In the previous six months, American Airlines has dismissed up to 50 flight attendants for failing to arrive at their allocated base airport within two hours of being asked to work a flight from reserve.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents AA’s crew, has alerted its members that the airline is searching flight bookings to establish whether a flight attendant is AWOL.
Newer flight attendants are typically required to work ‘reserve’ duties once a month, when they may be asked to work for a flight with only two hours’ notice due to last-minute modifications or sickness. The issue is that flight attendants do not all live in the same city as their airport base.
When they’re on reserve, these ‘commuters’ are supposed to stay within two hours of their allocated airport, but it appears that some flight attendants are taking a chance and hoping they won’t be called out.
This was a risk worth taking during the early stages of the pandemic, when schedules were reduced and flight attendants were trapped at home, but as demand increased, the chances of being called out on reserve increased dramatically.
In fact, high sickness rates, along with adverse weather and air traffic control delays, have produced a perfect storm, making reserve flight attendants more necessary than ever.
Flight attendants may have a valid reason for failing to arrive at the airport within two hours of being called in some cases. A traffic accident is reasonable, but being stuck at home in a different location makes it hard to get to work on time.
AA is so upset with the amount of no-show reserve flight attendants, according to the union, that supervisors are now investigating every time a trip is missed.
“During this investigation, they will pull all your travel benefits history, including past, current AA listings, travel, and other airlines. They will use other evidence to substantiate their claim that a Flight Attendant was not in a position to report within the contractual timeline,” the union told its members in an internal memo.
Since November 2021, at least 50 flight attendants have been fired for going AWOL on reserve, according to “several” investigations. Flight attendants can be fired for as little as one infraction.
When the industry can’t hire enough staff fast enough, AA is willing to fire flight attendants, which shows how concerned the company is about the issue.