American Airlines Is Drafting 104 Flight Attendants Into Service

We owe the end of the military draft in the United States to a surprising person. Economist Milton Friedman was the father of the all volunteer military. He led the commission during the Nixon Administration that concluded conscription should be abolished, and the Nobel Prize winner often caricatured and vilified by the left became an anti-war hero.

There was certainly hope that raising the cost to the government of conducting war would lead to less war, and seemingly that hasn’t happened. But Friedman was certainly right that the U.S. could field a defense without taking away the freedom of (what were then exclusively) young men. Friedman claimed that ending the draft was his greatest achievement.

While there’s now an all-volunteer U.S. military, can the same be said about the American Airlines flight attendants corps? I wrote earlier in April that the airline was considering drafting flight attendants to return to work.

  • In order to reduce costs, the airline implored flight attendants to go on leave (while pocketing the full amount of government payroll subsidies).

  • Those leaves, however, can be cancelled at the airline’s whim. And now that they need flight attendants to operate a ramped up summer schedule that’s just what they’re doing.

The flight attendant job remains voluntary, of course. No flight attendant will go to prison if they refuse to fly, they’ll just lose their job and seniority with the airline.

American recalled all of its flight attendants from furlough to work (this by the way is an admission that the third government bailout – ‘payroll support program 3’ – was not necessary). Even then that’s not enough. Two hundred flight attendants who took voluntary leaves were being asked to cut their leaves short and return to work in July.

The draft language was American’s. On April 15 they told flight attendants “if we don’t get 200 volunteers, we will draft flight attendants (on EVLOA) in reverse seniority order until we reach 200 total.

They did not get 200 volunteers to return from Extended Voluntary Leave Of Absence. They got 96, and the airline is drafting 104 back to work as follows:

This is 90% good news – everyone will be back to work, American Airlines will be flying again. It’s just frustrating for the folks who agreed to take leaves from their job, save American money while the government was giving the carrier subsidies to pay everyone. Personally I’m just glad to be booking travel again – I’ve even flown American and will do so again next week. (I’ve also flown Southwest, and booked travel on United as well.)

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. Not newsworthy. Just another Gary Leff rehashed beat up of AA. Months ago the airline guessed how many FAs would be needed and they erred by this tiny number. The FAs who take LOAs know from the start this could happen. Comparing it to military draft is nonsense.

  2. Quite the stretch to try and make this a story. So, they are ending VLOA (as stated they could). It’s okay to not have anything to write about and just not write…

  3. @Rick and hotintx If you don”t enjoy reading airline news don’t read this site. No need to bash the author (Gary).

  4. September is coming, and COVID is a long way from being over. Many countries are shutdown, and AA’s long haul is pretty much nonexistent. I would say Layoffs are coming in September to cut the cash burn. Profitability is a long way off for American. Keep your eye on the ball….and let’s see how this plays out. Note: AA is putting as many “domestic” planes on the ground to make as much $$$$ as possible during the peak travel season. They did this same thing last year! Let’s see how this plays out….

  5. That leaves 3000+ flight attendants still in extended leaves. Not everyone is being called back

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