type of travel to prove they were in town?

    Granted, if it’s less than 500 miles, would the crew member still drive there? I guess it is possible, but time-consuming.

  16. Perhaps AA should change their reserve. Someone asked what Delta does…Delta doesn’t have an issue because they have very few reserve days per month.

  17. Good for AA. Employers have rights too and too many younger workers seem to think the world revolves around them. As we enter in to a recession due to Putin’s War, and jobs are cut, maybe the Gen X and Z generation will learn that you need to partner with your employer and work to advance and get raises like the Greatest Gen and Baby Boomers / Lost Generation worker have done.

    I have less then 9 years left, have been laid off a few times (part of the ad agency life) but I think in the past 30 plus years, I was out of work less then 10 weeks and spent that time looking for a better job / working hard.

    Time to wake up kids, and start working.

  18. These days a new hire gets travel passes on day 1. Therefore, many new hires commute from day 1. In the 80’s, new hires had to live at base. Travel privileges came after 8 months. Perhaps AA could implement these rules again since every flight is oversold and “hoping” for a seat to get to work these days does not work.

  19. Maxine – yawn. Move your lazy entitled ass to the town your work in like normal people do and stop ‘hoping’ for a flight.

    You have a base. It’s a physically based job. You don’t have a right to live elsewhere.

  20. Heres the long and short of it follks. I’m a flight attendant and I commute to and from work, its a 1.5 hour flight for me. When you first start out your base salary would not cover living in certain base cities since they can be prohibitively expensive. some people still try, fuck themselves financially and move on to something else. I agree that this is what they signed up for but when you have to rely on per diem for half your income I understand why some people take this chance.

    To clarify for a lot of people, the starting wage for a flight attendant can seem high at first but when you take into account that you only get scheduled pay for 80 hours a month Approximately and have to work up to 20 days a month to get those hours your making equal or less than minimum wage. when you calculate having to pay for a crash pad and sometimes flying in the day before your shift, the unpaid time put into this job is not worth the pay or benefits that you might not even get the time to use.

  21. Good for AA for letting them go. If they choose not to live in their base cities then they need to do whatever it takes to get to work. Doesn’t matter if it’s for reserve or for a flight. If you are scheduled, you show up. Otherwise you deserve to be fired.

  22. @sunviking82 – don’t include GenX!!! You’re talking about those who came after us!

  23. It’s easy to say “live at base” when you know nothing about the position. These people is basically getting paid like a part time minimum wage while they are on reserve. They really can’t afford to move to base. They end up passing the days in a small apartment in NY, Boston or LA, 3 rooms with 15-20. It can be quite depressing. Which could be why also the rate of suicide has gone quite up in the industry.

  24. Imagine you’re on your way to work, you realize you forgot your BLM pin, turn around to go back home, and wind up missing your flight. Cut em a break. What’s more important than being an SJW?

  25. I was on reserve at AA after 34 years! AA provides zero motivation for veteran employees

  26. Roo – “waaaa eaaaaa waaaaaaa”. You/they knew the deal going in. You knew the terms. You’re not doing what you’re paid to do, you get fired. As lazy entitled trash should be.

  27. AA is overcomplicating this.
    The solution is simply to treat no-showing a job assignment as an offense that can get you terminated – no different than for AA or other companies in other positions. How many warnings an employee gets before being fired is up to the company but it should be consistent across all work groups. A no show at work is a no show.
    Pass privileges is a side issue. They are a benefit and if an employee uses them in a way that keeps them from being able to do their job, then the lack of not being able to do the job is the issue. Telling employees that the company is tracking your pass benefits will create ill will just as AA needs to hire thousands of employees – so, of course their strategy will die.

    And since DesertGhost will come on here and tell us all that I am just cheering for AA to be liquidated, I’ll beat him to it and say that there are consequences of all actions whether at the individual or corporate level – but those consequences don’t usually lead to a company’s liquidation.

  28. Why would you want the stress of commuting. I’d always commute the day before. It was easier on me. Back trips up and stay in between. No way could we commute on reserve.

  29. There’s a whole lot of angry small-penis energy in these comments. Sorry a flight attendant turned down your corny attempt at a pick up line, fellas. It will get better for you, I promise.

  30. @GetOverIt
    Oh… must be an AOC groupie! Care to guess how sorry I feel for flight attendants who have ruined air travel for the last 20 (moreso the last 2) years?….you already know. Go back to the Taco Bell drive through if you aren’t willing to comply with the company’s rules.

  31. What is it with these entitled/fraudulent people in the work force? Good riddance and good luck finding a job nowadays. Was it worth it?

  32. If being a FA does not pay, the schedule is crazy, and you have no life…then why are people still working the job? You would think the airlines would have to redo their whole FA hiring and compensation to attract people to the job. This is America and despite what many people say you still have the option to pursue other careers. So, what am I missing?

  33. Tim,

    Sorry to disappoint you, but my only comment about this situation is that people are supposed to do their jobs. If they don’t, they tend to get fired.

    Just so you don’t get too disappointed, I’ll write this. Please don’t misrepresent what I write. If you’ll re-read my comments as I wrote them, not as you want to interpret them, I usually write that your **rhetoric** indicates that you want America to be liquidated, not that you actually want that to happen. It’s your constant need to gloat and compare “the perfect airline” to others that leads me to that conclusion.

  34. When flight attendants were hired, they would stand reserve for 18-24 months.

    There are now major bases, e.g., where those with over 30-years are on reserve.

    AA changed the rules on them and is making no effort to fix the system.

    Reading the comments here shows how selfish, petty and unkind so many are.

  35. Very sad that they are making that decision knowing that humans can get sick and as the first time happening they shouldn’t be agressive

  36. AA should take responsibility for part of this. They created the monster. Most airlines have you on probation for eight months. During that time you do not have passes and you must live at the base you were sent to. AA does not have that rule.
    However as a flight attendant you should take responsibility as an adult and realize this is a job. Follow the rules that is required of you.
    When you were hired you agreed to the rules and regulations and the pay period end of story.

  37. Hey @ayenus. That “positive reinforcement” shuck and give went out 30 years ago. On this one, I’m 100% behind American.

  38. @Fred: You’re right. No, that’s not what is happening.

    What is happening is that the airline changed the rules and is using those rules to make life so miserable that senior flight attendants quit (and can be replaced with lower priced new hires) or can be fired.

    You think 30-year plus flight attendants should suddenly be placed on reserve?

    But you don’t care about people, do you?

  39. @David – care to explain what a BLM pin has to do with this conversation or are you just stereotyping in a way that could be construed as racially insensitive?

    I agree that the FAs getting canned have no one to blame but themselves.

    @reserve4lyfe – I have to take call in my profession, which is akin to being on reserve. I do not get paid for call and, in fact, when I get called in I am not paid extra because I am salaried. I knew that when I chose my professional path as did the FAs in question. These people seem to forget that when they engage in such selfish behavior they are negatively impacting people’s lives. Sometimes it’s as simple as just missing a meeting. Other times it’s missing a important life event like a wedding or a funeral. Sometimes it ruins a honeymoon or a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Sometimes it prevents people from saying goodbye to a loved one before they pass on. FAs who do not follow the rules harm passengers and, ultimately, harm the airline’s brand.

  40. Why is this even news? Employees who don’t do their jobs properly need to be terminated. Why should everyone else have to pitch in to cover for these scoflaws who think they can beat the airline’s system for FA availability? Do they only have to follow the procedures that they like? It’s ridiculous. “Out, just get out. We can hire good people who want to work”.

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