American Airlines Flight Attendants Left Sleeping At The Airport And Sharing Rooms As Flights Cancelled

Last summer when the American Airlines operation melted down we got stories of flight attendants stuck sleeping at the airport because the airline’s outsourced transportation desk wouldn’t get them rooms. They couldn’t get reservations on their app, and couldn’t get through over the phone.

We also got stories of a pilot sleeping in the lobby of their hotel without a room, and the pilots union instructing pilots not to fly unless they have confirmed rooms. That matters because it tells customers the airline won’t be reliable, and it matters because as passengers you don’t want tired pilots.

The airline has said that their vendor has staffed up its call center and promised several times that this wouldn’t happen again. Crew are fearful of booking their own accommodations because they worry they won’t be paid back. And they share horror stories about being re-routed on trips but ground transportation and lodging not getting rebooked for them.

This past weekend American’s operation melted down, along with other airlines including Southwest, Delta, and JetBlue. Once again the flight attendants union reports that crew had no hotels, and even worse that the airline – which was cancelling flights due to lack of crew – didn’t even keep track of where their flight attendants were to reassign them to trips to get customers home.

According to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, in recent days:

Crews were abandoned in hotels, trying to reach crew tracking to receive information about sequence changes.

Crewmembers were forced to sleep on the floor in the airport because they were unable to reach the hotel/limo desk.

Flight Attendant crews were forced to sleep in one hotel room.

Flight Attendants waited for hotel rooms over 6 hours after landing, after being on duty for a full day.

Crews waited upwards of 12 hours for tracking to advise them of a reschedule, and flew home on their own after being asked to vacate the hotel. Upon arrival at home, sometimes 24 hours later, crew tracking attempted to issue ‘missed trips’ to Flight Attendants that had no repaired schedule, no hotel, and no transportation to the airport.

During major weather events, when large numbers of flights cancel, there’s a scramble for rooms and crew are competing with customers as well. Flight attendants are experiencing what customers face trying to get ahold of airlines when schedules go wrong. In some small markets there are limited hotel rooms. And they can resort to self-help and seeking reimbursement but there are horror stories about that process as well.

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. Whatever. AA flight attendants have ruined that company. Nice to see them get a taste of what thousands of passengers experienced last weekend. ZERO sympathy. If they don’t like it, they can quit.

  2. What kind of moron sleeps on an airport floor like the rest of the dopes when all it takes is a little stroke of genius to: 1- GET OUT OF THE AIRPORT. 2- find a hotel room somewhere and 3- use a credit card for the room. I’m always amazed at how stupid the general traveling public can turn once they enter the doors of an airport. I thought FA’s would be sharper than this but these days who knows what’s up. My guess is these were new hires from the pandemic as they can’t even serve a coke without a hassle.
    You’d rather sleep on lenolium floors rather than take a chance you might not be be reimbursed for $160 for the hotel? Do that, I’ll be drunk at the airport Marriott bar.

  3. And to think that back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s my sister practically gave up “everything” to be a FA (AA). She could have been married 50 times too! BTW, she retired 15 years ago.

  4. Gary, in today’s Jalopnik newsletter there’s a story about Hertz former district manager Daniel Stokes, who is now a whistle-blower against Hertz. He makes interesting allegations against Hertz, and HE GOT ARRESTED while on medical leave. I hope someone sends you the link, I don’t know how…..

  5. It’s clear that some people in the peanut gallery like Chris and Jim have NO IDEA what airline crews go through, to the point where the airline is so inept that they have to outsource their crew accommodations desk to South America. Kindly go fornicate yourself before you pretend you know what you’re talking about…

  6. Instead of American Airlines flight attendants sleeping on the airport floor or a pilot sleeping in the lobby of their hotel without a room, why not use a spare aircraft for the flight crew to sleep in overnight?

  7. How about opening an AA lounge if available? Or any lounge? Airport management must know a crisis is going on? How about being proactive? How about caring for fellow human beings?

  8. David I used to always think the same thing until this February. Had a flight connecting in Miami on American on a Saturday night. Bag check and TSA was a disaster after clearing immigration, we miss connected along with thousands of others. Every single hotel in Miami was sold out that night. I tried all seven of my hotel apps and my wife tried her corporate travel app. Not a hotel to be found. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. We slept on the bench of the food court and I’ll never fly American again.

  9. What happened to the pilots and FA for the other airlines ? They handled the situation much better?

  10. Mike P’s experience was worse than ours, and I’m sorry he had to go through that. We were supposed to come back from MIA to MSP Monday the 4th on AA but got a cancellation notice the night before. The desk at our small hotel said there were plenty of rooms as many, many people were cancelling. But my wife immediately priced out airport hotels and found a good Bon Voy (Element) there much cheaper than our current place, and it was really nice. We grabbed it fast and it sold out by the next morning. Maybe it was luck or timing but the point is when you’re in such a situation be proactive; as Dave Stone said, don’t wait but grab what is possible. Had something similar 2 years ago when the pandemic hit and I was in Cape Town. Lots of people were standing around waiting for instructions, I just grabbed rebooked Qatar flights to Doha and then Chicago, as fast as possible. You have to do what’s necessary on the spot.

  11. Lower the bar far enough and why would anyone strive to rise above it? They’ll go elsewhere to be among like-minded. Soon enough the dregs will have the run of the place. They’ll be the only ones left. Welcome to the third-world experience, without leaving home.
    So it shall be everywhere standards, hiring or otherwise, are abolished.

  12. @David Stone Genius idea, but sometimes there are NO rooms to be had. Also, crewmembers sleeping on the floor of the airport is a cringeworthy moment that NO airline wants to be associated with. That’s precisely what it takes to get articles like this written and garner the attention of misinformed, novice travelers like yourself.

  13. Why do people seem surprised?
    All corporations are created to maximize profits and minimize costs.
    Is that not clear?
    Outsourcing non-core functions to the lowest bidders is standard corporation practice.
    As a result, airlines can’t function during IrrOps. It is not built to handle it. No one builds for worst case scenario anymore because no budget is approved for that.
    Corporations no longer seem to be bound by any concept of being a good corporate citizen.
    Ex: people complain about the cost of gas… Exxon made 9 billion in profits just last quarter, and their CEO makes a 23 million annual salary.
    The only people that discuss “shared sacrifice” are the ones that expect to shift the burden to you.
    To be surprised by failures of this type in America is like being surprised that the sun rises or the sky is blue.

  14. @Billy Bob said:
    “Welcome to the third-world experience, without leaving home.”

    Don’t insult the third world. Air travel in most countries is far better than here.

    The shuttle flight between Rio and Sao Paulo were an hour. They greeted you, handed out news papers, provided an entire plane with beverages and meal service in about a one hour flight. Like clockwork.

  15. … and don’t even get me started on how cool MagLev trains are.

    We think ourselves a rich country… and we are. Just not a rich population.

  16. No, Zebraitis, air travel in “most” countries is not better. There are ~200 countries on earth. There are a few dozen countries with better air travel experiences than the US. Maglev trains are cool, but the US is too big geographically for a robust train network. We are better off developing autonomous vehicles, which many companies are. Ignore Tesla and their pompous claims. There are companies making real progress in the arena.

  17. It’s not just the flight crews…last week, our flight (MSY-DFW) was delayed due to mechanical failure and a plane swap. As a result, we didn’t arrive in Dallas until 10:45pm, and my wife & I (along with approximately half the pax on the flight) missed our connection to SFO. (Others missed connections to LAX, ONT, PHX, and elsewhere.)

    At least 40+ pax were in line at the Customer Service desk, and then two of the four agents said good night and went home. AA issued worthless food vouchers (nothing was open in the airport at 11pm); there were no hotel rooms available, and they stopped issuing vouchers for rooms. (Judging by the number of flight crew hanging around, they were probably screwed, too!). They booked me on a 6:00 am flight (DFW-PHX-SFO), and booked my wife on a 6:00 PM nonstop (DFW-SFO). We got her rebooked on my flights, but there was nothing open in the airport to use the food vouchers on the next morning either!

  18. This is truly pathetic!!!!!!! Do the news hires know what they are getting them selfs into? I heard most of them aren’t lasting 6 months!!!!

  19. Wow! Some of the responses on here are just terrible. Clearly many of you know nothing about the airline industry. These rest breaks are clear FAR violations as well as contract violations. When a crew member isn’t supplied proper rest it will cause a trickle down effect for the rest of the operation. The next flight you were rebooked on will likely not have a crew. To the person who asked about the other airlines, this is happening at large hubs where AA dominates. But it does happen a other airlines just not to the scale at AA. And as many pointed out, when these weather situations happen you can’t find a hotel, you can’t sleep on airplanes over night because you need to be scanned into and off by agents. You can’t just randomly walk down a jetway. Part of the problem is AA doesn’t pay for guaranteed rooms and they also contracted out the hotel department. In the past it was a department inside American Airlines. I don’t care how many of you feel about flight attendants or the firm. Everyone is entitled to be treated with a safe, secured rest in this industry.

  20. Nothing new here. AA has had crew lodging and transportation issues ever since they “merged” with Useless Airways. My bride was a Piedmont F/A, then survived the less friendly skies until about 5 years ago when she retired. Not to long after the merger it was not uncommon for them to have an hour plus wait for ground transportation, then the hotel wouldn’t have rooms ready, or they would be sent to the wrong hotel. Leading to yet another wait for transportation to a different hotel. This means they aren’t getting their required rest break. As far as AA was concerned their minimal rest break started as soon as they deplaned. More than once she was scheduled on a deadhead flight that would cancel, then there wouldn’t be a hotel available. If she paid for their own hotel it was all but impossible to get reimbursed. It isn’t going to get better anytime soon.

  21. Chris and Jim, I hope I never have you on a flight. You’re probably the entitled ones who thinks it’s all about you! Maybe you are treated poorly because you treat the crew poorly. I was in Miami during the weather meltdown. While sitting at the airport looking for rooms we helped as many people as possible. Every group has a few bad apples but to say we ran it into the ground tells me alot about you!! My daughter almost missed her cruise because of SW. She never did get her luggage. Every airline has a meltdown when bad weather occurs. Got her there on AA..

  22. I am an International Flight Attendant who worked a flight from Europe yesterday. Although we had a mechanical problem that took a while to correct we eventually had the problem fixed and we were on our way. Our route later in the day was considerably longer than our original, thru no fault of our own. The mask mandate is still in effect on all flights, and I don’t like it any more than anyone else, but my job is to see that everyone adheres to it. I am not overly forceful, if I see that you are not wearing one I get your attention and point to my mask. Most customers comply without complaint. One of our passengers didn’t have his on, so I pointed to it, and although he made an irritated face, he put it on. An hour later when passing him he was maskless. I again pointed to my mask. This was a 9 hour flight and a 3rd time I went by he was without a mask. 225 other passengers managed to abide by the rule. So the 4th time when I passed and he had no mask on I said, “Do you have a connecting flight? He said, “Yes” I said, “If you would like to continue on a plane you had better wear your mask.” Fast forward three hours later I found myself in the lobby of a hotel with 25 other people, most of whom were on my flight waiting for a room. “Mr. No one is gonna tell me what to do”, was about 5 people ahead of me. He got his key and left. The desk clerk was waiting on the next person when J.A. returned. He said my key doesn’t work. The clerk said, “Let me finish with this gentleman and I’ll be right with you.” He responded, “No, I was here first.” The clerk again said, “ If you just wait a moment I will help you.” Again he said, “No, just fix my key.” The clerk asked him to step aside until he was finished, he continued to refuse. The clerk said, “Sir if you refuse to comply you have to leave.” The man said, “I’m not leaving.” The clerk said, “I’ll call the police.” And he said, “Go ahead.” The police came and removed the man. There were no rooms anywhere to be found. Moral of the story is, are you gonna prove your point by being a Jackass all the time, or go along with the flow and make life easier for everyone involved?

  23. I think the airlines that the Pilots and the FA’s work for should have a room set up for pilots and the FA’s with cots for that situation only. Problem solved

  24. Pay your union dues and you might have the Union fighting for you. But you don’t pay, the Union will address it on their schedule.

  25. To blame the flight attendants for what happened last weekend? Really? How Are they responsible for delayed or canceled flights?
    I’m not surprised to read such ugly and hateful comment from certain posters here.

  26. What “A flight attendant” said.
    I was once in a winter meltdown at Heathrow, and when it looked like we were canceling I walked into the Hilton connected to T4. There were a lot of upset people yelling at the poor check-in staff. I remained calm, friendly, even apologized for the jackasses who were all around us, and the check in clerk said “I have one room left that I have been holding, but I am going to assign it to you.” I had a great night sleep. And the clerk got the chocolate I had bought.
    Similarly, in Germany, I went with polite and calm when most were in ahole mode. They did not have any rooms left, but set up a travel bed in a break room which was mine for the night. Again, I had a great night sleep.
    Moral of the story: kindness pays. Aholes get their comeuppance at some point.

  27. Its disgusting to see that people have no respect for hardworking airline crews. NOBODY should have to be left without a bed and a hot shower. Im sickened that people cant understand this! These crewmembers were probably on duty at least 12 hrs and then get treated like this is abominable! And then are subject to these rude stupid comments from people who know NOTHING about the job.

  28. Shameful operational handling of normal weather delays. Sick of. Hearing that they are understaffed. How hard is it to find a hotel room in a city that you serve 365 days a year . I am
    A 22 year f/a and old usairways scheduling did it all flawlessly for their crews . AA is greedy beyond belief and takes awful care of their crews. Can’t wait to retire .

  29. Flight attendants wonder why we hate them? Really? Laure: I’m on AA a lot unfortunately. You probably have already met me. For Mr. (or Miss….or xim, xit, lmnop or whatever you identify as this week) “A Flight Attendant”. YOU are the problem. Harassing people doesn’t save anyone’s life…..just like you going out drinking on layovers….or your sexual trysts on trips while undoubtedly not wearing a mask gives anyone instant corona. You’re not saving the world. You’re not a hero. You’re a loser in a dead end job. We hate you.

  30. @billy Bob
    How long ago you were in 3rd world? The 3rd world airlines serves real food not pretzel and sodas in cups. For those 3rd world airlines trying to win you with their services. I got it you are talking about Airlines in America.

  31. @ Zebraitis-that one hour flight, minus taxi time and getting to a safe attitude/altitude, then schlepping food and drinks, then clean up the cabin and perform our safety duties on the approach…how many Flight Attendants were onboard? Certainly more than 3, unless it was Express. I think what you’re sorta bragging about may not be a complete story. What was the meal?

  32. @30000
    If you noticed, this was a Brazilian airline. Foreign carriers hire flight attendants who actually care about providing excellent service
    ….unlike in the US where since 9/11 your ONLY interest is your fantasy of being “heroes”….lol. If foreign carries were able to operate domestically in the US, I’d never step aboard another US carriers aircraft….maybe Delta occasionally. I don’t think I’m alone here either. You and your ilk would be out of jobs quicker than you could throw a 3 year old off of a plane.

  33. I was scheduled to fly last Sat from ATL to MIA on AA.

    I was notified of the cancelation by email while I was driving to the airport. (I get a half dozen robocalls a day from scanners, but not one robocall or text alerting me of a change in my flight.) I only checked my email because I was getting bored waiting in line.

    There were 200 people in the check in line, and two agents. With three hours before takeoff, we would not have made it through that line in time.

    Hypothetical: if you walk into the lobby of a hotel and see dirty floors, peeling wallpaper and flaking paint,, do you say to yourself, “Wow! This hotel puts all their resources into making the rooms FANTASTIC!”

    Me neither. When I see an airline that can’t even check in its passengers, I start wondering about competence and airworthiness in the hangars and in the air.

    Np sympathy for AA. They got the use of my money. I got to spend my vacation canceling all my reservations and seeking refunds. If I had known how grossly uncaring they were towards passengers I would have driven.

  34. Chris, I know there are mean FA’s out there, but there’s mean people in every profession. I love my job and it shows. I just don’t get why you’re so full of hate. Maybe you should should just drive..

  35. @clair
    I certainly understand your frustration and I’m critical of AA myself, but I don’t understand how you couldn’t find another flight to MIA from Atlanta as to not ruin your entire vacation? So many different airlines, in addition to other airports (FLL, RSW, PBI)…

  36. Dozens of flights were canceled and nothing else was available–it was spring break and anything that was scheduled and able to take off was sold out.

    We WERE offered to go to Dallas and sit in the terminal to fly standby at 5 am…I looked at my husband in his wheelchair and declined. If we were young and healthy perhaps we would have gambled. On the other hand, standby for two seats rather than one made it a much larger gamble.

    I’m not sure why there is no excess capacity in the system any more, but don’t expect the airlines to be able to accommodate you.

    American couldn’t even find enough staff to fill the 5 stations at the ticketing desk. Most of the time only two people were on duty.

  37. I’m grateful I have no need to get on a plane any time soon and pledge not to till these kind of stories disappear. In the mean time you’ll find me behind the wheel seeing the lesser known parts of the USA…. God bless her! God bless freedom.! Bon Voyage!

  38. Every airline has severe weather days at one or more hubs. And when that happens (once in a while), the entire system becomes overloaded. The number of hotel rooms that are normally perfectly adequate are suddenly overwhelmed. Crew hotel desks that run perfectly 90% of the time are suddenly swamped. United, Southwest, Delta, Spirit, American, Frontier, doesn’t matter. No system is perfect and all continue to try and improve. One thing’s for certain; airline operations are VERY complex on a normal day. The vast majority of the time it runs surprisingly smoothly. I for one am glad planes aren’t allowed to fly thru thunderstorms and hurricanes.
    To “Chris”, American Airlines has 28,000 Flight Attendants – one simply cannot make such absured generalizations about them.
    To “Mets Fan NY” is this site letting Jr.H.S. students make comments here?
    It is frustrating when it happens but please don’t take that frustration out on airline employees or fellow travelers. Roll with it, prepare for it when able, and above all remain dignified!

  39. It’s alarming to read how many psychos walk around free instead of being locked up in an asylum getting heavy duty anger management treatment. It’s simple all you bashers out there: if you have a problem with cabin crew don’t fly, just walk to your destination. Please Do Not drive, because you’ll be jailed for your road rage!

  40. Definitely not the flight attendants fault. It’s from the top down. It’s all management’s fault.

  41. @Michael
    Jailing people for wrongthink? Sounds great!…..Right after they jail people for Burning, Looting and Murdering.

  42. I’m frying AA to Paris next month. Should I be worried? I have taken AA in the past with no issues. I’m using my mileage and got a good deal. Hope all goes well by next month !

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