Flight Attendants Outraged After American Airlines Tells Them To Skip Meals

American Airlines sent a memo to flight attendants on Monday called ‘Moments That Matter’ which encourages them to be prepared to avoid even slight delays that could stand in the way of exact on-time departures. Unfortunately for employee morale it came off as patronizing.

One tip, aimed at flight attendants who are scheduled to work reserve, has incited a anger – and a response from the union. American told flight attendants that they may need to skip meals.

You may not have time to stop and get food, etc. on the way to the plane – particularly if you’re called at the last minute, so keep that in mind

Go directly to the aircraft if you are called; do not stop for food or other items on your way unless you have ample time and it will not delay you accomplishing your pre-flight duties and boarding

This did.. not going over well. Here’s the President of the American Airlines flight attendants union in a memo to all flight attendants at the airline,

[E]arlier this week, all Flight Attendants received an insulting company communication attempting to remind us of ‘Moments that Matter’ for the Flight Attendant workgroup. It now seems that skipping food runs on the way to the airplane and monitoring traffic patterns should be our new normal.

This company continues to demonstrate just how out-of-touch they are with Flight Attendants, ignoring the fatigue-inducing trip construction and the constant battles over mask compliance. American sees this as a golden opportunity to make our lives more difficult by increasing reserve seniority and throwing 27% of a crew base on reserve instead of working to make our lives easier in this challenging environment.

American Airlines seems to have forgotten that Flight Attendants spend the most time with our customers. Flight Attendants have done an outstanding job of welcoming our new leisure travelers that make up a good portion of our revenue and stand ready to welcome back our business travelers, all while attempting to maintain a safe cabin environment. It is time that we are recognized for our work and our sacrifices instead of receiving a callous communication asking us to skip a meal while on duty.

It is time for American Airlines to treat Flight Attendants with dignity and recognize the sacrifices we have made to restore American to profitability.

There’s a certain irony in the President of the flight attendants union claiming her members are welcoming the airline’s customers, and complaining about being asked to skip meals, when she’s also taken credit for keeping the airline from serving drinks to passengers in coach for the past year (which will finally return in June).

Here’s the full ‘Moments That Matter’ memo that caused the controversy.

May 3, 2021
All flight attendants

Departing on time is a team effort and requires coordination and cooperation among various departments including Flight Service, Flight Ops, Tech Ops, Customer Care and others. As a professional flight attendant, you play a pivotal role in helping us leave on time, every time. As our customers begin to fill our planes and return to travel, it’s more important now than ever to ensure we’re doing our part.

Here are some tips and things to consider to be sure you’re on time and ready to go.

Before you leave home or the hotel

  • Is your tablet charged to at least 90%?
  • Is your IFM synced to the latest version in Comply365?
  • Are you allowing time for traffic, van delays, etc.?

At the airport or gate

  • Consider arriving a few minutes early in case you’re selected for random screening or if you need to stop at a Crew Service Center (CSC)
  • FA1 / Purser and the gate agent should plan boarding times and complete a departure dependability briefing (DDB)
    • The DDB is crucial as load factors increase and coordination of baggage is vital
  • Have a plan for contacting the agent during boarding that does not violate minimum crew
  • Do not begin boarding unless you’ve verified that minimum crew is onboard and you’ve confirmed it with the agent
  • The Pre-journey Checklist lets you focus on a few important areas before you fly your trip Comply365 My Publications > 01IFM/PAs/COVID19 > COVID19 > Pre-journey Checklist

Boarding

  • Actively assist customers with finding their seats and stowing their luggage
    • Our Oasis aircraft have extra-large bins and can accommodate almost all bags brought on board the aircraft; coordinate with the agent
    • New leisure customers have increased and may need your attention in getting settled as they board
  • Deliver the pre-departure boarding PAs as needed
  • Don’t leave the aircraft unless there is a life-threatening emergency once boarding begins

Sitting Standby Reserve?

  • You may not have time to stop and get food, etc. on the way to the plane – particularly if you’re called at the last minute, so keep that in mind
  • Go directly to the aircraft if you are called; do not stop for food or other items on your way unless you have ample time and it will not delay you accomplishing your pre-flight duties and boarding
  • Keep your tablet charged so if you’re called for a flight it’s at 90%

If you’re running late or not going to make your trip
Communication is key. Sometimes unexpected things happen, so if you’re running late, let us know. If you’re departing a base city, call the Crew Service Center and let them know. That way they can coordinate with other departments and/or Crew Scheduling. If you’re mid-sequence/not in a base city, contact Crew Tracking.

And if you’re sick or are going to miss your trip, please call Crew Scheduling (at trip origination) or Crew Tracking (mid-sequence) to let them know as soon as possible.

On-time departures and arrivals translate to higher customer satisfaction scores, creating loyal customers. If you are ready to fly — no matter what time of day you begin — that means American is one step closer to an on-time departure for our customers.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. So “compassionate and woke” Doug has time to recommend books to read and share his thoughts on diversity, but this is how the airline condescendingly speaks to its employees?

    Yup, sounds like “dumb as a doornail” Parker.

  2. Fat people died at a *significantly* higher rate from Covid than normal people.

    So, maybe it’s good advice!

  3. Meanwhile, WN is scheduling service to at least 10 cities from both MIA and ORD, two AA hubs it started serving during the past year.
    WN manages to do a better job in getting along with its employees and they see opportunity in AA and UA hubs.

  4. Even slaves were allowed time to eat – where do the airlines get off treating their workers less than slaves and claiming they are woke?

  5. It’s a normal thing if you are running late to skip a meal. If I’m running late for work, I skip breakfast and have a snack at work or have an early lunch.

    Flight attendants in the U.S. are awful.

  6. By fasting, at a minimum we can all learn to empathize with our Greek Orthodox team members. I recently read a fascinating book about how periodic fasting leads to a more open consciousness and allows one to more fully appreciate the wonderful differences among different cultures, so I’d like all my team members to try this.

  7. Most passengers know that meals are not available in flight ( coach) and bring a sandwich or snack from home. Why can’t flight attendants bring something at the beginning of their day as they are no longer “busy” in flight.

  8. The larger theme here is AA’s obsession with flights departing “exactly on-time” (D=0), even when brief delays would cause no change in arrival time.

    I was intrigued this week when I read that United has chosen to reduce coding in their systems that intended to assign blame to individuals for meaningless delays. The article mentioned that this would give United gate agents flexibility, for example, to hold a flight for a few minutes when it was clear multiple passengers were connecting to that flight and a brief delay would not substantially affect arrival time. (This builds, of course, on the “connection saver” technology that United introduced.)

    I have seen the D=0 mentality at American cause gate agents to do things that really frustrate passengers: for example, claiming that overhead bins are full and gate-checking carry-ons–with passengers then discovering, upon boarding, that lots of bins are empty. Or failing to process the upgrade list, or to fill an empty first class seat with an already-boarded coach passenger when a booked first class passenger doesn’t show-up. It has also coincided with boarding often starting well before boarding time and last call moving from 10 to 15 minutes before departure time.

    Thus, I found it intriguing that perhaps United is thinking that D=0 culture isn’t serving it very well. Clearly, with this latest memo, AA thinks it is.

  9. I remember during the last bankruptcy when FAs took paycuts and lost their in-flight meals, senior management came out with a “helpful tips” email about how to save money. One item was to look through trash bins for things that can be reused.

  10. I see nothing wrong with the memo. If they’re on company time as it infers then yes, the company dictates what you do on/with your time. If you’re on your own time you’re responsible for what you do prior to starting your workday. It all comes down to a soft skill that is far beyond lost today: Time Management. If one doesn’t like it then perhaps one should explore their options.

    If this memo really caused outrage then this is ridiculous and they should be required to see a therapist for anger management as outrage is an expression of anger. Perhaps they should grow up and stop inflecting a tone to everything they read.

  11. I think the main problem is the focus on D0 departure which is not the best way to improve the airline performance. This is deeply rooted in USAirways management culture as they focus on some metrics which does not always yields desired results. Once before the merger, I was flying US through PHL and the weather was not particularly good. My incoming flight was late and I rushed through the airport for a connection. I was at the gate 10 min before departure but US closed the door and told me and 5 other people that we were late. The plane was seating at the gate for another hr with a closed door because of a queue for departure… Of course, on the books, it departed on time. D0 also pushed the airport not to project correct departure time. Those “rolling delays” when a new overly optimistic departure time is announced 10-15 min after scheduled departure was the “signature style” of the USAir operation. Now you see the same thing on AA. Finally, in push for D0 the GAs are staring boarding early, and when you arrive 30 min before departure your plane is fully boarded and the overhead bin space is gone…
    Instead, just rate the crew on the overall performance and give the proper bonuses. Then FA would decide whether tos top for a substantial meal and get an extra Starbucks or rush to the gate and get a performance bonus.

  12. I called United Global services when I was delayed enroute due to an accident, (I only ended up being 2-3 mins late to the gate)….they held the flight and didn’t close the door like AA would have.

  13. If you are on reserve, stand by, etc. then part of YOUR JOB is to be prepared to jump up and get on a plane. I don’t understand how it is NOT the FA’s responsibility to get to the plane as quickly as possible. I mean jeez, when I am traveling I take a protein bar and a snack just in case I get stuck in traffic and can’t get something at the airport prior to boarding! This is an insane culture of needing to tell people to do their jobs properly, be prepared and have some pride in the effort they put into their work. At a guess the backlash is because AA treats their passengers and staff crappy all the time, so when something comes up like this everyone jumps on it as another example but in this case- it is absurd to be outraged.

  14. The flight attendants will not have a problem with passengers removing their masks to eat them, I’m sure (and it goes without saying that these same FAs have no problem serving food to passengers)…

  15. The worst possible thing you can do as an airline employee is take a meaningless delay of 1 or 2 minutes. D0 in grained in your culture. If you badge in to work 1 minute late, its the same as if you are 30 minutes late. My advise. Eat early and pack shelf stable foods. I work on the ground and have worked up to 17 hours without a break. So I really dont care to hear it.

  16. Maybe we should go back to providing flight attendant meals on board. Again. Like the pilots have.

  17. This stuff is pretty picky. Most people have the skills to plan their lives. There’s no excuse for not doing so. In any business, it’s the customer who pays the bills, not debtholders, stockholders, a union, or a board of directors. I dealt with the public for many years during my working life. My schedule had to revolve around my customers’ and client’s needs, not mine. That’s life in the real world. It’s no different with flight attendants. It’s also amazing to me to see how many commentators and pundits on airline blogs seem to be actively pulling for American Airlines to be liquidated. That’s a pretty sad commentary on our society. If one really cares about flight attendants and other airline employees, one doesn’t actively root for them to lose their jobs over petty minutiae.

  18. There is no irony here at all, the author misses the main point entirely. Passengers arrive at airports hours ahead, know where they’re going, can eat at home, can bring food, or buy some at the airport.
    Flight attendants do not all have these options, particularly when reassigned, rescheduled and especially when on reserve.
    If the company wanted to SOLVE this they can provide clean, comfortable, close-by airport crew areas for those who might then choose to arrive for work early, say for a short trip that morphs into a 14 hr shift or an all night flight.
    An employee cafeteria, ( what happened to them ? and gasp!, ….they could even PROVIDE crew meals!
    Heres a radical thought….Deliver to crews stuck on board! How bout a chef from the HQ cafeteria come up with a variety of ready meals that can be brought to the plane for crews stuck for hours due to off sched ops? Im sure they have an extra bicycle from hq to use to deliver around the airports. Put a basket on it and….voila!
    Imagine if they actually applied a solution, rather than just suggest ……front line employees should go without eating.
    I think all the mgrs should gather round the ice cream machine in the hq cafeteria, and ponder how they would solve these issues for themselves, then apply those solutions.

  19. For flight attendants its all far more complex… we can bring food for sev days but…… if our first destination is to a country that permits no food, we have to eat it all before landing, have to throw it all away, or find a place to store it beforehand and then pick it up between flights. A location to store iis often a loong walk, a mile or two from a gate. And very limited space. Years ago crews appeared at gates at boarding time, you didnt see them sitting all over airports because there were decent employee areas.

  20. @Scotch you old fart, where have you been hiding?

    Of course you have you directs taking copious notes. Because A) you haven’t had an original thought in this decade and B) unlike at my shop where yours truly calls all the shots, you’re over there just collecting a check.

    Upon rereading my note to FAs I realized I should have suggested most of the fat granny FAs skip a meal even when they are running on time.

  21. This was definitely taken out of context. The heading for this section is “Sitting Standby Reserve?”. Standby is when a crew member is on premises, at the airport, for a period of time to be able to cover close in crewing needs. They are expected to be ready for any situation: have packed for any destination (cold or warm); have their required items; and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. This is just about emphasizing the preparation that is expected of them! And they are paid while sitting standby.
    And don’t tell me they can’t get permission to step out for a few minutes while waiting to be assigned to grab food or use the restroom! – they can. It’s perfectly sensible for an employer to remind their employees of their responsibilities, especially when there are consequences to the business for not meeting them.

  22. Nuances of the job that people don’t get, when most of the public work set hours. Customs laws regarding food imports by crew, refrigeration issues, time on duty issues, food provided to pilots but not crew. Easy to comment when you don’t know the job.

  23. “Do not pass go, do not collect $200
    Someones playing Monopoly…
    Somebody should go to jail.

  24. Another assinine jab at the unions from Leff. At least your a consistent blogger.

  25. I’ve been working for American Airlines on the ground for going on 39 years, and I know for a fact not one person down on the ramp has ever gone longer then a few hour with out a break. Nor have they gone any longer than 5 to 6 hours with out eating, and If you have then it’s your Falt for kissing the companies butt if you know what I mean.

  26. AA never said to skip a meal. It was advised not to stop unless time permits. That’s not unreasonable. I am a former flight attendant and I always carried protein snacks with me. This is just a factor of being a flight attendant.

  27. I work for an airline based outside of the United States and if we are called off of reserve we have a minimum of 90 min to get to the aircraft. If we can fit in stopping for food within that 90 min great, if not we are also not allowed to stop if it’s going to delay the aircraft. Does AA not have something similar? We also have meals catered for the crew in the event you don’t want to bring your own food or have the time to.

  28. This is all overblown. Typical union leadership trying to make corporate more evil than they really are. Apparently, it has been an issue where a plane full of people are waiting for FA’s that are stuck at the food court on the way to the plane. The message was just “keep in mind” you may not have time to stop for stuff when called on reserve so be prepared. It would be like a company telling workers to be at work on time and be prepared for delays like traffic. You might not have time to wait in line at Starbucks when driving into the office.

  29. No water No food and little or no bathroom breaks like Amazon
    Be pleasant to customers at all times and be accommodating
    I’m sure productivity and good will will arise and make the company culture even better then it already is

  30. I have been a flight attendant for 30 years starting with PanAm in the Glory Days. What AA says in the memo is in line with what every airline tells their flight attendants: think ahead and be prepared ! If you are on standby then either bring food or come early to buy food. They do NOT say ‘skip a meal’ – they say don’t go to the food court when you should be heading to a flight . Take some personal responsibility! These are adults – not high school kids. If you are running to make a meeting would you get in line at Starbucks if you knew you would be late and cause the start of the meeting to be delayed along with 100 of your customers? Probably not. Same difference. Grow up.

  31. Sounds like Klint Matthew has time before his flight to get a meal, whereas the flight attendants are running between flights because of compression schedules with no time for meals. We are not given meals on the planes, unlike the pilots, who are fed. We work 12 hour duty days with little or no time for meals. Most passengers have time before or between flights for a meal, we don’t. We start early in the day and don’t arrive back home or the hotel too late to get dinner. Where’s your compassion as a fellow human being?

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