American Airlines Is Reportedly Firing Three Times As Many Flight Attendants As Usual

When American Airlines was trying to convince flight attendants to take early retirement, using taxpayer bailout cash to fund a reduction in workforce, then-Senior Vice President Jill Surdek told cabin crew that they wouldn’t like the work if they stayed. She was talking about the schedules flight attendants would have to work, consistent with their contract and the evolving network of the airline during the pandemic.

Now, the American Airlines flight attendants union is reporting, the airline is firing three times as many cabin crew for cause as they would in a normal year. This isn’t a bad thing, for customers or for flight attendants!

The rate at which American Airlines is moving to terminate flight attendants for a variety of disciplinary issues has allegedly tripled in the last year and the union that represents crew at the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline says it is “inundated” with requests to help flight attendants facing the sack.

…Despite well-publicized staff shortages across the aviation industry, American Airlines has made no secret of the fact that managers are looking to strictly enforce a wide range of rules and policies that may have previously been allowed to slip. The flight attendant union, however, is concerned that some of its members are being moved to termination without meetings or “attempts to mitigate”.

The flight attendants union and airline are moving slowly on their contract negotiations. July 19 and 21 and discussed scheduling and met again August 10 and 11 and discussed scheduling some more. Negotiators will meet again September 7 and 8.

The American Airlines flight attendants union may not like the increased number of terminations. And the reasons in any given case may be disputable. For instance earlier this year one Hebrew-speaking flight attendant trainee was fired after a Middle Eastern crewmember snitched on her during an observation trip. But in any company with over 10,000 people serving in a role, there are going to be some people who aren’t good fits and should be asked to leave.

Southwest Airlines famously manages to terminate around 7/10ths of 1% of its union workforce each year. By moving out the very small fraction of employees who are a bad fit for the airline, they’re able to preserve their culture.

The majority of employees who remain don’t have to pick up the slack for crew that don’t pull their weight, and they don’t become despondent realizing that poor contributors are rewarded just as well as crew that go the extra mile. As a result, Southwest’s unionized workforce usually presents itself as happy to be at work.

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. Good – as a long time AA flyer I have certainly encountered primarily very good, service oriented FAs. However, there is always a set of malcontents or under performers in any industry and the company is better if they are let go. Many industries are “up or out” and Jack Welch famously fired the bottom 10% of GE employees. While some see it as cruel it improves the overall qualify of the employees that remain.

    In the case of AA if there are senior FAs (many older) that see the routings and plane options as beneath their seniority (due to less wide body international and also that many more junior FAs were released during COVID). If they aren’t willing to do the job assigned and provide qualify customer service I’m glad AA is pruning the herd. It will make them stronger and they need some young fresh blood (which is much cheaper due to union seniority pay).

    This is the stuff that I hate about unions. Protecting under performers and paying more simply based on hanging around instead of the quality of service they provide.

  2. Gary you should add this to your “5 reasons” blog earlier. Basis my post in your “5 reasons” I mentioned a recent flight and the worst ever for service. Now I feel vindicated. AA management, you need to keep it up and you may just turn, what was once the industry leader or at least not near the bottom, things around.

  3. Good. At least this many AA flight attendants are absolutely awful and should be fired.

    It’s ironic that the publicity around it (including this post to some extent) suggests that this is a bad thing. It’s not.

    There was a wonderful cabin crew member on a recent flight I was on. I almost gave her a hug. It’s that miserable normally.

  4. Female entitlement is a make issue in the west especially in the us.

    Many women feel they deserve respect for being fat and having garbage tattoos.

    Andrew Tate speaks about this.

  5. oh my god

    ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod

    Firing cabin crew “isn’t a bad thing”? WTF??????????? this is why people HATE economists (dismal science) and perceive accurately that economists are out of touch, and rude. Most academics are merely out of touch!

    Firing cabin crew is a complete disaster for all parties. Let’s start with the obvious that the affected employee loses their livelihood which was meager to start with since cabin crew are not exactly paid lavish sums of money. The employer has to sift through a bunch of paperwork for both simple logistical reasons as well as legal liability reasons. Front line operations teams become understaffed. Customers suffer delays and worse service.

  6. I have crossed paths with many AA old hags who are sour on life. They would be better off working as prison guards.

  7. Along the line of workforce harmony, some companies ask their employees to rank (as opposed to score) other employees. With whom would you most like to work? Highest preference to lowest preference. AA has 25k to 35k flight attendants. Each will have likely worked with a few dozen over the course of a year. Use these rankings to do what Southwest does. Management simply draws a line and the flight attendants rank who stays and who goes. “Management is not firing you, your coworkers are.”

    And, yes, get rid of those with disciplinary issues.

  8. Get rid of the bad performers. I don’t care whether flight attendants are senior or junior, display tattoos, have a messy appearance, or don’t seem to match the profile of a perfect employee for whatever reason. Times have changed… I just want someone who is “nice”, has good service skills, and appears to appreciate their job.

  9. Kick them when they’re up,
    kick them when they’re down,
    kick them when they’re up
    kick them all around

  10. Firing poor performing employees is always a tonic to those who do their job well, who had to endure seeing their efforts being diluted/wasted by those who don’t.

    It’s about 10 years too late (AA is already at the point of no return, people are willing to pay more to DL or Southwest on the same routes), but still good news.

  11. What’s all the hate on tattoos about? I don’t. have any, but could give 2 f**ks if someone has tattoos. How old are u?

  12. It’s amazing how becoming CK changes Gary’s tone on AA.

    Don’t get me wrong — AA by and large is still better than an LCC, but that’s not really saying much, is it?

  13. Anyone quoting Andrew Tate is pretty much self-identifying as an incel. Thanks for letting us know.

    Yes, there is a cost to firing anyone. Which is why merely underperforming employees aren’t let go. Instead, their performance has to be soo bad that their negative impact exceeds the cost of filling out the paperwork and jumping through the hoops. I once worked for the federal government, where a fellow employee, with Civil Service protection, sat around playing chess all day, and punched his boss in the face when he interrupted his chess game. They only fired him when he did it a second time several years later. With one year’s pay and retained pension rights. Now that’s bureaucracy!

  14. AA Flight Attendants

    Angry Queens and fat women that look like wildebeests

    The unfriendly skies

  15. When AA gives travel passes to new hires on day 1, very few live in their actual base and start commuting immediately. Therefore, many miss trips because they are not where they should be. The way this cactus management team has bumbled everything, no surprise. Supposedly AA is also allowing Male FAs to wear the Female uniform. The entire operation is a mess.

  16. AA should fire the majority of their middle managers. They compartmentalize and hide what they do in an effort to keep their nice paychecks when the reality is the airline would be more efficient without them.

  17. Remember the good old days. When employees did the job for which they were hired and got paid for. If they did not like it they left and went to another job.

    So long farewell ……..gooood byeeeee…….Don’t let the door hit you on the way out

    I would love to get rid of some of my co workers…..

  18. Retired from AA after 30 years. Did so because I could not see and working with some of those people. Many are lazy and have no clue what costumer service is.
    Sad to see the job I loved doing so much has gone down hill at a fast pace.
    It is not just older flight attendants. Many new hires just don’t want to work.

  19. I started flying frequently again in May. AA needs to cull FAs substantially. I always fly in First and the lack of service is ridiculous compared to pre-Convid. And it was not always great prior to Covid. I have had 2 recent flights which were delayed after boarding for more than an hour. In prior times you would have had a pre departure drink and when the delay became obvious a second offering. Now there is no pre departure and when delayed they only offered a cup of water with no ice. The veteran flight attendants knew how to keep First Class happy. When passengers on one delayed flight asked for something more than water the flight attendant rolled her eyes at the other flight attendant. Bring back the veterans and re-train or fire the millennials and younger.

  20. The flight attendants at AA aren’t what they used to be; many are there because the union protects them.

  21. As a former AA frequent flyer across the Atlantic I’ve seen mostly FA meltdowns from senior female FAs. They are a danger and security hazard and it’s a good move for AA to remove them. In my opinion these women need institutionalized, and these are FAs are European flights.

  22. Age doesn’t matter I could run circles around most flight attendants!
    That said! You either love and have pride in the job and yourself and with the public or you don’t.
    It’s how you want the passengers to see you first,, that translates how you represent your company doing your job.A good crew works together until no one is done till all are done. Personal pride in yourself and job are the key to a great memorable flight.

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