How American Airlines Is Convincing Flight Attendants To Offer Predeparture Beverages

For at least five years American Airlines has been saying that the two things that drive premium passenger satisfaction with cabin crew are being addressed by name, and being served a predeparture beverage.

Getting flight attendants to serve predeparture beverages has been an ongoing challenge at American. Here was their reminder to crew back in 2015:

At the same time, flight attendants feel they aren’t being paid until the flight leaves, so some are resistant to doing ‘extra work’ during boarding. Flights are often miscatered or catered late, making it difficult to provide predeparture beverages. And the airline has privileged exact on-time departures over everything else – flight attendants are reluctant to be in the aisle during boarding, which can slow down departures.

Against this backdrop the airline is making another run at pushing flight attendants to do predeparture beverage service up front, and to address customers by name. This time they’re using fortune cookies to deliver the message.

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. Do they want them to serve drinks, risk D0, but don’t want to pay them during boarding. Why, again?

  2. I don’t care if they address me by name or if they offer a beverage when I board. I just want a comfortable seat.

  3. Sat on the ground at the gate for 90 mins yesterday while mechanics were checking something. FA’s couldn’t even be bothered to offer us a glass of water.

    I get that a 4 hour flight to the Caribbean isn’t “Flagship” but they still brand it as int’l business class. PDB should have happened, and zero excuses for the FA to be hiding in the galley and not offer a single thing during a 90 min delay.

  4. LTPlat here … One day, they may figure it out. Until then, when I buy First, I do so on United, Alaska, and Delta for the full First class experience. I’m sorry over their issues….AA has become my airline of last resort.

  5. Sometimes there are more important issues than serving drinks an unwatched TikTok video, complaining to a coworker about “the company,” hating life.

    Why bother serving drinks? You’ve been ‘”on the line” for 315 years and have only contempt for passengers, so what’s the point? Time to check Snapchat again.

    Being a flight attendant is not indentured servitude. The lack of pay for boarding isn’t new. The working conditions, decades on reserve, lousy pay, and strict expectations shouldn’t be a surprise.

    I doubt that many of these safety professionals could evacuate a plane in 90 seconds with half of the exits blocked. If getting ginger ale out of a bar cart is so taxing, imagine how hard it would be to open a door, inflate a slide, or put out a fire. There’s so much more to see on Instagram than dealing with a burning airplane. They’d probably file a grievance with the union that the plane caught on fire rather than getting the passengers out safely.

  6. I’ve been flying AA every week over the last couple of months and have noticed a consistent uptick in both pre-departure beverage offerings and name usage (pretty much on every flight- even eagle flights). To me, it does make a difference as I feel more valued as a customer- it’s the little things…

  7. Why are they offering food and beverages on short flights anyway???? The carts clog the isle and kids act like it’s a buffet. Beverages should be given before the flights depart and all beverages should be paid for and ordered by a screen. Nothing is more frustrating than customers bad attitudes during meal service. peanuts and snacks should be given at the Gate. Some people act like the only reason they fly is to get the little package of nuts and crackers.

  8. I would much rather see a focus on timely departure and arrival; safe, dependable luggage handling; and aircraft that are maintained so that the flight is not disrupted.

  9. Firsthand experience yesterday:

    PNS – DFW – the first class attendant did pre-departure beverages, returned three times during the flight to offer additional beverages, snd did the snacks at least 3 times.

    He also had to to thank the medal-of-honor recipient sitting next to me.

    DFW – DEN – The flight attendant (also male, also in first, on a flight of the same time/length) specifically did not offer pre-departure bevetage as there was a very very small departure delay (even though he stood there being terribly unoccupied), and then he did ONE beverage service on the whole flight.

    Inconsistency- that is the AA guarantee.

  10. While i hate that FAs have to do extra work during boarding, the other airlines are doing predeparture beverages and more so they unfortunately don’t have a leg to stand on.

  11. I agree that PDB in premium cabins makes for better customer approval ratings . PDB is part of the premium cabin service offering and experience. With summer and high temperatures upon us , a cup of water is often appreciated – especially if “running” for a connection.

    I just flew 2 early morning 6-7 am flights with UA in F and the FA offered orange juice or water – that was just fine with me. I didn’t see anyone request anything else so not sure what the reaction may have been .

  12. Been having foo good luck with PDB recently. Have never been addressed by name on AA (or any other American airline), which is fine because I generally find it creepy and insincere.

    Perhaps if they served beverages in glasses printed with a wrap-around credit card advertisement?

  13. My name is not easy to pronounce correctly. Moreso I prefer to stay anonymous on a vehicle of public transportation shared with a hundred-plus strangers.

    That a PDB or whatever contrived acronym increases customer satisfaction is meaningless. Whether or not a customer checks the “satisfied” box on some dumb survey has nothing to do with whether or not they keep coming back to the airline and increasing PRASM. That is all that matters to shareholders.

  14. As a Flight Attendant for AA, I can tell you it’s not that we do not want to do it!
    Years ago, when F/C cabins were small, 12 paxs and adequately staffed, it was possible.
    Now, “business class” consists of anywhere from. 18 seats to 38 or more!
    The airline wants on time departures.
    No holding up the boarding process to serve drinks!
    Coach passengers passing g through business class cabins with over-sized bags.
    Hitting F/A’s carrying pre-departure drinks.
    Also, years ago, “first” was boarded early.

  15. Why do the offer Beverage service at all, seems like waste of resources.

  16. . A large percentage of you obviously aren’t thirsty anyway , getting the PF drink is clearly a head trip for you. You ask for and are provided with the drink of your choice and 30 minutes later when it’s time to begin push back the cup is still full of liquid and you then give the flight attendant the stink eye for trying to pick it up(which she is required to do).

  17. If the FA do not like not being paid for departure the go bitch to their union that they pay dues to. If the do not like doing their job with PFD then get a job as a Walmart greeter

  18. Flew AA Flight 137 LHR – LAX today (March 21) in Flagship Business and FA’s did not offer a pre-departure beverage. I always enjoy the glass of champagne/sparkling wine as it’s a nice way to start the flight- finally heading home after a week of meetings – so it was quite disappointing. The flight boarded early and left the gate early, so there was plenty of time. Front aisles were empty while passengers in back got settled, so they could have easily served a beverage. I expect that is part of the service I’m paying for when flying Flagship Business, so it was quite disappointing.

  19. It’s not as simple as entitled people want to make it seem.
    The FAA wants fas to focus and safety above all during boarding. Pay attention to what the passengers are bringing onto the aircraft. But the airline and passenger don’t really care about that. They would rather you trample over the boarding passengers to get you some drink they probably had 3 of already at the lounge. That’s the one thing that should have never returned on any airline after the pandemic. A drink before a flight takes off is not going to make any difference one way or the other how the flight goes. All these first class passengers who earn top pay at their jobs would never work for free but would want someone else to do the same.

  20. American airlines business class is a joke. Worst service I have ever had. Flew from Ixtapa to Phoenix. Only offered one drink and a lousy box lunch of warm cheese. Also, one broken bathroom so everyone used first class toilet. And no ice on board! Contacted AA and they offer us nothing. Not even an apology.

  21. @MARK that still does not explain how your colleague was able to deliver pre-departure beverage to everyone on CLT-LGA, while you are feigning excuses. Blaming the system for upgrades is not an excuse to not provide proper service. If that’s the case, go work for Singapore Airlines.

  22. If AA staff aren’t being paid for the time they spend waiting for the flight, and all time on board, then this is just a sign that AA of a very unhealthy employer-employee relationship. In other industries where employers are reluctant to pay their employees properly, Americans support them by tipping staff. Perhaps an outbreak of tipping cabin crew may sort out AA management?

  23. My home airport is SFO, so I graduated from Continental to United with an occasional trip to MSP or ATL on Delta over the years. I’ve never had to fly American, but it sounds just awful. On the pre-departure beverages, an airline needs to make up its mind yes or no. The FAs need to serve PDB or not serve PDB. Every flight. On some airlines, FAs come by with a tray of champagne and orange juice. One FA can take care of the whole cabin very quickly. What’s the problem? One must conclude that the FAs run the airline and do what they please. This is not good for anyone. Most of the FAs I encounter really care about their jobs and want their pax to be happy … guess I’m lucky not to fly American.

  24. Damn… wasted 10 min of my life reading this article and comments. I need to unsubscribe

  25. Hey Mark, some of us would rather have less cheap fares and have PDB.

    Yes, I usually bring on my own, but since I’m flying more on other airlines lately, strangely haven’t needed to. It saves me time, and yes, it’s appreciated.

    And if other airlines are doing this, yah, you don’t have a leg to stand on. Sorry!

  26. How about “your job is to serve the drink. Do it or we’ll fire you?”

    Stop coddling the lazy sky waitresses.

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