American Airlines flight attendants have been selling their seniority to more junior crewmembers for cash. They book trips that they do not intend to take – more desirable trips than what the junior cabin crew could secure on their own – and then they ‘trip trade’.
Flight attendants who do this at American Airlines – mostly legacy US Airways crew – are known informally as “The Cartel.” I shared the note that the flight attendants union sent out, highlighting the practice. American Airlines sent out a warning as well.
All BOS, LGA, PHL and DCA flight attendants
It’s been a while since we last communicated about fairness in bidding and trip trading, and unfortunately, we continue to receive reports about some flight attendants gaming the system. Whether you know them as “the cartel” or by other names, their alleged activity, when proven true, violates not only our policies but also the spirit of fairness with which our systems were designed.
While it’s disappointing that some of your co-workers choose to manipulate our systems for personal gain, we also know the vast majority of you play by the rules. Moving forward, our IT teams will pull reports from FOS and other systems to analyze suspicious bidding and trading activities. Additionally, leaders at each base will follow up when they’re alerted to alleged improprieties – either flagged via our automated systems or when crew members bring them to our attention. We will conduct formal investigations, including interviewing involved flight attendants. Our findings may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment in cases where we determine someone violated our policies. Simply put, if it’s proven you’re abusing our systems, the consequences would most likely be career-ending.
PBS, TTS/UBL, ETB and ROTA were all designed with fairness and flexibility in mind. We expect all crew members to use them in the spirit they’re intended. As we kick off 2022, we want to say “thanks” for all you do every day, on every flight, for caring for each other and our customers on their journey.
Crew have been warned like this in the past, and little has come of it. However it’s become pretty clear at the company who is doing it. One observer shares with me, “[I]t was much more obvious in the Northeast cities because their trips are crappy at baseline, and ultra junior [flight attendants] were getting” Tel Aviv, Delhi, Zurich, London Heathrow (especially “from Boston”) and South America routes.
When a junior employee based out of a city with little long haul flying consistently gets trips to the airline’s most desirable destinations that looks suspicious. And when these trips are consistently being given up by the same senior crew month after month, and picked up by the same set of junior crew, it isn’t hard to sort through what’s going on – once they start looking for it.
One interesting aspect of this imbroglio is that it points out how much value there is in seniority. It’s only natural for some employees to seek to monetize that. It makes explicit how much those without seniority are losing out on, making it difficult for unions to maintain cohesion. At some level you might expect this to benefit American Airlines in the long run, except that they likely want the union’s rank and file to vote in lock step for whatever contract is agreed to in current negotiations.