No Service In First Class: American Airlines Flight Attendants Glued to Phones Amidst Service Slump

United Airlines has been warning flight attendants not to have their face in their phones. It’s bad for customer service, and ostensibly cabin crew are there to be paying attention to safety not Candy Crush.

I have seen no such warning memos from American. I have, however, heard flight attendants talk to each other about performing the minimum required service because of contract negotiations that are dragging on. Southwest flight attendants generally seem happy, despite their contract travails. However at American Airlines this seems common:

When a flight attendant complained to former American Airlines CEO Doug Parker about colleagues who “don’t get [their] face out of your phone” he told the crewmember to “be a little empathetic.”

Six years ago American Airlines ran “Elevate Training” (Elevate the Everyday Experience) for front line employees. It lasted two days and the company selling it says it worked. We haven’t heard anything about recurring service training for employees since then.

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. I find it funny all the flight attendants in the comment. section complaining about not being “paid” to work during boarding. That’s something you need to take up with your Union leaders. They’re the ones who negotiated your contract. The union failed you and will keep failing you.

  2. AA flight attendants glued to their phones is not a new phenomenon. It happened fairly regularly pre-covid but it is worse post-covid. I sit in the bulkhead row of First always for the extra leg room. I have heard AA flight attendants talk to each other pre-flight about they won’t do a pre-flight beverage because they are not paid to do so. I always report this to AA customer service. But to rush through a quick, single offering beverage service so they can spend the rest of the flight looking at their phones or chatting with the other flight attendants is even more infuriating. In one message I sent to customer service, I suggested they send a short questionnaire to every Platinum, Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum, and Concierge Key member after every flight. From that questionnaire AA could find out who the stars are and who needs to be retrained or fired very quickly. Other industries do this all the time. I did note after I sent that suggestion, I started receiving more email questionnaires wanting to know about my flight experience, but it is still less than 25% of the flights I make. AA and the other airlines can cure lousy service if they would simply do so.

  3. The problem is the AWFL and female/rainbow entitlement in general. Until you solve that problem it doesn’t matter what airline you fly.

  4. Im a 34 year flight attendant and I agree about the cell phone use. It is very prevelant with the younger flight attendants. Im old school and didnt grow up like they did with all the tech. I dont even do social media, ZERO. It drives me nuts as well. When I fly lead and I always mention keep eye out for call lights, do your walk thrus. But I fly International mostly and unless we pay for the wifi, we do not have it.

    I would like to address the pre departure beverages. Because it is just as irritating when passengers speak as if they know everything. Unless someone has lived and worked in someones said proffession, you do not know. I dont even know everything and all the nuances about my coworkers in the other work groups. When pre bevs started years ago, we had 8-12 seats in first, less passengers in main cabin and 1 more flight attendant. And a lot less rules, regs and pressure to get the door closed. Today, there are 16-20 seats in first, more main cabin seats, which creates a longer boarding time and they are closing the door 10 mins EARLIER. 1 less flight attendant to get all thiese things done in aboout 25 mins on a narrow body domestic, majority of the domestic flights. 5 flight attendants to 4 is a 20% reduction in man power, 10-15% increase passengers and aboiut 25% shorter boarding time. that the now only 4 have to cover, with more rules and regs and shorter boarding time. Doesnt take a rocket scientist to do the math.
    We are bound by FAA rules, not AAs service design, or personally fined $1500, $2000, Boarding IS the MOST busy and hectic time of the entire trip. Before the door can be closed ALL bins MUST be closed.{FAA} So all those last minute passengers that came on and in the back of the airplane, we are scrambling to get their stuff stowed and bins closed. #1 up front, there are mandatory PAs {FAA} that have to be made at certain times, Did we run out of bag space? Those have to be brought to the front and or checked. Planes are full, It is nonstop line of people. I am not going to squeeze between people and their bags to do beverages, thats an accident waiting to happen on a first class passenger. I CAN NOT stop boarding because if we close past the departure time I am the one that gets a point on my record. too many of those I loose my job. Once the aircraft door is closed, doesnt matter if its 5,10 or 15 mins early, we can no longer serve drinks.(FAA) After the safety demo ALL service items must be picked up (FAA) and FAs must take jumpseats after safety checks(FAA). No one is going to die of thirst or go into withdrawel because they didnt get a pre dep bev. If I can at least get a tray of water and juice out, I DO. much faster than asking 20 people for their order and its SOMETHING and the effort was made. Sadly, some people are petty, entitled and ungrateful. It doesnt matter what you do.

  5. I love how Gary uses AA in his title and then UA in the first sentence of the article. Its the same all thru society, drama, drama, exaggerate, drama. Clearly Gary is biased and there is no such thing as objective news or journalism.

    Unfortunately, people do not know entirely what they are talking about, including Gary and many of the commenters. There are no facts, just smoke up asses and emotions. Although, I am aware that there are some poor fliight attendants, they are being grouped all in one. I could say all FC passengers are entitled, insecure cry babies who need to feel important or all bloggers are misleading, hype writers. It would not be true. There are still people out there with integrity and class. I could explain a lot to you about many of the misconceptions mentioned. But Im sure it would fall on deaf, sexually and status bigoted ears. No one wants to hear the truth, only the parts they exaggreate to make others look bad and make themselves feel superior.

  6. @MaryJo Lucille Favitta, unfortunately those flight attendants glued to their phones get more attention than those flight attendants doing their jobs correctly.

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