American Airlines Grounding Fleets, Cutting Flights, and Extending Sick Time

American Airlines will accelerate the retirement of its Boeing 757 and 767 fleets (and won’t have reason to extend service of their Embraer E-190s). They’re cutting flights, including much of Europe and even some service to London. And they’re promising that actual quarantined employees won’t be fired for taking sick time.

Reductions in South America and Europe Flying

American announced a reduction in flights to Europe and South America, although I won’t at all be surprised to see more routes cut back or eliminated as well.

  • Effective today they’ve suspended flying from Charlotte and Philadelphia to:
    • Amsterdam
    • Frankfurt
    • Madrid
    • Munich
    • Zurich

    However they will keep flying for “up to 7 days” to Barcelona, Madrid and Paris to bring customers and employees home. Flights are suspended through May 6 though I wouldn’t be surprised to see suspensions extended.

  • Although U.S. travel restrictions on Shengen Area countries of Europe do not apply to the U.K., American is reducing flights to London from New York JFK, Dallas Fort-Worth, and Chicago O’Hare. They are suspending Raleigh – London service. Yesterday I saw American selling one way New York – London for $95 all-in.

  • Seasonal Europe services won’t start until “early May or June”

  • South America reduction suspending New York JFK, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Miami – Buenoz Aires and eliminating the Miami – Cordoba, Argentina route as well as suspending Dallas and Los Angeles – São Paulo and Dallas – Santaigo, Chile effective March 19.

Retiring Boeing 757, 767, and Embraer 190 Fleets

American is accelerating the planned retirement of Boeing 757 and 767 fleets to coincide with reductions in international service.

  • 767s will cease flying in May
  • 757s will cease flying “between May 2020 and post-summer 2021 at the latest”

In addition, there had been internal discussions around extending the service of Embraer E-190s, ostensibly regional jets that are part of the mainline fleet, given the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. I think it’s safe to say that’s off the table at this point.

While the 767 experience is subpar in business class with narrow Thompson Vantage seats, the aircraft is actually my favorite in the fleet for coach. While Seth Miller writes the opposite, that “it should be good news for passenger comfort” because they lack seat back entertainment screens, have “older seats, [and are] generally just not nice” I’d point out that they are still offer just 2-3-2 seating in coach which is more comfortable than 9-abreast seating on a Boeing 787 and 10-abreast on a 777, and that the planes haven’t been densified, they still have more space between seats.

It also looks like (3) Airbus A330s are headed to storage.

Additional Cost Savings

American is postponing leadership pay increases until August. The idea that they’re even talking about raises this year seems like a discussion from another planet right now.

They’re freezing hiring as well as promotions and lateral moves within management for the next 60 days. They’re deferring new hire classes, though there’s a pilot and a maintenance new hire class that will still start next week.

They’re offering “extended unpaid, voluntary leaves of absence.” Speaking to a flight attendant earlier today who was grating against the idea, I suggested they look at their seniority and expect we get to the place where there are furloughs when considering this option.

A New Sick Policy That Doesn’t Come Close To Going Far Enough

American Airlines has a sick policy that employees argue forces them to come to work sick. They get ‘points’ towards discipline for taking sick time that they’ve earned. The policy was recently amended in arbitration, which the company largely lost, with respect to its flight attendants only.

The airline is telling employees that they “will not receive attendance points or occurrences, or be progressed through any discipline processes due to absences” only if they have to be quarantined by a doctor, the CDC, or a public health professional. Employees who actually test positive for COVID-19 or are quarantined will receive paid sick time.

Given fewer flights and the need for fewer employees the points and occurrences system should be suspended at this time. The point of the new policy adopted in 2018 was to ensure there were enough employees showing up to work at especially peak periods like holidays.

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. Thanks for the article Gary.

    Just FYI, when American publishes that leadership (L1+) pay increases will be postponed till August, that’s referring to all employees who work in the office…from admin, analyst, etc. not necessarily any executive roles.

  2. @Anonymous – Correct. No one should be getting raises – except as a very extreme outlier to retain truly unique talent – during times of heavy losses. What are they being rewarded for?

  3. The mechanics and ramp workers unions recently settled with American. Did these signing bonuses and pay increases go into effect?

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