American Airlines May Draft Flight Attendants To Return To Work

After paying flight attendants not to work during the pandemic, thanks to government subsidies, American Airlines plans to fly more than 90% of the seats they flew domestically in the summer of 2019 this summer, and 80% of the seats they flew internationally.

This doesn’t mean they’re running 90% of the flights they ran in 2019. They’ve added seats to planes, and retired aircraft like Boeing 757s, 767s, and Airbus A330s. But it does mean a real ramp-up and a need for more crew.

American recalled all of their flight attendants from furlough to work these flights (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 are being asked to cut their leaves short and return to work in July.

  • If more than 200 volunteer, they’ll award job slots to the 200 more senior cabin crew who raise their hand.

  • If fewer than 200 volunteer, they’ll “draft” the least senior flight attendants until they reach the 200 they need.

The draft language is interesting, it never occurred to me that one might be ‘conscripted’ into working as a flight attendant. (Strictly speaking American cannot force someone to work as a flight attendant, but they can cut someone’s agreed-upon leave short and if they don’t return to work they’d lose their job – and the airline would then draft another person off of leave.)

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 (including on American).

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. 90% of the traffic is back and that’s with limited business travel! Is this mainly leisure travel? If so we may see a drop this fall.

  2. Leisure traffic is back. Not business travel. Have you looked at the fares? I believe I read that capacity in 1Q was down around 30% but revenue was down over 60%.

  3. Then again Doug Parker is still running The Airline, same Guy who said “We will Never Lose Money Again”. Business Travel is not returning to any noticeable level and the Leisure Bound travel will fall off a cliff post Labor Day. Until a significant portion of the population gets vaccinated and the Economy responds across All Segments nothing is really changing. Many people are struggling Day to Day and a good number are taking advantage of Unemployment Benefits and have no desire to ‘rejoin’ the Workforce. AA is being Overly Optimistic and the Snake Oil Salesman Parker isn’t the most credible.

  4. I wonder why they need additional on-board cabin staff if the level of services being offered continue to decline. I recently flew American r/t to the Dom. Rep (four flights) in Biz Class, and the service was less then what is offered in economy by some low-cost foreign carriers.

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