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Monday, September 26, 2022

Is American Airlines only concern maximizing the number of cabin crew work hours?

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The airline’s official flight attendant union has criticized the carrier in a new labor dispute over working hours, saying that American Airlines isn’t “interested in caring for its employees” and that its main priority is increasing the number of hours flight attendants work.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) asserts that management at the Dallas–Fort Worth-based airline is “stuffing as much time” into flight attendant rosters as possible with “zero consideration” for the crew members’ wellbeing.

The union claims that American Airlines builds its flight attendant “trip sequences” in such a “poorly designed” manner that they are unable to survive regular weather problems or air traffic control delays. This is where the trouble lies.

Trip sequences are a list of flights that a flight attendant is scheduled to work over a specific number of days. A flight attendant’s major delay on one trip will carry over to the next flight they are scheduled to work, which might have catastrophic consequences for the rest of the day.

The union asserts that AA is only adding additional flight attendants to reserve duty so that they can be called from standby to fill in the gaps in problematic trip sequences rather than addressing the “core problems.”

“The sheer number of Reserve Flight Attendants used to complete these fragile sequences is shocking,” the union complained in a recent memo, saying the airline was “blatantly ignoring” its suggestions to make the operation more resilient.

Due to AA’s seniority-based structure, more senior ‘line holders’ are given trip sequences, and junior flight attendants are put on reserve. While line holders are being required to work longer hours, junior flight attendants are faced with continual reserve responsibilities.

“Our concerns and logical arguments fall on deaf ears, especially with the allocations department,” the union told flight attendants in a recent memo.

“Blatantly ignoring APFA’s input every month, the allocations department continues to build sequences that cannot withstand weather and air traffic delays”.

However, American Airlines claims that for the second quarter of 2022, both its on-time arrival rate and flight completion factor were higher than they were for the corresponding period in 2019. The airline has added that despite extremely difficult circumstances, it is still able to maintain “a reliable operation.”

Many of the problems facing the aviation sector this summer have been attributed to bad weather and air traffic control, but labor shortages have also played a role, particularly when airlines have struggled to rapidly resume operations following a period of disruption.

American Airlines has been contacted for comment.

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