Coach Passengers Don’t Get Drinks Because Of American Airlines Flight Attendants Union

The President of the American Airlines flight attendants union Julie Hedrick sent a note to cabin crew members where she takes credit for preventing their airline from offering full beverage service in economy.

APFA has been successful in pushing off the return of a main cabin beverage service into 2021. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the last thing we need is increased opportunity for passengers to remove their facial coverings on the aircraft. The battle for a safe environment on board is already challenging. We have kept this airline flying, and the care and treatment of the front-line employees should be this Company’s number one concern.

American Airlines offers a full beverage service in front, but not in back. They’ve tried to bring drinks back into the main cabin for passengers, but flight attendants pushed back asking not to be required to offer this service.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants is a weak union with financial challenges and suffering from infighting. While around 8000 of their members were furloughed by American, barely a critical word was spoken of management – even though neither Delta nor Southwest furloughed any flight attendants. And as their members were about to be let go, they discussed what credit cards they could use for their business expenses.

And yet this latest missive is the most combative I’ve seen them yet. They were starting to talk about a new contract before the pandemic. Now they’re signaling to their membership that their employer may be seeing givebacks.

To be clear, American has a demand problem, not a labor cost problem, and we will not entertain discussions on concessions. However, the Company is using the pandemic as an excuse to worsen our work lives. Fatigue-inducing trip construction continues to be a significant issue, with multiple legs per day, unproductive sit times, and short layovers.

Furloughs are wreaking havoc with the lives of those flight attendants who remain. The airline’s head of inflight warned cabin crew their jobs would be miserable if they didn’t take early outs. They’ve reduced staffing on aircraft and employees now regularly complain about the trips to which they’re assigned.

Unsurprisingly, the union’s solution to everyone’s problems is… more airline subsidies which would keep management secure in their jobs.

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. “To be clear, American has a demand problem, not a labor cost problem”

    I mean, a demand problem eventually becomes a labor cost problem when planes are going out at low capacity. Being locked into long term contracts for anything, fuel, labor, etc. is part of what makes airlines so uniquely unable to weather the COVID storm.

    The union wants their share when times are good and planes are oversold, but won’t even entertain discussions when times are bad. Not a good look (for the union, not blaming individual FAs here).

  2. I’m not surprised. One of our F/A friends just returned from a trip and apparently the plane was catered for both breakfast on the outbound and lunch (cheese and fruit plate) on the return. The #1 gave out the lunch on the outbound and so the folks expecting lunch were getting breakfast. An EP asked our friend if he could get the fruit and cheese plate as he was frequent on this turn and knew what to expect. Checking she found one that the pilots had not touched. She asked the #1 if she could serve the EP and she told her no, that she was going to eat it herself. Then on the same flight our friend was walking through coach and there was a baby crying non-stop. The parents asked if there was any milk on board. She told them she would check and went to the galley in the rear of the aircraft where the 2 F/A’s were on their IPads. She asked if there was any milk on board and they asked if it was for the baby. She replied in the affirmative and was told that they had already told them they were not getting any milk, even though there was milk on board. In normal circumstances she would have just taken the milk anyway but she has been given a written warning for offering service to a passenger and cannot afford to lose her job. We hear these stories routinely. As I’ve said many times here, this is why the airlines should not be bailed out and that the F/A’s are their own worst enemies. AA needs to fail and these F/A’s need to take a massive pay cut. Doug Parker needs to be terminated and the entire upper management team needs to be replaced with professional business men and women. Break up the union and get back to either a legacy carrier or just go away. To deny a baby some milk just because you can should be considered child abuse and those 2 F/A’s should be fired and charged.

  3. “To deny a baby some milk just because you can should be considered child abuse and those 2 F/A’s should be fired and charged.”

    Service issues aside, that doesn’t seem like child abuse to me — parents should not rely on it being available on board (as it often isn’t!) and should’ve packed their own.

  4. The airline industry has been around in its deregulated form for over 40 years, including all the ups and downs (mostly the latter) that come with it. All the FAs were well aware of the job when they signed up.

    If they don’t like it, perhaps they should have found a more ‘rewarding’ career when the economy was going well. Here’s a hint: they’re not going to find a more flexible career choice (speaking as someone with a 2015-hired FA in our household), so deal with your job duties as assigned, and be grateful you still have one. Jeez

  5. I know an AA flight attendant who was given a verbal warning for offering drinks to coach passengers on a very lightly loaded flight. Stupid.

  6. @CB – You’re spot on. If you don’t like your job leave and get another one. Been there done that, and that is partially why I now own my business. Back in the 80’s when the oil patch collapsed I was working as a machinist and we were working 7 days a week. I worked Sunday evening and came in on Monday and was told we were down to 4 days a week. To meet customer demand we had to run the shop 7 days so we had different days off. I got Thursday. So I worked Mon, Tues, Weds, and Fri. It sucked but it paid the mortgage, fed the kids, and eventually we got back to a normal work schedule. I stayed with the company around another 16 years. Better than being laid off or the company going under but that concept is missed on AA F/A’s these days.

  7. @Chris – He/She was lucky. Our friend now has a written warning on her record. Around 32 years of service to AA and they treat her that way. AA should be ashamed!

  8. Where’s the story on pathetic Delta which can’t even serve soft drinks to their customers in FIRST CLASS?

  9. I get the risk and the undesired result that people will take their leisurely time eating/drinking and keep their mask off for a long period of time. But people still need to eat and drink…that doesn’t go away. On my PHL-DFW-OGG flight I ended up bringing multiple meals and multiple bottles of water. I did not take my mask off any less or more than I would have had there been some type of real service or if I was up front. No food on the 8 hour DFW-OGG flight even in PE is pretty crazy, we brought two meals purchased at the airport for the flight.

  10. I fly almost weekly. Flights are packed as before pre covid. What good are the attendants if they don’t give you the .55 cent drink and bag of stall pretzels. Do I want folks to lose thier jobs, no. But try it make it suck a little less when you are packed on a flight like a can of sardines.

  11. @QMC – I don’t know and wouldn’t say where the flight originated, however, and someone correct me if I’m wrong, you can’t take liquids (milk) through security and as I understand it a lot of the concessions at the airports are closed so perhaps there wasn’t any available after security. Or maybe they were connecting and the baby had consumed all they brought on board. Regardless, it is WRONG for those 2 F/A’s to deny a baby milk. It’s a baby! Period, end of story!

  12. Apparently the passengers in 1st Class are immune to the virus, since they are allowed to have alcohol beverages,.
    Only economy passengers can spread the virus since they TOO would have to lower their masks to drink alcohol. God forbid that the F/A would have to do their job they were hired to do instead of being on their IPADs!

  13. Do any of you spoiled classless precious people remember there’s a rampant deadly virus thru out the nation? Even the crew are carriers. Many have incurred bankruptcy and/or death but you, the sanctimonious precious people need drinks and alcohol. Too sad.
    The parents and anyone else should plan ahead. Bring dry milk. Get water in airport. You all wanted extra room, now you got it. Whine away. The headline blaming flight attendants for a virus, really?? Even if still working they have lost thousands of dollars.
    You All Need To Suck It Up

  14. @Leeman – Give us a break. If you’re that afraid of getting COVID-19 take a leave, retire, and go hide in your bedroom for the rest of your life. I’m sick of F/A’s using COVID as an excuse to sit on their butts and do nothing.

    If a F/A has serious health conditions then they shouldn’t be flying as we still have this thing called the flu and the vaccine is only 30% – 50% effective.

    My wife, daughter, and I have all had COVID-19 and like 99.94 percent of the population it was not any worse than the flu, sinus infection, or head cold. And I’m 71 with high blood pressure. If you have a compromised immune system then by all means take every precaution you can. The rest of you get off your ass and do your job and quit asking for bail out money from the people that take the same risk or more than you do to keep this economy running.

  15. Here’s a solution. Fire them all due to in subordination for not providing service and hire non-union people who want and will do the job.

  16. @sunviking82 – I agree 100%. I’m sure there are millions of people right now that would bust their butt to have a job with the pay and benefits the airlines pay their people, although as I understand it the newbies don’t make as much as the senior mama’s. There are some good F/A’s out there but the numbers are dropping.

  17. Chris asks what good the flight attendants are if they can’t give him a soda and pretzels.

    When he goes into cardiac arrest, his child is choking on food or they need to be guided off a smoke filled plane in complete darkness, he’ll find out what good they are.

    Flight attendants are not going through exhausting and stressful recurrent training year after year to learn how to pour him a coke and hand him pretzels.

  18. The alcohol would do more damage to the environment on the plane than anything at this point. I fly every week and I’ve talked with several flight attendants and they seem more than willing to go back to performing their duties . I see plenty of people who more than reluctant to don a face covering for just the flight period . Imagine adding liquor , so until things go back to some normalcy I’m with the airline on this one. Have your Jack and Coke when you get home or in the airport . Happy Thanksgiving folks

  19. How about discounting tickets if meals won’t be provided. Meals are part of your ticket price.

  20. @deedee m – rampant virus? Nonsense! A lot of hype in an election year. Even the CDC says that only .6% of 1% of the deaths only have COVID as the only cause of death. The other 99.4% have an average of 2.4 contributing factors. I watched a Dr. on TV a couple of weeks ago and he said that the common factor they are finding in “healthy” people who die with COVID have some common issues, such as smoking, vaping, drug use. 480,000 people die each year from cigarette smoke, including 41,000 from 2nd hand smoke and they still sell cigarettes. That doesn’t count the thousands that die from chewing tobacco, skoal, etc. I don’t care one way or the other about drinks. They either serve them or they don’t but there is NO EXCUSE for not giving that baby milk. NONE! Neither you or I know the circumstances about how the parents ended up with no milk for their baby, but the baby was hungry and needed milk, there was milk on board and it should have been provided. If you F/A are too scared to take it to them make a PA announcement and I’ll bet there are plenty of passengers you could throw it to who would gladly catch it and give it to the parents. You’re one sick individual if you think that denying that baby milk is acceptable for any reason. You are part of what’s wrong with the airlines!

  21. Most states I fly to do not allow in door dine in service so why is it so hard for these snowflakes to understand that u can’t have a meal or bar service in a metal tube. And for the crews safety and health they should not be forced to expose themself to the dear passengers that paid 40$ for a ticket and expect to be waited on.

  22. American airlines should be ashamed! The cost of airfare is high for both domestic and international travel. If the flight attendants do not want to serve the guests who have paid alot of money for their tickets…… Then I say to the flight attendants, QUIT and get another job! It is that simple. It’s the guests who pay your salary. Provide good customer service for your guests.

  23. @deedee m
    You and the many other lazy F/A’s should be terminated. If there was an emergency you lazy scums wouldn’t know what to do and would be the first off plane. Getting rid off the union contract and hiring new F/A’s that would love to provide service with a smile will save AA a lot of money!

  24. American is no longer the airline it used to be. They have tried hard to keep showing the elitist and glamorous service they use to offer at least during the times I worked there during the 90’s. As for their inflight cabin crew back then if (some of), these F/A were awful I can’t just imagine nowadays. At the end of the day and To the honor of the truth I can give a flying #%}*+ about the beverage/food service the carriers provide, which by the way it had never been something out of the extraordinary in any airline. I perfectly know I’m absurdly paying for the ride from point A to B, but when you have children, newborns, etc., on board that’s another story and that kid still is a customer even if at no cost ticket. Therefore no union agreement nor management decision should override what is supposed to be common sense of any individual with a forehead and a brain, moreover when it comes to customer service for special guests such as babies and the elderly.


  25. I am a FA with a major airline and recently traveled to the Caribbean. I was disappointed with the service because I too saw the FA’s sitting in the galleys for a 4 hr flight. I do understand the COVID risk, but don’t support the lack of any customer service. I paid extra for my seat just to have drinks but was only asked once in 4 hrs. We are suppose to walk thru the cabin often as part of our training. It is sad what is happening since we still get paid the same hourly rate. FYI, parents with babies are allowed to bring milk or formula thru TSA, and there is no extra risk to give a baby milk! I’m also a trainer for new FA’s & to me, customer service is #1, especially during these rough times. Most airlines still have an “on demand” service when there is no service, so hit that FA call button if needed!

  26. I am a Southwest flight attendant who has been furloughed due to Coronavirus…not sure who your source is???

  27. Even before Covid, I have seen the decline of the airline industry, in the US especially. American used to be the best. You’re paying for a service even if you’re in coach. The best service I’ve had recently are international, British Airways and Aer Lingus. Flew United this week from Chicago to DFW and it was packed, but they let you upgrade when you are in the airport. And we did get snacks and a drink. But the flight attendants were rude.

    Also, about Covid itself. If you’re afraid to get it, don’t fly. Don’t travel. Stay home and isolate. Game over. But the rest of us who know this is a scam should be free to travel and live our lives. If you’re a flight attendant freaking out about getting it, quit and find a new job. That’s it. Protect yourself. Find a job where you can work from home.

  28. Delta not serving drinks? I was on six AA flights First Class. The first flight gave water and a snack. The rest gave nothing. I just started carrying my own water (which still means taking my mask off).

    AA decisions are always poor, whether CEO or FA union.

    Likewise, their First Class seat comfort and storage is a joke. Oh, and will AA be offering all their employees (including those laid off) two free tickets to anywhere like Delta is this season? Let me know.

  29. For the record, F/A do train for emergencies. However,.the actual crashes usually are simply un-survivable. When Sully, and co-pilot saved the aircraft and passengers, joined by the Capt and crew of the Ferries that rescued them from the sinking plane. However, the F/A failed to stop a passenger whom opened the rear cabin door and allowed water to flow in. Yelling Brace Brace Brace. Not heroic!

  30. FWIW, I received drinks and snacks on a JetBlue flight this week. Maybe AA management should compare flight attendant infection rates with JetBlue management?

  31. I’m just glad these front line employees are willing to work in such a hazardous environment with no PPE. THANK YOU!

  32. Here’s everyone crying about not getting a drink!!!! You now realize why FA’s are really onboard – SAFETY. They will give you CPR or pull your butt off a burning plane. Pack your own chut (aka take care of YOURSELF)

  33. There’s a fricking PANDEMIC going on. Hospitals around the country are FULL. With airlines, the country is trying to keep an essential service afloat and operating. People get drinks…they take off their masks…they get food they take off their masks. They have wine or a cocktail, they linger with their masks off….spreading whatever they have around in close quarters. Trust me…this is NOT about FAs not wanting to do service….they’re bored tears most flights, but they realize the constraints they are operating in and the proximity of everyone to everyone. This is ONLY about NOT spreading the virus…Period

  34. I’ve flown Delta from Atlanta to the west coast over 10 round trips since June. Great service, middle seats blocked off as well as seats in first. Flight attendants have been awesome and snacks and drinks offered to ALL the passengers. Delta is doing it right. I have flown on American on two trips, old aircraft, packed like pro covid. And for whatever reason, AA always seems to have issues with on time departures.

  35. BTW…Southwest DID furlough FAs
    Delta did “reassign” hundreds of FAS and cut hours drastically for others.
    United furloughed FAs

    You continue to dilute the term “industry expert”. Each of your posts lately, shows just how much about the industry you don’t know. And your incessant obsession with AA-bashing is laughable.

  36. Please stop berating the flight attendants. Most of them as a whole, are great professionals. Their union on the other hand, is about as worthless as the titts on a boar hog! And AFA/CWA isn’t any better. I’m not against unions in general, but i unequivocally disagree with the APFAs agenda and wanton misrepresentation of its members. Further more, the AA management has no direction, leadership or vision. There should be mild but frequent electroshock therapy to the board of directors to get positive changes with the organization.

  37. Amc..milk was never a drink that was given on the aircraft by caterers. The only beverages are listed. We might have 1 very small carton. If your child needs milk,please supply your own. If not, powered fruit drink and mix with water. Our job is to keep you safe and evacuate everyone in case of emergency!

  38. Most of you are inconsiderate morons with these hot takes. This “if you don’t like it, leave” attitude is nonsensical when we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

  39. “It’s a scam.”

    “If you’re afraid, stay home!”

    “My whole family got it (and passed it to others) and we felt fine! No foul!”

    These are the selfish fools that are running it for the rest of us. They’re why we have 4% of the world’s population but 20% of the deaths. They’re why schools are open in most of the world but shutting down again here. They’re why the elderly in nursing homes are getting slaughtered. Disgusting people. Too much Fox.

  40. States are going on lockdown and inside dining is not allowed and the CDC recommends you don’t enjoy the holidays with your family because you might share the virus and kill one or more of them. And why? Because you think you need a soda when you fly. Maybe take some responsibility for yourself and buy yourself a soda in the airport before you get on the plane. Why should Fa’s be exposed unnecessarily for a drink? Why should they risk their health or the health of their family for a coke? And don’t say get another job if you’re afraid or concerned because that’s just stupid. And all of your comments are stupid. Realize what’s important in life and realize the airline is taking you from point A to point B. Always has been. The rest was just a bonus. Deal with it.

  41. We were just on a flight and when we boarded they handed us a prepacked bag with a bottle of water, cookies and a sanitizing wipe. We had already purchased drinks for the flight but I thought this was pretty nice of them. We were not expecting that at all.

  42. The coach service is only temporary, due to Covid, and will return when things are normal. If passengers want a non alcoholic beverage, they can request one. As far as the statement made above about milk not being delivered to crying baby, sorry can’t believe it. People love to make up stuff like this all of the time. People love to hate us until they need us in an emergency, which is a real shame. I can’t wait to get the vacation and this Covid is over. It will be nice to return to normal! ❤️

  43. Delta does not even offer soft drinks, leave alone alcoholic drinks in first class.
    Passengers in coach CAN REQUEST soft drinks at any time, besides their bottle of water and pretzels received upon boarding.
    If you are winning because they don’t receive an alcoholic beverage, then you may have a drinking problem. That’s not essential, and it isn’t free in most cases. Not need to touch credit cards etc. No need to explain why he ( an Ep or a main cabin extra) can get it, and you can’t. Economy is standard as of right now. It is the reality until they get the vaccine.

  44. @JBPSP – I write regularly about United’s furloughs. Delta didn’t furlough anyone, they reassigned flight attendants to do other jobs in order to keep them on payroll. It was a creative solution! And no Southwest has not yet furloughed flight attendants. They sent WARN Act notices at the beginning of November to give them the option to do so, if the union is unwilling to negotiate on concessions to keep everyone employed.

  45. Everyone has to remember that A.A. is no longer American Airlines. Rather, it is a confederacy of groups of former airlines that have been harboring resentments towards “merged” (read: taken over) by “A.A.”.
    These include USAir, TWA, America West, Air Cal, Piedmont, PSA, etc….
    Each group mostly living in the past and harboring intense resentments towards the parent company. This has yielded anything but a reasonable and productive work environment. The ad hoc “president” of A.A. is a perfect example: a transient officer who was at the helm during bankruptcies of two of the above mentioned companies and fell into A.A. by sheer circumstance. Any wonder why A.A. now looses more millions per day than any other of the big three?

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