American Airlines Flight Attendants Create Makeshift Barrier Out Of Seatbelts To Keep Passengers Away

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.

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.

Right now American Airlines flight attendants are in confrontation mode over contract negotiations. But threats of a Christmas strike are just about pay.

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.

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. Everybody is blaming everybody else but no body wants to deal with the elephant in the room. The actual people that fly. The above situation is more likely to happen when the customers are badly behaved. You can put up a sign or single belt and you get people yelling,pushing etc. There’s always somebody on a plane causing trouble. That’s what FA are trained to deal with and it’s always been that way. But now there’s verbal and physical attacks, some kind of nut trying to kill everybody by opening doors that shouldn’t be open. It’s a jungle out there. I was an R.N. for 25 years and I see the same type things happening to Nurses. Threats,violence circling the wagons. That’s the problem I think. Now what to do about it. The first and easiest thing I suppose is some kind of behavior rules. People need to follow whatever rules or they walk. It would have to be tough. What it comes down to is flying a privilege or a right. Hard question. But something has to change.

  2. Understanding what led these to flight attendants to behave in a way that deviated from protocol is crucial here. Employees do not work in a vacuum. Employees react to the system that is created by their employer. The two flight attendants need to be held accountable for their actions. However, the response of their leaders should follow a just culture algorithm. A just culture algorithm first seeks to understand what in the systems design led the employee to behave a certain way. Terminating these two flight attendants may be the answer, or it may not. Perhaps they need reeducation? Regardless of what the sequelae is of their action, American airlines needs to look at their organization, and analyze what in their system design lead these two flight attendants into choosing this at risk behavior

  3. I can get passengers can suck and are demanding, that being said why are you in customer service if you can not handle the stress of dealing with people. However we do not know the whole story here….what pushed them to that point??

  4. What about if they were having their meal? And they wanted some minutes to eat ? People is so dramatic acting like the hole flight they had the belt on oh please plus I do not see what is the difference between this and bottom up curtain same thing !!! I wonder if people in other jobs like to be interrupted when the are in their lunch break remember flight attendants they have no meal breaks so any time the can they will make time to eat plus they just connected one seat belt from the jumpseat to the other one I love how they said created a barricade super dramatic

  5. Aren’t they working and isn’t their job to attend to the passengers? I guess the button is there to summon them but still -Aren’t they working and isn’t their job to attend to the passengers?

  6. That is a 737-800. There are 6 oxygen masks in the galley that now can’t be accessed with the barricade. Passengers don’t have much time to grab a mask when cabin depressurization happens. Good luck to those passengers in the bathroom queue.

  7. The REAL underlying reasons for increasing bad behavior and “revolt” against FA, Nurses and other customer facing employees is they are the bearer & enforcer of bad & frustrating news imposed by a faceless bureaucracy usually to designed to cut/minimize/deny costs at huge inconveniences to us.

    That is the real reason.

    Case in point, Mother needs to refill a prescription for her kid, CVS won’t fill it without paying $50 because the insurance company says its too soon to do so (an topical ointment). After paying $20,000 per year in Obamacare premiums. Guess who is going to hear an earful? Then the clerk says, let me see if I can find a coupon for you, lo and behold, its now $2 after 10 minutes of arguing.

    The system is dirty, the system is dirty…

  8. We are in such denial about how ghetto and stupid we are in th US. We are fierce defenders of a capitalist system that eats our lunch everyday in every way. We deserve it really, especially when we think we are better than ANY other country.

  9. We don’t know what was going on. There are rude passengers. That’s not a door. Some people make a big deal for an unknown reason.

  10. I’m a Delta flight attendant and that would be a no no to block the galley and the exits. What if there is a fire or medical in the cabin? We do have curtains to block the galley when we’re eating but paxs can always peak in if need something.

  11. I fly frequently on many different airlines, both international and in the US, but American is my preferred choice. In over 50 years I have had only one bad flight on AA. And everyone has a bad day occasionally. The blocking of the galley area with seat belts is actually a good idea. If the flight attendants are in the aisle you cannot see what is happening in the galley area. I am assuming this is where the money and alcohol are kept as well as flight attendant purses and personal items. The photo shows the galley is set up for service. All one needs to do is to ask. And everyone has a call bell to request service. I see this as a security issue and that this is an excellent measure that should be taken on every flight. Access to bath rooms is not blocked and you won’t be using emergency exits during the flight. If this is not a standard procedure the flight attendants should be commended for their ingenuity.
    My understanding of the cart blocking the aisle in first class is that anytime one of the pilots is using the toilet, the cart is moved into position to block access to storming the cockpit. Another safety measure I appreciate. American Airlines is an excellent airline providing outstanding service.

  12. I drive a motor coach, and this is spot on. The amount of entitled and violent passengers we face is at a critical mass. Then you have a jerks like we see in these very comments who think pax are perfect little angels and the attendants should bow at their very whim. They demand respect without reciprocating, leading to this inevitable “shields up” mentality when minimal interaction with the public is the best way to protect your job, lest they want to be “cancelled” for any minor transgression as you can tell some of the jerks in these comments think they should suffer, even though they could never live up to this level of perfection themselves.

  13. Removing the entertainment center is not a good idea. Flying can be fun but it can be boring. When I drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I had to bring cassettes and CDs to make the 6 to 7 hour drive enjoyable. I remember years ago paying $2.00 to $3.00 for a headset to listen to music and watch the in-flight movie. My guess it went the way of the 8-track tape player.

  14. My experience with American Airlines flight attendants is they aren’t like foreign carriers. I avoid buying flights on American because of their customer service.

  15. @Gary. A serious proposal: With all the comments saying people should just push the call button, why not collect some data on this from your readers? Start a thread on “Call Buttons” and when we fly, if you need an FA, everyone should first push the call button and report what happens (1) do they respond, (2) how long does it take, (3) what was your request and did they address it? Note the airline, date, flight, and flight number.

  16. No, this is not about “bad” passengers. The passengers simply are not happy because of the way they are treated at the airport and on the aircraft. It’s hard to have a happy face when you are treated like a criminal the whole way through the process. And don’t forget, the l passenger is the customer. It’s not the customer’s job to make the employees happy.

  17. Lazy, don’t care, first service done, no need to speculate or justify this any further. I work for An Airline, unfortunately it’s the new culture but this was a dumb move which will result in an unpleasant conversation with someone.

  18. This is totally unacceptable. Flight attendants are on board an aircraft for SAFETY. Not only are they keeping the passengers out, but they are keeping themselves in. Suppose there is a medical emergency. Wasted minutes trying to UNLOCK their seatbelts. And EVERY flight attendant shouldn’t be taking a break at the same time. No excuses. AA is known for their many unhappy flight attendants.

  19. There is absolutely no reason for them to not be doing their job! If you can’t handle dealing with the public as in customer service attending to passengers get another job!! I’ve noticed this time and time again flight attendants that hate their jobs and probably their lives. They take it out on passengers. Who have to pay a lot of money to fly. They have a job to do either do it or find another job don’t take it out on the passengers end of story!!

  20. I saw F,A,s on Indigo airlines recently , pull a whole beverage cart across the aisle to stop passengers trying to use the bathroom when want close off the galley, to have a drink themselves or even eat a sandwich. I think its very commonplace in south East Asia.

  21. I see that as keep he F out from doing Yoga in the Galley…. not as bad customer service. People are morons.

  22. Plain and simple, passengers need to be respective of crew workspaces. The galley is considered a workspace. When people start crowding the galley or trying to do their yoga and stretches, is impeding on their workspace.

    Unfortunately, because of the “me, me, me” culture in the US, people don’t or can’t seem to grasp the concept of being “mindful of their surroundings and those around them”. Hence, they feel the need to impede on people’s personal spaces and intrude in workspaces.

    How I see it, although the barrier is not mmm the best way to block off the galley, it honestly does not do any harm whilst in the air. For those talking about the extra O2 masks in the back for those waiting for the lavs, that is a no factor, as the queue generally falls aisle-side. For those talking about impeding access to the exit doors…. whilst… In… Flight… All I will say is that, especially in light of the OZ incident, we don’t and would not want passengers anywhere near the door whilst in the air, in fear that below a certain altitude, some idiot would try and open it. And finally, in terms of service, I am certain, that if you need something and ring your call light or walk to the back, whilst respecting the space around you, there would be no problem with service delivery.

    Personally, I don’t believe that the barrier defines the crew or their service standards, but rather is simply separating the workspaces from the passenger common areas. No, the galleys are not considered a passenger common space.

  23. How about passengers not recording everything flight attendants do at work? Let’s start there. There is no private area for them, where they can take a moment for themselves to eat lunch without someone calling them out on perceived “bad” behaviour. I’m not talking about an hour lunch break (which most office staff get), rather 5 minutes without interruption. I don’t blame these FAs one bit. I would go so far as to call them ingenious. Put your phones down people. Do you take kindly to being recorded at work? This is a galley and a tiny one at that. There’s no room for people to come and do yoga stretches. You donhave to go in there for any purpose. I’m sure you can communicate what you need quite well around the “barrier”. We had a currain which we would close because no one wants someone staring at them while they’re eating/resting. Yes, you heard me. Resting. This could entail part of a 14 hour day for the crew. Also, the exits are not located there, so no one will be evacuating and certainly not at 35,000 feet. It was an easier place to work when phones didn’t exist. I remember a fed up uncharge once saying if it was up to her, she would check the computers and cellphones at the door. It was always a nightmare getting people to shut them off and stow them. This was some 20 years ago. It’s a lot worse now

  24. My comment keeps getting bumped (I wonder why ) so will try again. Let’s start with the propensity of people recording every little perceived infraction on the part of inflight crew. Here’s a suggestion; put down your phones and pick up a book! I know, what a concept! Nothing wrong here, in fact, I’d go so far as to call this ingenious, but then, FAs are always thinking outside the box and finding ways to make a cramped, user unfriendly work environment more user friendly. The galley is for FAs, not passengers. It’s their office/cafeteria/rest area. There is no room in an already tiny space for passengers to do their yoga stetches or stand with a crying baby. The FAs escape there to take 5 minutes and wolf down lunch. Most office staff get an hour and 45 minutes into their workday they’re already going for a coffee break! FAs don’t have that luxury. A galley is a self-contained space, like a little room. There are no exits there, nor are people evacuating at 35,000 feet, so think before you criticize. Also, keep in mind this could be part of a 14 hour workday for the crew (for which they’re paid 5 or 6 hours) so they’re trying to grab a bit of rest. Yes, rest. Get off their feet for a moment. Passengers are always making erroneous assumptions and are very unforgiving

  25. Let me tell you about American Airlines. I was on frontier a flight from hell and if it had not been for American Airlines my wife and I would not made it to our destination to get married after Frontier screwed 23 of us passengers. American Airlines God Bless you All. And if you do strike I pray you get the extra air Marshall’s and hazard pay. You deserve it.

  26. The sad thing is American airline stewardess are not getting paid right now. So yes they are working with out pay.

  27. “Customer service” happe s when you ring your call bell & I come politely ask what you need. Then I do it & ask if you need anything else. Passengers have no business in the Galley. Flight attendants like to sit down for a couple minutes too. We don’t come hang out in your office and bother you on your lunch break.

  28. I was on an overnite flight and we were given NOTHING not even water. The back service area was shut down ,no lights and no attendant to be seen! By the time I got off the flight I was dehydrated and angry !!! Awful!!!

  29. they should not have put those seatbelts up like that. But then passengers dont go to galley anyways soooo and you cant use the emergency exit doors while in air.

    And im sure if a passengers calls them im sure they come out and help.

    This is facts that flight attendants don’t have time to eat sometimes. when they do quick turns they have enough time to maybe take a breather and then reboard and pretend they are not tired at all.
    If flying is tiring for you and stressful
    Imagine working in air every day.
    It is stressful.

    Flight attendant is a job yes but how many of you knows what he job actually is.
    Flight attendants are there in case any emergency happens. Medical emergency. Seizure , someone passing out, help give birth, when you have a headache you call them and say you don’t feel good as if you’ve never had a headache before.

    giving drinks and snacks is just an extra thing they do.

    Name a job where you cant sit down for a bit and talk to your coworkers. Or be on your phone for a bit.

    And im sure those flight attendants did their job until they finally sat down.

    For 5 hours flights what do people expect them to do after doing their beverage service? Walk in the aisle back and fort until landing?
    Talk and entertain every single passenger?
    Sit down in their jumpseat and just stair at eachother?

    They are required to sign in for work prior flight without getting paid.
    When they board and help you with your bags and find your seats give you pre departure drinks.
    Making sure the emergency equipments are there. And closing the door properly.
    They do not get paid doing that.

    Next time you see a flight attendant thank them for coming in to work.

  30. This poor flight attendants will all get fired for maybe nothing. So thanks to the person who took pictures of this and made it a big deal.

  31. Do we assume that we all know who bought a majority of AAL stock last April? Corporate culture comes from the top. No wonder.

  32. Kay you have obviously never worked in healthcare. IhVe worked many a 12 hour shift with no time to eat or use the bathroom. By law we are supposed to get two fifteen minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch. If you got to eat something other than a pack of crackers walking down the hall to see your next patient you were lucky. AA flight attendants barely speak and rarely smile as you board the plane. They are pissed off because you bought a ticket. I have always smiled, said please and thank you and at best I get a grunt and a sour puss face. AA flies out of CLT so it is a quick trip for me, otherwise I would fly Delta.

  33. Gary you are truly clueless. I don’t agree with their tactic of blockading Passengers, but look closely. Those are NOT safety demo belts. They are part of the 4 point restraint harness that Flight Attendants strap in with. This is NOT OK and I hope the FAA looks into this.

  34. K,
    If the job is such torture, flight attendants are free to find another profession. No one is forcing them to fly. And I have had many jobs (most in fact) where I could not sit down and talk to coworkers or play on my phone.

  35. I see why the airline doesn’t want to pay for people seating around chit-chatting with one and another. That is like when you go to your doctor office and the nurses are to busy talking to each other while people waiting for care.

  36. Obviously, you have a job because of customers on the plane. So, alienate your customers, right? If you hate your job, the company, the customers, whatever – find another profession.

  37. I’m sick and tired of the non-factual comments regarding American Airlines flight attendants.
    Instead of mirroring the sensationalized comments, talk to your flight attendants the next time you fly AA. Engage with your flight attendants; we are not afraid, and there’s no need to be scared!
    If you were on my flight, I would educate you on the following:
    I pull the curtain or a barrier strap so I may eat without a passenger’s ass in my face or my food. (I may not have eaten for the past 8-11hrs or more).
    I pull the curtain/ barrier strap to eat without someone putting trash on my food tray, even though the trash cart is visibly labeled.
    We are allowed breaks, we are allowed to eat, and we are allowed to breathe!

    Instead of gathering evidence to disparage AA stews, stop mirroring the crowd and talk to us!

    NB! The exit light on the Airbus is “blinding.” So, having it covered in flight at 38,000ft does not affect your potential evacuation.” Can you imagine doing four flights daily, which can average up to 15 hours, with the light blearing in your eyes? This scenario would resemble if the lights were bright on an early morning flight or late at night while YOU, the passenger, tried to have an enjoyable experience!

    Next time you fly, challenge your “authentic ugliness, ” and come find me in the FC galley, where we can have a courageous conversation!

    Fly SAAfe!!!

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