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.