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Business

American Airlines is quietly doing something that may appall customers

Of all the things customers might expect to be happening with an airline right now, this surely isn't one.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on
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Upholding its image?

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At several points of the year, it's been easy -- natural, almost -- to ask oneself a torrid question.

No, not "Can this world survive another year?" Nor even "Will we ever all get along?"

Instead, it's been this: "What on earth is going on inside airlines?"

Too many stories of abject customer despair keep emerging for anyone to think airline managements fully know what they're perpetrating. Or even partly.

Yet two separate elements have fused in my mind to make the question sliver in my entrails yet again.

First, it was this. The Points Guy performed a little experiment where three of its writers flew on three different airlines. In business class.

Liam Spencer flew American Airlines and observed: "I did think the crew could have been a little friendlier."

If they're not friendly in business class, can you imagine what it's like further back? Yet the second element that slid into my soul might offer some sort of counterbalance.

Over the last year or two, I've experienced enormous sympathy for the cabin crew. Passenger behavior has sunk to the depths of baseball bleachers. Flight scheduling is such a painfully humorous affair that unions make films to scoff at it. Tales of flight attendants having to sleep inside airports abound.

How can it be, then, that one reads that American Airlines is apparently firing far more flight attendants than in any normal year?

Here's Paddle Your Own Kanoo echoing the words of the flight attendants' union -- the Association of Professional Flight Attendants -- which says it's never seen such a plethora of flight attendants confronting dismissal.

It appears that American Airlines is being rigid in enforcing rules, in order to maintain some sort of discipline.

Something similar may have been mooted at United Airlines. United was very concerned its flight attendants had crooked ties and non-regulation pants. Which led the flight attendants union to offer the airline some strict truths about such finer elements as the supply chain and, well, the fact that airlines keep on slipping on more bananas.

In American's case, it may seem odd, bordering on pathological, for an airline to be firing staff when -- as all airlines have -- it offers short-staffing as one of the reasons for flight cancellations.

It may seem extremely odd that an airline would be firing more of its customer-facing staff at the very time customers would love to be faced with any kind of service at all.

It may well be, though, that American hired too quickly, without sufficient diligence concerning the people they were hiring. After all, the airline let a lot of experienced flight attendants leave and, again along with other airlines, suddenly hired less experienced staff. (Or those with no experience at all.)

It may also be that passengers increasingly complained about certain aspects of American's service and this is the airline's reaction -- one that would please those passengers.

Then again, maybe American sees a downturn approaching and is preparing the way.

Naturally, I asked American and the flight attendants' union for their views. I'll update, should either choose to fire back.

The driest of countenance might observe that if you're firing those who are among the lowest paid in your company, there might -- just might -- be something imperfect about not only your hiring practices, but your training abilities.

I wouldn't dream of suggesting that.

I'll just remind those who may have forgotten that American's tagline is: "Caring for people along life's journey."

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