American Airlines Tells Flight Attendants Their Jobs Will Be Miserable If They Stay

Consumer demand for travel isn’t going to equal what it was before the Covid pandemic for awhile, so airlines will offer fewer flights and won’t need as many employees. In general airlines have to keep employees based on seniority, but were prefer more junior employees who are paid less. So they’re offering senior employees buy outs to voluntarily separate from their company.

American Airlines is offering flight attendants with 10 or more years of seniority six months’ pay to leave the company plus additional health care funding. That’s half the pay that Southwest Airlines is offering.

Southwest managed to get enough early retirements and voluntary leaves that they don’t plan to furlough anyone this year. American’s early retirement numbers so far as of Friday total just 401. Many are reluctant to the deal because,

  • It’s not that generous. If they take this deal and American ups the offer, they won’t get the richer payout.
  • It’s not as much as the airline has offered in the past, or what competitors like Southwest are offering.
  • They’re afraid of bankruptcy risk, without health care funding especially at risk in a Chapter 11 filing.
  • Six months’ pay isn’t that enticing in this economy for employees who still plan to work.

American is looking for a combination of retirements and voluntary leaves totaling around 8500 to avoid furloughs. So the airline appears to have switched tactics. Instead of talking up how great the offer is, they appear to be pushing that those who stay with the airline are going to be miserable.

Here’s a note sent to flight attendants on Friday, telling them they aren’t going to like their work if they stay:

July 24, 2020
All Flight Service team members
What to expect after October 1

Based on some of the questions we’ve been receiving, it’s clear many of you have spent the past week considering whether the voluntary programs we’re offering are right for you. While you are considering the details of these programs, I also want to make sure you fully understand the new reality of what your schedule and flying may look like. The reality is our business is going to change, moving forward and for the long-term. While we have talked about these ideas previously, it may be helpful to see it all together as you are deciding your future.

While we won’t know details of reserve seniority until the voluntary options window closes and any furloughs are determined, we expect it to increase significantly At some bases, reserve seniority will likely exceed 35 years. This is because we’ll likely have fewer junior flight attendants on the straight reserve or one-on, one-off rotation. Approximately 80% of flight attendants will be in the reserve rotation

Higher line averages will be prevalent as we build more efficient schedules with fewer flight attendants. You can expect line averages to be in the low to mid-80-hour range
70-hour paid VLOAs will be discontinued after Sept. and we’ll no longer offer monthly PVLOAs.

We’ll continue to meet all contractual obligations, but trips will look a lot different as we need to build a more efficient schedule. What do we mean? More four-day domestic trips Longer duty days with multiple legs per day with potentially longer sit times and shorter layovers

Fewer IPD trips and fewer positions on each IPD trip As we announced earlier this month, we’ll reduce most widebody international crew complements to FAA minimum + one Transcons on the A321T will be operated with five flight attendants instead of six International flying will be down significantly through at least end of 2021

Displacements are possible as we right-size each base to operate more efficiently and in line with the airline schedule Currently, we’re overstaffed in bases like Miami, Los Angeles and Phoenix – meaning we have to build less than optimal trips, which is costly.
The 40-hour monthly minimum stays in place This is not only a contractual requirement but also affects how our bidding and trading systems work. With fewer monthly leaves offered, you should expect to fly each month.

Masks are mandatory – without exception They will be part of our future for a while and you’ll be expected to wear one when you come to work

We have some unique offerings that are on the table when it comes to alternatives to flying. That’s why I wanted to paint a realistic picture of what life will be like beginning this fall. I know many of you have already decided that you are in this for the long-term because you still love this great profession and/or you need the financial stability this job provides. We are truly thrilled that you are staying part of the team, knowing what is ahead. With this decision, you’re re-committing yourself to rebuilding our airline and everything the flight attendant job will entail moving forward.

This is an important decision for each of you and one I know many of you are wrestling with. For those who are still contemplating their future, we hope that our continued information about the voluntary programs and what to expect with your schedule is helpful. American is and will continue to be a great place to work, and I’m confident the steps we’re taking now will position us for long-term survival.

On a straight seniority basis, after furloughs the average age of an American Airlines flight attendant will be in the mid-50s. The airline already has had a culture problem. Telling the more senior flight attendants who are left that their job is going to be miserable isn’t a way to encourage happy employees who take care of customers going forward.

And without voluntary retirements of more senior employees, the airline will face higher average costs for each flights (that will be staffed by crews making the highest level of pay). That’s going to make the airline even more cost-uncompetitive going forward, on top of having higher levels of debt and debt service expense than other airlines. They should consider more generous offers now because the payback from more junior, less expensive crew should be fairly quick as travel returns. Failure to do that could drive them into Chapter 11.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Those that criticize Gary have a choice. Don’t read his postings. Personally it looks like a bunch of folks going Corona crazy and hating on him for no real legitimate reason.

  2. I saw this as keeping it real with regard to what flying will look like for a while. It’s a tough call. If you are senior and use to flying international all the time and now have to fly domestic, yes, it will be miserable for many.

    Many like myself are 10 years from retiring and yes, in our 50’s. I am lucky to be one of those fortunate to be on monthly paid leaves and trust me when I say coming back to work will be hard.

    Those already at retirement age have no true incentive to leave. Most don’t wanna give up the lifestyle because it has been a crucial part of their life and identity.

    I think what they company is offering is pretty good when you look at the details, for which many here won’t see. But many AA fa’s have been down the road of uncertainty because of past bankruptcy and got screwed. Their fear of leaving and a judge not honoring their agreement is real.

    The only thing I have a hard time with when I readopts downing those in our 50-60’s is this:

    I am 57. I have 9.5 years till I’m 67. That’s when I can retire. I’m literally in the dead zone of because I’m too young to retire and take an early out. The 31K before taxes won’t do me much good.

    Just because we are in our 50’s and early 60’s doesn’t mean we are all rude and unprofessional. Many seem to suggest that and it simply isn’t true.

    I tire of the argument that we should just leave for the younger kids. Fine. Start a GoFundMe account with the goal of $800,000 and when we reach that or higher, I’ll go. Until that happens, I’m gonna be on airplanes doing my thing for 9.5-11.5 years.

  3. As an add on, the biggest mistake is our retirement age in the USA. It really needs to be at least 65. And the way some of you hate on senior fa’s, maybe you should advocate to have that change to 62. I would LOVE to know I only have 4.5 years to be the social police of the airline industry.

  4. to Chelle B.
    because you don’t know the details of the job..
    Reserve: you are at the mercy of the company. you have no schedule. you can be called at any time with 2 hours notice or less to work any amount of time ( up to FAA limits) . you have no control over your income(you are guarantee 70 hours pay) but will have a very hard time picking up time.
    Displacement: the company can decide they want you at a different base: move or commute to another state. (no hardship there?)
    you can work a 14 hour day get 8.5 hours rest ( all inclusive, meals, shower and sleep) then work a 10-12 hour day. followed by 10 hours rest and another 12 hour day…
    I ask how many of you can call this not miserable for someone with an average age of 57? Especially if you have had not been on reserve for a few years?( more than 26 years on reserve at DFW)
    but I understand, most of the people complaining here are those that think the trolley dollies are only good for slinging a tray and making sure you get enough booze to not have to think about what a kind of a person you are, with a personality of a cactus..

  5. @markjohnson Please research your facts about AA customer service before you comment next time. Aadvantage Customer Service is a non-union department who lost 50% of their staff this month. They make the least amount of money of any AA department. No financial incentives are given to stay – many skilled and friendly people leave ACS in order to make more than $15/hr. (Customer Relations makes much more money and does not have to speak to customers.) The employees who have left this summer are making more money NOT working and collecting unemployment than we are who chose to stay and rebuild the department.
    Over the last 9 years have been cursed at, screamed at, insulted, and have left work beaten down and weeping. Please don’t hate the messenger just because you hate the message. Personally, I choose kindness, whether it is reciprocated or not. Not everyone does…I get it. But please do not treat others aggressively or abusively because you assume we do not care. You should have high expectations for us – we should meet them. We do not agree with all of the policies in place, but we need jobs so we transmit the information to you with dread. Be honest and detailed in the post-call and post-email surveys. Help us rebuild AA. Please. We are not all management. We are struggling mothers and fathers.

  6. American Airlines should change their name to “KAREN Airlines” with all the old CRABBY bitches that work there (55 years – average flight attendant age) – because…”you’re truly something special in the air!” A special load of ….

  7. Jacques Paulsen — did you ever bother to make eye contact with that “old crabby bitch” when she addressed you? Did you bother to take off your headphones when she smiled and asked you what you wanted to drink, or did you simply just ignore her? Did you ignore her again when she asked you to turn off your phone? Did you selfishly berate her when she ran out of the first class chicken the company chose to cater at a specific ratio — the chicken you can now pre-order proactively before your trip starts so that everyone involved can be spared from having to deal with that needlessly unpleasant scenario? Did you stand in her galley with your ass to her face while she sat on her jump seat eating her crew meal? Did you ignore her safety instructions and just do it your way because “you fly more than she does?” Did you ever bother to start up a conversation with her, find out what her job is like from her perspective having to deal constantly with Insatiably needy, entitled, unempathetic, uncooperative, rude, judgmental people — like you? Did you ever bother to even consider what it must be like for her to handle cabin after cabin full of disappointed customers who simply have been sold a bag of beans by the management of the airline which itself cannot responsibly and functionally deliver the product it is selling — flight after flight and year after year? Did you ever consider that maybe one or several of these choices that you did or did not make might be the reason that, on a human level, she finally just wrote you off and completely gave up on you? Tell us, because I’m sure all the senior people in this comment thread would like to know.

  8. Jacques Paulsen, one must be able to find the FA in order to do all of the things you suggest. In my most recent experiences, they are all able to disappear except maybe one of them in the galley jump seat reading, way to busy to look up to see what someone had to get up to go find. I can’t even remember that last time that I thought a FA was being abused, berated, or mistreated. If ignoring them is a crime, then that is a problem that I can’t fix because I am not responsible for the feelings of someone trying to be hurt. As a passenger, I don’t have to consider what their work life is because I assume that people who hate their job would have the intelligence to fix that problem.

    What I do know is that business and first class are really expensive and I choose those classes because of the expected treatment, better isolation, better toilet ratio, and the dream of better service. I don’t need a conversation, I need someone walking the aisle checking on the needs of the passengers and monitoring safety.

    Speaking of safety, at least two of my most recents FA’s could not have performed a safety function if their life depended upon it. And sadly, my life does depend upon it. A lot of my flights are in the 8 – 14 hours range and everyone doesn’t sleep at the same time so it is unconscionable that all of the FA’s go to their little room once the meal is served.

    More unfortunately for the domestic airline FA’s is the fact that many of us fly on international asian airlines and have developed an expectation of what we should expect as a paying customer. And even then, I am not looking for a friend, a conversation, or anything but professional service.

    I have said it multiple times on this thread that I am thrilled that many of the FA’s, customer service agents, gate agents, and mechanics are finally getting their karma. Apparently I have missed interaction with the few good ones that came on here to tell me that I am the problem. I do not berate people, yell at them, or otherwise disrespect them. I simply remember the poor treatment and do everything I can to fly on the better airlines. So, take your pity party somewhere else. The crew are paid to do a job and should either do it or be fired. The passengers should be a civil human being. I continue to hope that AA folds and the unemployed will have to once again apply for a position and get one that they enjoy rather than endure. Hopefully without union protection keeping them from giving one tinker’s damn.

  9. AA went downhill when USAir purchased us. Turning us into a low class carrier. Turning our international into the same as a low class carrier. You will never see an Asian-like carrier out of the US. Why? Because the airline is too cheap to turn it into one. I’ve flown AA internationally until I was 60 until a brain tumor forced me to quit and take early retirement. Never once did a passenger write a bad letter, I talked and was friendly to everyone and loved every minute of it.Sometimes it was tough keeping people out of the galleys on long flights because they don’t belong there. On Some aircraft the galleys are right by the cockpit door. So that’s a challenge to keep people out without appearing rude but for the most part people were happy unless they wanted to get very drunk and then we are talking about everyone around them trying to sleep on long flights. I could go on but for the most part it was good…..except the woman who was the first to board and complained about there wasn’t enough bathrooms and complained all the way to a Narita …….

  10. I might also add trying to please someone like Gary, you’d have a tough nut to crack.

  11. Dagwood,
    I agree with you that things are difficult and not at all what we signed up for in the “old days”. I have been flying for 38 years. PSA, USAIR, and now AA. My 62nd birthday is tomorrow. I have a B.S in Aviation Management so your assumption that I don’t now the job is a bit off. That is fine.

    What management had to do, morally, in my eyes is what you just did – tell it like it is, so we can make informed decisions. I will say, that I beleive we are on the right track and have the ability to come out on top of this, especially with the Alaska and Jet Blue partnerships. I will be flying for 8 more years and will then sadly but with great pride retire my wings.

    AA flight attendants are in the midst of an identity crisis along with horror of the pandemic. We have a terrible reputation for being cold, unapproachable and uncaring. Is this a fair representation? I don’t think so…but perception is more powerful than truth. We have work to do! I wish all of my co-workers would take advantage of the Harvard Mentoring classes to become focused on the one thing we do have control over…ourselves. Being angry and feeling victimized is a bad combination for inflight service (and also for all of you passengers too!)

    We will get through this! Let’s do it together, and forget the good guy bad guy routine. Safe travels to you!

  12. People like Paulsen who clearly have their heads up their arrogant, opportunistic asses only betray their low level of intelligence. The large majority of passengers and the large majority of flight attendants are wonderful – they are what makes the job interesting and they are what makes it possible to shrug off the handful of people such as Paulsen who curse out and berate people without a thought or clue as to what the real problem even is (that is to say, Mr. Paulsen and his arrogant ilk). Lots to deal with these days. If AA does come to realize that its employees are actually its greatest asset and path to success (not the case at present unfortunately), then AA will be positioned to come out of this situation as a deserved leader. and continued success story. That however, does remain to be seen.

  13. Paulsen and Mark Johnson are two passengers we hate to see flying. They are rude, arrogant, entitled Nobodies who think their importance is important to anyone. Take a bus please

  14. Well Margaret, you did a great job of proving my point. You hate to see anyone wanting or expecting what they paid for. To call your business and first class passengers ‘entitled’ speaks volumes. Enjoy your extended if not permanent vacation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *