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The Chicago Business Journal has reported that American Airlines is adding ‘service analysts’ to some of its flights as the airline desperately tries to find ways to get flight attendants to offer customers a reasonable level of service. Unsurprisingly, some within the flight attendant pool are less than happy about this.
One of the primary reasons why service aboard airlines like American and United is so much worse than service on a lot of other leading airlines is because there isn’t any real management onboard once the aircraft doors are closed.
Airlines like Qatar Airways have cabin managers onboard most of their flights and even British Airways has pursers and Cabin Service Directors who have actual authority and seniority over the rest of the cabin crew…but this isn’t how it works here in the US.
Here in the US there may be cabin crew with different job titles operating within the one aircraft (e.g you’ll find pursers onboard some American Airlines flights) but none of them actually hold any sway over the level of service being offered onboard.
If one or more flight attendants on any given American Airlines flight are poor at their job passengers have to rely on the better flight attendants on that flight to make up for their colleague(s) or, more often than not, simply put up with an unacceptable level of service.
Now it would appear that American Airlines would like to do something about this.
According to the CBJ:
Sources within the ranks of American’s 27,000-plus flight attendants have reported working alongside a member of AA’s management team called a “service analyst” on flights in recent days. The job title is a new one to many veteran flight attendants at American.
The world’s largest carrier appears to be concerned that frequent customers may be experiencing very different levels of service from flight to flight depending on the experience of the crew on board — something that could affect customers’ decisions about whether to keep flying American.
Up until recently I was a frequent flyer with American Airlines and I can tell you that the airline is right to be concerned…and it should be VERY concerned.
It’s not just that the level of service differs from flight to flight it’s the fact that, in my experience, there are far more flights being operated on which the service is poor, bad or terrible than there are flights on which service can be considered good or great.
Now here’s the thing….
The good and great flight attendants that American Airlines employs are not the vocal ones….the vocal ones are the lazy and rude brigade and this is almost certainly the group that are now complaining about the presence of ‘service analysts’ onboard.
According to the CBJ “the appearance of the new service analyst on flights has rankled veteran American flight attendants who feel their presence is yet another way management is checking up on them”
Why shouldn’t an employer check up on its workforce? What good employer offers no oversight of its employees while they perform their duties? In what other serious work environment (which an aircraft certainly is) is there no manager or supervisor present?
We’re constantly being told how vital the work of flight attendants is in keeping us all safe so, assuming that is true, why is it such a terrible idea to have some oversight onboard?
It’s not even like these service analysts have any power – all they can do is report back what they see to management as the unions won’t allow anything else – but apparently this is all too much for some flight attendants.
According to the CBJ, American Airlines is concerned that some of their newer flight attendants aren’t following all of the service procedures listed in the airline’s “Onboard Service Manual” and this is why there’s such a disparity in service between flights…but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There may well be an issue with new recruits not doing their jobs to the specifications provided but there’s just as big an issue with some long-standing employees being truly awful at their job too.
Apparently “flight attendant sources” have told the CBJ that because of how flight attendant seniority rules work (the longer you’ve been in the job the more choice you have what routes you fly) there are a number of flights (presumably on the less glamorous routes) which are now entirely crewed by new flight attendants and that this is why some flights offer such poor service.
Let’s assume for a moment that this is the only reason why some American Airlines flights offer a stunningly appalling level of service (it isn’t)….what’s the obvious solution?
The obvious solution would be to ensure that all flights have an appropriate mix of new and experienced flight attendants to make sure that the service offered is as uniform as possible across the board…..but there is no way the flight attendants will ever allow this to happen.
In order for aircraft to be crewed this way the flight attendant seniority rules would have to be changed and there will be snow in hell and pigs requesting landing permission at LAX before flight attendants accept any such changes.
We’re left with a position where “flight attendant sources” are telling us what they think the issue is….but it’s an issue whose solution will never be accepted by flight attendants as a whole…it’s ridiculous!
Service onboard will never get better at airlines like American and United because there’s absolutely no incentive for flight attendants to do anything about it.
There’s no management onboard, the bad flight attendants complain when management attempts to do a review of what’s going wrong onboard, the great flight attendants aren’t given any extra recognition because this isn’t a meritocracy (and the unions won’t allow a meritocracy to be put in place) and there’s little or nothing management can do to get rid of the deadwood that pervades so many of its flights.
Service levels at American Airlines are not going to change because they can’t change in the current environment and that environment can’t be changed either….I almost feel sorry for American airlines.