American Airlines is having difficulty finding large enough hotels in London that are both capable and willing to house its pilots and flight attendants.
According to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents AA crew members, the airline now has flight attendants spread out over six hotels, with a seventh possibly being added when more rooms are needed during the busy summer season.
Unfortunately, not all of the hotels meet the APFA’s criteria, and both the union and the airline have seen an increase in complaints from flight attendants regarding the accommodations currently available in London.
During the pandemic, a longtime crew hotel shut down, causing problems. That wasn’t a problem at first, but as foreign travel demand increased at an incredible rate, American Airlines found itself unable to find hotels in the city that fulfilled airline customer needs.
The union claims in an internal statement that the hotel business “had suffered many barriers and challenges” during the pandemic, and that many were no longer able or willing to take on large flight crew lodging contracts.
American Airlines had such a significant presence in London before the epidemic that it used two distinct hotels, but now flight attendants and pilots are split out over six different locations.
American Airlines now operates 21 flights per day to London from eight different US locations. The fact that London is a “difficult and cumbersome international layover market,” according to the union, aggravates the situation.
Many multinational airlines with a significant presence in London avoid the complexity of the London hotel market by choosing airport hotels that are better equipped to deal with airline passengers.
Each year, American Airlines undertakes the “staggering” task of arranging 2.5 million hotel room nights for its flight attendants and pilots around the world. The airline spends over $350 million per year on hotel rooms, but lucrative contracts can only be given to hotels that match particular criteria.
These include rooms on at least the second floor with doors that open into a safe hallway, away from lifts and other sources of noise.