Last week at an employee town hall forum with American Airlines CEO Doug Parker a flight attendant brought attention to the kind of behavior he sees from colleagues on board aircraft.
The biggest problem I have with y’all on the plane is you don’t get your face out of your phone. It’s a problem. We’re there 100% of our attention should go to our attention should go to the customer and each other. And when our face is in the phone or we have headphones on.. on the plane… the idea of heaving headphones on on the aircraft, please don’t do that.
Parker replied “you didn’t have a phone when you started, neither did I, so anyway let’s all be a little empathetic.” I did a double take listening to that, even if it was said partially in jest. He wants to defend flight attendants burying their faces in their phones instead of providing onboard service.
Nonetheless Parker went on to say “the sentiment’s exactly right” but American has “the best instructors in the world, getting the best training and are learning how to be great at customer service.”
American has 500,000 applications on file to be flight attendants. They pick out 2000 people. “It’s a lower acceptance rate than Harvard by a long way.. we get the best of the best.” Of course most of those 500,000 aren’t applying to Harvard so it’s not a really fair comparison.
The airline may get to be picky on the front end. I’d take issue with American’s flight attendant training being the best, just compare it to how Singapore Airlines trains its flight attendants.
Still the problem probably isn’t the talent pool. It may not even be the training. It’s what happens after graduation when the only thing that matters is seniority, when flight attendants get in trouble for prioritizing having first class catering on a long haul flight over D0, and when pay and benefits are confused with standards in building a culture.