United Airlines Gives Flight Attendants Ultimatum: Quit Playing With Your Phones Or You’re Fired

United Airlines is cracking down on flight attendants glued to their phones, ignoring customers, and they’re threatening to fire anyone ignoring their duties in this way.

Being a flight attendant is a challenging lifestyle that many people aren’t up to. Passengers don’t often see the shifting schedules, repetitive tasks, low pay and challenging customers they have to deal with. Some though are known for sitting in the galley reading People magazine.

United Airlines is taking a hard stand against flight attendants using their personal devices while in their jump seat (though not against reading People).

A memo went out to employees that was first reported by Live And Let’s Fly outlining the requirement that they provide “visible and attentive service to customers” which can’t be done while using personal devices on board. And since flight attendants are required to be on board by the FAA for safety, United reminds them that they could miss security incidents or safety risks while doing so.

Flight attendants are, of course, encouraged to use their company-provided devices for delivering customized service to passengers and to communicate with other employees about critical flight issues.

Customers look to flight attendants for great service. How comfortable would you be asking someone for help if they were engrossed in their cell phone? What impression would that give you?…Even in public, you should always remain approachable in uniform and display courtesy to customers and other employees.

…Use of a personal electronic device and/or accessories is not permitted while customers are on board the aircraft, with the exception of crew rest. …Any crewmember found in violation will be subject to performance discipline up to and including termination.

Generally Delta and Southwest flight attendants seem friendly and happy – more so than cabin crew at American and United. Most United cabin crew don’t just sit on the galley floor watching videos while denying drinks to passengers, but they aren’t providing the level of service the airline would like to see. And they’ve been on a journey to try to shift that.

Disciplining crew who don’t follow the airline’s policies is the flip side of efforts to date, and make sense since the CEO believes the industry is 10% overstaffed. Crew have already been warned by their union that failure to follow procedures – something many may wish to do during tumultuous contract negotiations – could get them fired as well.

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 article has sadly had horrible consequences. My partner is a flight attendant at UA and yesterday had a passenger tell her off for being on her company approved device (LINK) with the pax threatening to write her up even telling her they know they can get her fired. Pax do not know whether and phone is a company device or not and there are now posts in FA groups about FAs being written up (and now could be fired) because pax think they are on their mobile when they are really using their company approved device. This post is just leading to more abuse and intimidation towards flight attendants and should be removed.

  2. Passengers do not know the difference between our Links and our personal cell phones. Furthermore, during boarding all of our duties are unpaid and we are required to use the Link for seat duplications, to chat with the CSR regarding available space for luggage, items not boarded by catering that we need for service. Passengers wanting to change and upgrade their seat and did I mention that all of this was the most stressful part of our jobs and it is unpaid. When we are on cellphones during the flight it is often to charge passengers for alcoholic beverages, upgrades, medical emergencies, or other required duties.
    We are not 10% overstaffed; if anything we could use an additional flight attendant for service enhancement or change the service guidelines to allow the galley flight attendants to work the galley exclusively.

  3. Lazy coke machines defending being lazy coke machines. If you weren’t messing around in your personal cell phones so often this wouldn’t be an issue. The sooner some of you get fired the sooner we’ll start getting some proper service again.

    Now get me a sandwich.

  4. Tim – it’s HIPAA. And that isn’t what it says or is for. You can absolutely be fired in the situation described, and your false ‘HIPPA’
    Claim just makes it easier.

  5. Frank
    That’s a little brutal. We just need more definitive procedures for the cabin crew. I also think passengers should have the guts to speak to the crew when they see obvious violations.

  6. How about labeling the company phone with a white piece of tape with UAL / CUSTOMER SERVICE in red block letters ? Perhaps that would cut down on the threat and confusion. Also include the CUSTOMER SERVICE direct mobile line during the announcement.

  7. It’s time that Flight Attendants stand together and stand up to the constant mismanagement, and harassment within the industry. We need to demand pay for all hours worked. It’s a degradation of the dignity of the working class when these companies are generating profits by not paying workers for all hours worked! Time to take a stand and put an end to these practices

  8. If you did your job instead of antagonizing the passengers that pay your salary perhaps there would be more empathy for your position. That being said I do agree you should be paid for all hours worked. That should include both boarding and disembarking. How some of the airlines get away without paying for this time is truly unconscionable.

  9. Stupid. Just get a smartwatch. Their company issues devices look like smartphones anyway.

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