The Biggest Challenge American Airlines Faces Delivering On Its Clean Commitment

For several years American Airlines has had a laser focus on ‘D0’ exact on-time departures. It hasn’t made them an on-time airline, but they’ve sacrificed cleaning, processing upgrades and standbys at the gate, and wouldn’t hold even the last flight of the day for connecting passengers.

Gate agents, used to getting called in for missing D0, and used to managers yelling at them as they try to get flights out, haven’t fully adapted to the need to prioritize aircraft cleaning in the Covid era on just pushing the aircraft back on time. Before the pandemic sacrificing cleaning to get planes out was the airline’s explicit policy.

During this past week’s employee Crew News session with flight attendants, one cabin crew member shared with management that she was working a flight where the aircraft was late coming in, and the cleaners were given just 5 minutes to work on the aircraft before the next flight.

As a result they weren’t able to completely clean the aircraft before the gate agent announced that cleaners had to get off the plane so that it could depart on time.

Chief Operating Officer David Seymour made clear that the priority has changed,

Unfortunately we heard a similar question at the last Crew News. We’re committed to the Clean Commitment. That’s not just a name out there. We are committed to that, committed to doing it right…

If the plane arrives late, we still have required things that we need to do of which cleaning is a very important thing. And if you as a flight attendant don’t think the airplane is clean enough you should have the right to say ‘no we’re not boarding the airplane until the plane gets clean.’

Whether it’s on time or not the point is we have more of a commitment to have a clean airplane safe for not only our team members but also our passengers and we can’t sacrifice that.

Then Brady Byrnes, Managing Director of Flight Service Training, added,

Please please please write this up…We will action them.

Interestingly enough I just received a note the other day from a flight attendant out of San Francisco. We quickly forwarded it on to the appropriate people and they were able to address the situation and there was one particular person who wasn’t necessarily quite up to speed on our commitment to the Clean Commitment.

It’s understandable that American Airlines employees aren’t up to speed that anything is allowed to trump D0, because they’ve heard for so long that nothing is, and not all supervisors get it either. But it’s good to hear it from the top, and hopefully word will trickle out across the airline’s stations. The legacy of D0 über alles has been perhaps the major barrier to actually implementing the cleaning that American Airlines promises.

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. @ Gary — This is ridiculous. How could COVID not trump everything? Have these people been living under a rock for the past year?

  2. @ Gene — I’m truly tempted to say, “Well, COVID eve trumped Trump,” but I’d prefer to keep this as non-political as possible.

    @ Gary — AA remains the gang that can’t shoot straight…unless its straight down into their foot! OF COURSE, cleaning *has* to take priority over everything, but they seem to be able to focus on only one thing at a time, rather than a prioritized list of things. And with the proverbial fear of god drilled into them re: D0… Let’s just say nothing about American surprises me anymore — just like any fees that Spirit charges no longer surprises me.

  3. As someone who flew AA over 160 times in 2020 and missed connections in order to have the aircraft cleaned and “disinfected” first, I could care less about their “clean commitment.”

  4. American never cared about COVID-19. Delta is still doing on-board social distancing.

    I really don’t know who are the people who must fly who end up choosing American Airlines. it’s nothing more than a COVID-19 spreading machine, who takes in ad distributes new mutations all across the USA.

  5. The entire “Clean Committment”’ is a farce. American wouldn’t know what a thorough cabin clean looked like if it bit them in the arse.

    I have 16 segments under my belt since last fall. The number of times I’ve found trash in my seat back pocket, or a mysteriously stick tray table (in First) doesn’t warrant thinking about.

    This “Clean Commitment”’ nonsense is pure marketing spin. You may as well lick the bathroom floor.

  6. American Airlines Covid cleaning protocols are bogus. AA claim to super clean the plane between every flight and what REALLY happens is that they give every customer a cleaning wipe on boarding to clean their tray and seat area. Genius I guess…

  7. In reality, the “Clean Commitment” is a marketing campaign meant to make fearful people less fearful. The reality is that cleaning is essentially irrelevant to Covid: it’s been long established to be an airborne virus and not one you acquire by touching contaminated surfaces. This is very good for travellers since, candidly, if it were otherwise, travel wouldn’t be very safe.

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