American Airlines Flight Attendant Directs Furlough Rage At A Passenger – Who Used To Be CEO

Former American Airlines Chairman and CEO Don Carty was traveling in first class on Thursday. He left the airline 17 years ago, but some flight attendants still hate him. One crewmember took out their anger that he’d fly American the day 8000 flight attendants were losing their jobs.

Carty ran American from 1998 to 2003. He was in charge at the airline on 9/11 and its aftermath, and as the carrier struggled along with the rest of the industry he executed what was the largest corporate restructuring outside of bankruptcy in U.S. history. The airline struggled mightily to avoid a Chapter 11 filing for a decade. Carty was known for recording a regular message to employees that could be heard dialing 1-800-AA-CARTY. (Under his successor, this was replaced by an e-mail.)

While employees at American may have done better than at some of their competitors going through bankruptcy and discharging pensions, Carty’s American paid retention bonuses to top executives. This angered employees who were forced to take pay cuts, and he was ultimately forced out over this.

As a former airline CEO he isn’t just flying first class, he’s a Concierge Key. And I believe that his wife, traveling with him, appears to have brought an emotional support animal (“ESAN”) on board based on the record being shared to social media.

The cabin crew member complains he didn’t say hello or thank you. And one of the flight attendants on board was being furloughed – these didn’t all happen “midnight September 30” as commonly believed. Some trips for furloughing employees (like this one) lasted through the week.

Of course Carty, who after leaving American became Chairman of Virgin America and of Porter Airlines and Vice Chairman of Dell, has been gone from the airline for 17 years. He’s hardly at fault for current employee furloughs Fewer people traveling in response to Covid-19 is what’s responsible for furloughs, even though neither Delta nor Southwest are currently letting any cabin crew go. Still, at United the pilots union still harbors resentment after 35 years so this a 17 year grudge nothing new.

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. @ Gary — I feel sad for this flight attendant. She will be happier if she can let go of her anger.

  2. Can’t be mad about retention bonuses. Without them people would leave. You need to retain smart executives. Most flight attendants need to be replaced anyway with attractive young women. We need to get back to weighing them to save for and force retirement at 30, 35 tops.

  3. It’s unsurprising that he’s met with some hostility: he initiated a scheme to provide AA senior executives ( including himself) a bonus worth double salary if they agreed to stay in for 3 years, plus set up a mechanism to guarantee the pensions of the same execs in the event AA went into bankruptcy…all at a time of salary cuts, furloughs, and absolutely no guarantees for the rest of the workforce. Odious man…

  4. To me, it seems like this flight attendant was referring to his rude behavior on board the aircraft.
    Looks like he was disrespectful.
    That’s what the reference is about.

  5. I didn’t know I was required to say “hello” or “how are you“ when boarding a flight. It does seem a bit odd for an ex-ceo of the airline but maybe he didn’t want to trigger anger. Maybe he’s a jerk. I’m surprised the average FA in 2020 would know who he is.

  6. Any feelings of concern for Big 3 flight attendants go out the window with stuff like this. The amount of hate this person must have to hold a grudge over a man who was ceo 17 years ago is crazy. If flight attendants focused on doing their jobs well, maybe so many wouldn’t be in the position they are in. Why try to save flight attendants when this is what they do.

  7. In 2000 AA bought TWA.

    The TWA FAs were given their full seniority for pay and benefits.

    However, AA allowed their flight attendant union (APFA) to decide where the TWA FAs would be placed on the seniority list.

    The APFA placed them on the bottom. All of them. TWA’s most senior FA (45 years) was one slot below an AA new-hire.

    Very few AA FAs protested this.

    Then, AA started to furlough and by the end of 2003 all the TWA FAs were gone. It took 9 years for the most junior TWA FA to be recalled.

    Ironically, after the AA Covid furloughs, the TWA FAs still working for AA are again near the bottom of the list.

    Now, that’s a story!

    If the AA FA in this story knew Carry, she knew what happened to the TWA FAs.

    Shame on her.

  8. Most employees/retirees have more respect for Carty than Parker. Carty did the wrong thing and gave out bonuses for management (and himself) just after employees accepted pay cuts and concessions. After the uproar Carty left American. Parker took benefits from retirees and brought American from a world class airline to the industries worst!

  9. To the jackasses who say this doesn’t matter after 17 years: get this, these are people who lost pensions, pay and jobs. Multiple times in the last 20 years. I would be really pissed if the man that canceled my pension sat on my flight and then treated me as if I didn’t exist! I would find a tray of water cups and dump them right on his head! Oh, so sorry, not!

    Yes, there are a lot of bad apples at AA.The same is true of MANY companies. But don’t lump all AA employees into the same bucket. Bad leadership is a huge contributing factor to AA’s problems. CEO greed in America is huge! And Don Carty is one of the best examples of corporate greed!

  10. Just gotta say having lived in Japan, the leadership at major US companies sucks! No sense of sacrifice in support of the lower-level personnel! I can’t say how refreshing it is when a Japanese CEO offers to resign, take a pay cut or issue a full-throated apology in front of tv cameras! We need a major rethink on what our business schools are selling!

  11. The flight attendance mind set poses a threat to the safety of the whole plane..we don’t know what this can trigger in this day and time on a plane…to many people have loss there live. In simple displays of a mental trigger like this due to losing a job..we don’t know what she’s really about to face in her life…so this is dangerous

  12. Hope he didn’t order a drink, ya don’t piss off any server of your drinks or food. I know an airline exec who was refused boarding by captain, bc of stealing benefits and money from employees b4 he left with big parachute be it.

  13. I no longer fly AA. Service is poor, aircraft are filthy and one can travel cheaper on other airlines. For myself, let them fold. Traveling in the USA is a monopoly.

  14. Being the former ceo he should have said something offering his sympathies about the hard time the crews are going through now. I guess he is too good to speak to crew that he expected to take pay cuts while he didn’t though huh? And unless she have him this note, I don’t see the issue with highlighting his negatives, especially if she worked under him. People are permitted to have an opinion about their workplace.

  15. Let’s not forget Delta had an infamous CEO(Mullins), that made it into the TIME mag about greediest CEOs, cover was a PIG. I was at Midway Airlines, 1989? when it overnite,shutdown.(crews were stranded across US)(after weeks of lying about merger with NW at Xmas, never recieved last pay.), the Mgrs. were escorted thru backdoor at unemployment office in Cicero, ahead of lines of employees.. Ramp guys punctured their tires on their luxury cars. Yes, Airline folks have long memories and stand together. Believe it.

  16. To the person who left the previous comment “ Most flight attendants need to be replaced anyway with attractive young women. We need to get back to weighing them to save for and force retirement at 30, 35 tops.”
    You should fly foreign carriers only or better yet … step in front of a bus.

  17. It wasn’t the furloughed flight attendant who wrote that. It was obviously written by a more senior crew member.

  18. He ruined Virgin America too, greedy bastard. They should revoke his Concierge Key.
    FA is part of a union, she can say what she wants especially when furloughed.

  19. @JohnB – “these are people who lost pensions, pay and jobs. …would be really pissed if the man that canceled my pension sat on my flight and then treated me as if I didn’t exist!”

    American Airlines did not reject its pensions in bankruptcy. Carty did not cancel anyone’s pensions.

  20. @Mike – that’s an TWA was a ‘failed carrier’ and integration at bottom of seniority in that case is fairly common, but in any case that’s an issue of one worker group vs another, I’m not sure how exactly you put that at Carty’s feet.

  21. Most of the people who got furlough, are allowed to keep pension, and flight benefits for life time including family and friends. I wish my job offers stuff like that. Fly for free for life, even after you are not working for the company, while sometimes you are able to kick paid passengers of flight so their flight attendants can go to work??? How about going to work early like everyone else? Early, in their case, 1 day before, so others don’t have to suffer for their convenience.

  22. @DaninMCI- it just shows manners when you return a greeting (which he surely got from the FAs when boarding). Yes, you are not required, but…

  23. If it worked that would be one thing but you’re supporting failure. She was right he was wrong.Jon says:

    I met the man, I worked for the man, I’m still at American Airlines for more than 36 years. He has a failure as a CEO he is a failure as a human being. It is an anger it’s discussed over his moronic decisions and selfishness. He was forced out because he was a failure. Even his predecessor Robert Crandall who was a CEO despised his stupidity. The fact he acted this way is not surprising he has some kind of personality disorder I think. Those of you who make a lot of comments supporting him, I was just as ignorant as he is. Sorry but you don’t know what you’re talking about. You just tend to jump towards. Supporting this system versus analyzing it and correcting it. Generally airline executives are low grade executives. No one with great credentials wants to take the job. But a lot of you “middle-management types” With your middle-management educations and experiences tend to “salute and execute “regardless of the incompetence. If it worked that would be one thing but you’re supporting failure. She was right he was wrong.

  24. I completely agree with JohnB.
    When somebody does you wrong in a big way, yu never forget.

  25. While I agree that we should go back to FA standards, ie, no more pregnant FA’s pushing beverage carts, I dont think women who are still attractive after 35? should be shelved. But hey, I’m not for female pilots either. Carter is typical of our CEO club in this country. Therefore, I support her resentment and anger. AND the idiotic idea of a pet companion on an aircraft should cease and desist NOW!

  26. The idea of offering senior management retention bonuses and pay when those same managers helped to lead a company to financial ruin is ludicrous!

    This thinking is not only dangerous thinking for a company but to this nation as a whole! Since then we have a corporate welfare system in place where companies are rewarded for their bad behavior of insane profits, and pay for executives. It seems the old term from back in the day of “save it for a rainy day” only applies to the general public!

    While companies expand under the guise of things like Competition, and Capitalism. What they are really doing is looting the economy!
    Because each time these companies fail, the investors and top executives walk away With multiple millions leaving the general public, workers, and tax payers to pay for their failed business plans!

    Until we change laws and make these people accountable for their actions it will just get worse and people will once again become slaves to those of power.
    Everyone must first take a look in the mirror and be accountable, not just executives and multi billionaire’s!

  27. It is clear few of you have ever been in senior corporate management. I was an executive of 3 National companies (CTO of one and CIO of two) plus a partner running a National consulting practice and also had my own business.

    Retention bonuses are common in many situations when you want to minimize turnover. Sorry but executives are different than tank and file employees. They are much harder to replace and if you have a good one you better not let them leave. 95% of airline employees are easily replaceable but executives aren’t. Many on here bash them without any understanding of their jobs or the decisions that have to be made (often between 2 difficult choices that both will tick off someone).

    He SAVED the pensions and other benefits instead of taking the easy way out and declaring Chapter 11. Of course a career sky waitress (and many on here apparently) have no comprehension of that!

  28. It seems American for years has made a bad choice in electing a CEO.
    Doug Parker has ruined AA and I’m sure when and if he leaves his bonus for such a great job will be plentiful. Sad to think when FA’s and others will loose there jobs. The airline has a nerve to ask the government for a bailout only to mismanage what they get.

  29. This just shows how spoiled the airline personnel are. Somehow these airborne wait staff, who now do next to nothing, (haven’t done much in the past 10 years) think that they are more important than everyone else in the world. 8,000 FA/s are getting furloughed is nothing compared to the 28,000 Disney workers, the 700,000 gym workers, the millions of small business that are on the verge of going out of business. Current estimate is the 60% of all small business will fail by years end. Small business got 4 weeks of PPP to try and keep their employees on payroll. The airlines got 6 months and the VLogers like Jetting Julia are whining because they no longer have the ability to fly around the world and post their videos and sell ads while getting paid by the airlines. 866K people filed for 1st time unemployment last week. What’s another 40K more or less? Maybe if they spend 2 or 3 years out of the airlines and actually have to work for a living they will appreciate their job when they get recalled. A hard days work would kill most of the airline personnel. I personally hope that AA goes into Chapter 11 and cuts the pay and eliminates pensions. I also wonder how many people posting about how there should only be young attractive FA’s would pass that test in their profession. I don’t care what they look like or how old they are as long as they can and do their job. I do agree that some appear to be so old and frail or obese that I don’t know how they can do their job in an emergency but that is up to the FAA not the passenger. Remember no one makes you fly, if you don’t like the looks of your crew you are free to disembark.

  30. Why should fly concierge anyway, he doesn’t and hasn’t worked there for 17 years, I’m sure he can afford to buy a ticket. That’s what’s wrong with the golden parachute crowd, they forget about the people that actually WORK for the airlines. Pathetic and wrong

  31. There was a tiered agreement with the unions to save the company.
    People with X Amount of years and were at X age kept the traditional pension and benefits. The next tier had their pensions frozen and didn’t retain their benefits at retirement. The next tier received no pension and didn’t retain their benefits after retirement.
    All members of my husband’s union took paycuts, received less benefits ( paid more for them) and lost many job securities.
    My husband worked the last 5 years without a contract and with minimal pay increases.
    Don’t blame the employees for the downfall of the airlines. Oh, and yes- they have very long memories.

  32. That Carry is a [redacted] human being. Ruined this airline and maintenance. He spoils never be allowed to fly American and I hope he [redacted]

  33. This why I generally prefer the L-US and New Hire staff. A lot of the L-AA staff are just bitter, miserable people that need to find a different job. So he didn’t meddle in internal union business about TWA staff and seniority lists, GET OVER IT. Carrying a grudge like that for 20 years is just pathetic.

  34. what’s the Big deal, It’s the Airline
    Industry. furloughs are part of the
    Business. So quit crying and pull up your panties, I mean boots. You will be recalled in 6 months

  35. It takes all the employees to make a company work. Without the hourly workers the executives wouldn’t have a job and same thing the other way around. It’s really sorry that the boards grant crazy pay packages to executives. It is not right that they will also pay these worthless executives bonuses. They should stop and look at everything and realize that these executives are the ones that got the company in the shape their in. So why do they want them around anymore. Get rid of all the deadbeats no matter who they are.
    Time to even the playing field.

  36. These people get a lifetime First Class seats and Admirals Club.They have no idea what coach seats feel like.Inventory for First Class is usually available for them.
    They never standby at the airport for seats.Many of them retire with these benefits.I am a retired AA agent

  37. Not all passengers are going to greet you when boarding. This man probably didn’t even think, like so many. I wasn’t around AA when he was part of AA group. But, you are angry about being furloughed, but keep that shit at home. No one wants to hear it! Many people lose their jobs. After 9/11, many fa’s were furloughed, but many returned when things picked up.The same thing will happen this time. I did not get furloughed after 9/11 but Parker made sure our fa’s were back working when things picked up. Unfortunately, you just lost any chance of being hired by any airline!

  38. Paul, it’s hard to know what the board of directors are thinking at the time they grant these compensation packages. Sometimes the hard times are not from mismanagement but through unexpected events such as 9/11 or COVID-19. Certainly some of these CEO’s have a remarkable track record and then they get into another company and fail. Some of them are just good at selling themselves. I remember flying with TWA F/A’s and they were wearing their wings upside down to protest the seniority issue. If AA hadn’t bought TWA they would have been unemployed. It was the AA union that threw them under the bus and they want to blame Carty. I assume that buying TWA was cheaper than getting into a bidding war over landing slots at the airports. Regardless there is no excuse for that kind of behavior and for F/A’s to not do their job. While there are a few good ones it’s becoming they are few and far between and the bad ones are ruining the airlines. It makes no sense to put out $625K ($25B/40,000)per airline employee being let go so that they can get full pay for another 6 months. The only thing I like about the airlines today is that you can trade their stocks and make some money as they go up and down like an elevator.

  39. Susie Shepard makes a very good point. You don’t know what was going on in the man’s mind when he boarded. Does he have a sick loved one? A close friend or relative is or has passed? Is he thinking about a business problem? Is he sick or has a medical issue that is on his mind? And that goes for every passenger boarding an aircraft. I can tell you that I’ve boarded more planes with the F/A playing with their phone or talking to another F/A or a pilot and not saying a word to me than the times I’ve boarded without speaking. So you’re unhappy about be furloughed? Tough, get over it. A friend of mine just lost his job on Wednesday because of a merger. Totally unrelated to the airline industry. He’s 62 with medical issues. What’s his chances of getting a job? And the congress isn’t going to spend $625K so that he can keep full pay for 6 months. The majority of you are spoiled brats and the airlines will be better off without you.

  40. It wasn’t just the immediate rudeness that irritated this FA, it was accumulative. The Overcompensated self appointed Lords of most Airlines, it’s been decades of stealing benefits and pay from all of them. This FA snapped. These Lords aren’t ever there for employees, they will rob every company they somehow manage to oversee. I know of pilots who took out of good faith a retirement package at Delta, in Hope’s of saving others jobs and company. Delta in turn filed bankruptcy, judge invalidated these retirement pkgs. Hundreds of very senior pilots lost everything. Some gratitude of years of service and sacrifice. Yes, any airline employee DESERVES a Rant. CEOS, CFOS will lie to your face.
    Yes, these career sky waitresses and career skybusdrivers HAVE LONG MEMORIES.
    Many have saved your ass as well as served your ass.
    They are indeed underappreciated by public and Mostly by inept Board and CFOs.
    Do I think they need let them all fail, bankrupt. Then, see IF YOU , John Public is HAPPY. YOU ALL DESERVE WHAT YOU GET. Enjoy your next flight.

  41. @Bob
    You obviously have no idea how non-revenue travel works. Commuting crew members never get to bump revenue passengers. There are rare instances where during extreme weather events, etc. the airline will allow crew members who are commuting to and from work to list as positive space passengers. That gives them a guaranteed seat, as opposed to standby, but doesn’t bump a paying passenger. The only time an airline would bump a passenger off a flight is if they needed to reposition a working crew to another city on an oversold flight to fly another aircraft. Would you rather 100 people be stranded so 4 people can get to Louisville? Don’t make stupid comments when you have no idea what you are talking about!

  42. Okay let’s sum up the majority of the comments here….
    Disgruntled, whiny, envious, vindictive, let’s stop it here.
    If you don’t like your job, leave
    If you don’t like any job, start your own company
    If your personal feelings get in the way of performing your job, do NOT start a company because when you run a company nobody gives a shit about your victimhood other than maybe some politicians wanting to exploit that by taking some tax dollars, solving your problem for you and staying in office another term by buying your vote.
    Ditch your entitlement and get a life or get professional help, please….

  43. One big resentment is he wanted to be the biggest airline in the world and acquired TWA which was bankrupt. Had old planes, and a lot of debt. American took all that on. The planes were basically discarded, they let a bunch of the bases go. So it was a financial drain and hurt the company for his ego! Then the employees were ask to take a pay cut, the Flight Attendants pension was stopped and then he gives himself and executives a big bonus! He was responsible for so many financial problems at AA that employees had to take the loss. That is why almost all employees at American hate this man with a passion.

  44. As a Delta captain, I always tried to get my pre-flight work done, so I could greet our passengers as they came onto the airplane. Many times I wound up soothing the nerves of a nervous passenger in the process. I have had one evacuation because of a terrorist attack, and the flight attendants saved lives during that evacuation. Please do not belittle their work, nor their efforts. Most people have long memories about grievances, and flight attendants are just people. But they are people who may save your life some day, and often not in an evacuation, but in some other on-board passenger emergency.

  45. He’s the bad guy, not the flight attendant.I find them often unpleasant but they deal with us, the jerk public. Watch people anywhere- we are worse than ever. I’m working on being more conscientious about my own reactions and responses to others. Things are tough. Those big butt saline red top level execs-have no moral compass or when others are being set aside or they are filing for some level of bankruptcy-do they practice self sacrifice they preach? Do they reduce the square footage of their homes, cut their own lawn or anything the rest of us do? What so you really think…I am glad for a moment she could vent and while it should be her right in this free society- she was probably fired over it. My brother worked as a flight attendant most of his life-they are doormats for the public and corporate execs. Undeservedly so. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you judge.

  46. Terminate every last FA. Ineligible for rehire. No furlough.

    Start again. And if they can’t do the job they’re meant to do? Good riddance.

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