American Airlines sent out a memo to cabin crew this week threatening to terminate them if they aren’t near the airport when called to work a flight while on reserve. The airline is correct on the contract language and requirements, but managed to offend many of their crew who felt blamed for the airline’s operational problems over the last several days.
We’ve talked before about the crucial role reserves play in helping keep the operation running smoothly. We depend on reserves when there’s bad weather and other factors that prevent lineholders from working their scheduled assignments. Unfortunately we continue to see some troubling trends that negatively impact running a reliable operation.
When you are on reserve, it boils down to this:
- Your are obligated to be positioned within two hours of your base airport (three hours for co-terminal bases) for the duration of your RAP (reserve availability period) unless Crew Scheduling releases you.
- If you are not positioned as described above for the duration of your RAP, you may be considered “out of base.” This may lead to the termination of your employment.
- You are required to report a known illness/injury the day prior to ROTA processing or as soon as you know you will not be available. You should not wait for Crew Scheduling to assign you a trip before calling out sick.
When flight attendants are on reserve they may never get called to work, but they’ll get paid. Some of them – disproportionately an issue with American’s younger crew, I understand – will roll the dice and guess they won’t be called in. So they stay home in the city they live in, rather than the one they’re based at for work (where they may have a shared crash pad). Then when they’re called for duty they aren’t available, and may say they’re sick.
However this isn’t close to one of the top challenges American has faced with operational reliability yet gets sent out right after an operational meltdown. Several flight attendants who felt unfairly blamed for the airline’s problems sent this to me in frustration. The American Airlines flight attendants union, APFA, would be crying foul if they weren’t so weak (recall they did not even object when American furloughed more flight attendants than any other airline).
In order to reduce absences, and since they’re no longer encouraging flight attendants to work during Covid waves using extra pay, they’ve also ended pandemic leaves for all employees other than pilots, and those based in California and Philadelphia where it’s legally required. Crew are told to use paid sick time (which accrues attendance points), “other banks of time, or apply for either a medical leave of absence or a leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Last year American Airlines told flight attendants working reserve to skip meals in order to get to their new flights faster.