How much service you’ll get on a U.S. airline flight varies a lot. Some crews are helpful and engaging. Others retreat to the galley to play Candy Crush or read People. A couple of American Airlines flight attendants so badly didn’t want to be disturbed by passengers on a flight from Dallas to Toronto on Sunday that they constructed a barrier to keep customers out of the galley area.
Flight attendants are given seat belts for safety demonstrations on American Airlines, since the airline has removed seat back entertainment screens from domestic planes and can no longer show safety videos. And they get seat belt extenders for larger passengers. But seat belts have another ingenious use to crew, apparently – prevent them from having to provide service to customers.
Hey @AmericanAir. Do @FAANews, @FAASafetyBrief, @USDOT, and @Transport_gc allow your crews to block off access to rear exits DURING flight so your FA’s can sit and chat ? Seatbelt harnesses connected together. AA2804 DFW-YYZ, 29 Oct 2023. #safetyfail, #clueless, #infuriating pic.twitter.com/iGJ1KUVJaj
— Lori Soler (@lorikaycan) October 31, 2023
Southwest Airlines flight attendants are known for their enthusiasm and fun. Delta cabin crew are known for offering marginally friendlier service. In both cases, and on average, they don’t seem to hate their jobs.
While there are great crewmembers at American and United, the sense at those airlines is different. There are too many flight attendants who shirk, and that makes it tough for those who want to provide great service. It’s demoralizing, and it brings down the service even the good ones provide.
Being happy at work requires being well (or at least fairly) compensated. But it also includes feeling like you’re on a mission that’s bigger than yourself, doing something important. And it requires respecting your colleagues, feeling that you’re in this together trying to build something.
The airline has been lacking a clear purpose to rally around other than not spending a dollar they don’t need to. And there’s no mechanism to remove the bottom 1% of performers who make life more difficult for all other employees, making them pick up the slack and demoralizing them.