Former American Airlines Flight Attendants Union Head Found To Have Misappropriated Funds

Former American Airlines flight attendants union head Bob Ross has been barred from serving in any leadership position of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants for life by an arbitrator for misappropriating member dues. Ross was President of the union from April 2016 until March 2018.

The detail in the complaint and arbitration decision are shockingly egregious (.pdf). The allegations included that he,

  • put $3600 of personal furniture on the union credit card, and even charged “thousands” on personal items like bedding and toilet paper.

  • billed $6200 for a rental car to the union while living near union headquarters and not entitled to a car.

  • claimed mileage reimbursement even while the union was paying for his rental car.

  • charged “thousands of dollars of unauthorized meals to his APFA credit card” and “thousands for maintaining an office he was not entitled to.”

It appears that Ross’ defense to using the credit card for personal purchases was (1) that the expenses were approved (effectively, by his subordinates in the union) and (2) that the people complaining didn’t audit the credit card charges of other past union presidents (in effect, I suppose, ‘everybody does it’).

Receipts were submitted for each credit card charge and reviewed per policy by the appropriate accounting and legal departments. Plaintiff admitted they did not review any other administrations union credit card charges for similar purchases or past practice or for expenses when said officers relocated to DFW.

And he says that no one can prove the mileage reimbursements he took were for the rental car he had, as opposed to for driving his personal car and that the policy the union had on meal reimbursements was unclear (“APFA also had no policy in place until 2021, for a National Officer in relation to one’s union credit card practice” so more or less anything goes though it seems like this position would entail problems with the IRS).

The arbitrator’s findings are damning. For instance,

It appears APFA paid for Ross’s family vacation in the Grand Canyon with Defendant Ross’ APFA credit card. The cost of this vacation to include meals and hotels should be borne by Defendant Ross. This is an abuse of Ross’s fiduciary duty to the APFA membership. This is a per se violation of the Policy Manual.

The arbitrator found that he took mileage reimbursement and gas reimbursement on the same day, paid for personal meals with his union credit card on the same day he also too meal per diems, and that the rental car – paid to be upgraded to the luxury category – was against union bylaws. And the arbitrator found that when Ross moved to Dallas to become union President he both took a moving allowance (to move into a new home) and had the union lease him an apartment even though he was only entitled to one or the other.

Thus, it is the arbitrator’s Opinion, that Defendant Ross abused his Fiduciary duty to the membership of the APFA and should be assessed the cost of leasing that apartment in the amount of $8,106.13

…The arbitrator finds that throughout this proceeding, Defendant Ross intentionally and willfully ignored the provisions of the APFA Policy Manual and thus, has violated and abused his fiduciary duty entrusted to him by the APFA membership. Ross’s testimony was inconsistent and not forthright. Because Ross abused his position of trust as well as his fiduciary duty to the membership of the APFA, he can no longer hold a position of trust with the APFA.

The union, for its part, promises reforms. Before the pandemic thought it was rife with infighting and then failed to speak up for flight attendants as the company furloughed them during Covid. They’ve had financial challenges and it’s easy to see why.

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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  1. This is one reason why unions all get a bad reputation. I was president of a nurses union in San Diego and represented 3500 nurses. I can assure you our nurses came first . I received $500 per month plus expenses but honesty always came first. He should repay what is owed. He obviously was greedy and lacked the integrity needed for the position.

  2. Corruption? In union leadership? Shocking!

    Unions (in the U.S. sense of collective bargaining organizations) outlived whatever usefulness they may have had at least half a century ago, perhaps a full century ago. Except, of course, to the union leadership and their political cronies. Collecting dues from employees to cover their salaries and expenses and fund the campaigns of their cronies who keep them in power is quite useful to them, of course. Especially in the states where said cronies have passed laws allowing them to collect dues as a condition of employment even for people who don’t even want to be in the union.

    “Collective bargaining” (a.k.a. market collusion) is illegal for everyone except unions and for good reason. It’s long past time to make it illegal for them, too.

  3. Inquiring minds what to know. What is his position on face masks? Does he know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa? He should be happy. At least they didn’t “disappear” him….yet.

  4. This is why people are losing faith in our institutions, from unions to churches to universities to government to corporations to not-for-profits – too many times, those in charge of the institutions are thinking personal gain rather than of themselves as custodians. This crosses party lines, and only by a reviving trust in our intuitions, can we see a reversal in the general decline of faith in America. Millions would follow someone willing to clean out the rot, not just say they will, which is one of the reasons Trump resonated, though he was just as corrupt as those he claimed to be against. Turns out too many are invested in the rot.

  5. Yaaawwwwnnnn. That’s a Tuesday here in Chicago. Need to add some zeros to those figures to get our attention

  6. While I most always take issue with your position, especially when it comes to American and it’s employees, your overall assessment of this situation is quite accurate.

    In the end there are no clear winners. There are ( more) deep riffs now formed in our ranks, a reactive policy change that promises to fix nothing , and members questioning the relevance of not just our union, but any union.

  7. Sounds like Mr. Ross is CEO material. In that position he won’t even be investigated and will receive a massive severance payment no matter his conduct or reason for separation.

  8. Vb script’s obviously never worked for an airline or belonged to a union. He is totally wrong in his assumptions on collective bargaining. At an airline we work under the railway labor act which works rules and conditions he is totally unaware of.

  9. All airline unions need to be busted!!! This isn’t 1936 anymore!!! Hopefully this man FACES criminal prosecution for fraud!

  10. It is like the old saying “The fox is guarding the hen house”. This union should have some cost controls in place. Maybe the board of directors should approve expenditures over $100.

  11. @vbscript2 perfectly said.. Everytime I hear Unions the first thing that comes to my mind is ‘Chavistas’, the second is how sad that Airlines of the middle east, being countries way less developed than the US in almost every aspect, have those wonderful airlines with such great passionate customer service driven crews.

  12. WOW! It’s so shocking that a flight attendant would end up being a POS crook who feels entitled.

  13. So sad and embarrassing! Glad he was caught, but does he have any idea of the damage he has done in trusting our union or any other union?!! God will punish him too!

  14. Nothing new for this crew. Corruption and favoritism have been ingrained in this bunch for years. Recently, the so called “leadership” helped themselves to thousand dollars of union dues money to all but bankrupt the union. It is interesting no mention made of restitution nor any further action to “peel back the onion” on what has been going on for years at this level.

  15. So glad to see some justice for the the hard orking F/As of AA! These problems are industry wide, unfortunately.. Thanks for covering this!

  16. Bob Ross is not the only one who was charged for misappropriation and barred from serving for life, Eugenio Vargas, the National Treasurer for the Ross administration was too. Next person to have their hearing is Nena Martin who was the Vice President which is in early May.

    Maybe you need a follow up article!

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