Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Congratulations on today’s news that AA will receive Air Transport World’s Airline of the Year Award for 2017. Ironically, this announcement comes directly on the heels of American Airlines finding itself ranked dead last in the Wall Street Journal’s annual scorecard of The Best and Worst Airlines. Interestingly, the Company Jetwire released today announcing the ATW award touts a “practically flawless” integration while delivering profitable returns to shareholders.
While shareholders may have viewed the integration as being flawless, front-line employees and customers have had quite a different perspective. American’s last place showing in almost every category is indicative of something larger than a simple return on investment.
AA Senior Vice President of Customer Experience, Kerry Philipovitch, responded to American’s dismal rankings by saying, “we’ve got to run faster.” Like the proverbial hare that gets beat to the finish line by the tortoise, one must ask if it’s really about running faster or running better. Part of running better, from a labor perspective, is a commitment by management to put an end to the toxic culture, both literally and figuratively, that seems to be perpetuating despite promises made during the merger to put those days behind us.
As you have undoubtedly heard by now, your representative at the wage adjustment arbitration made an off the cuff comment on the record. He claimed that by arguing for a competitive contract based on today’s market rate, APFA is trying to “have its cake and eat it, too.” The offensiveness of this particular turn of phrase is representative of the cultural divide that currently exists between management and front line employees.
To suggest that Flight Attendants are trying to get more than they deserve is to ignore the decade plus of getting far less than we were owed. You know well the extent to which wages were artificially depressed at US Airways before the merger with American. While you may not have taken that carrier into its two bankruptcies, you were certainly around to see the damage it wrought. Flight Attendants of pre-merger American Airlines had a similar experience. Again, you had nothing to do with the 2003 concessions which were designed to keep American out of bankruptcy, nor were you at the helm in 2011 when the company finally filed for Chapter 11 —but you are here now.
You cannot ignore the years of lost wages the most dedicated and longest-serving Flight Attendants at this airline have suffered through. Nor can you pretend not to understand the struggles of our junior Flight Attendants. New hires at this company scrape by paycheck to paycheck. And still, they are at the gate on time, they are energetic, attentive, and smart. They are consummate professionals and the future of our airline. They too, deserve better.
APFA argued in arbitration that the current Delta wages should be included in the calculation for today’s market rate. While it may be a contractual point, it is also a moral one. The arbitrator may well rule in favor of the company and calculate market rate based on outdated Delta pay scales, but it is well within your purview to do better for your employees. I invite you to have a discussion with the Flight Attendants on your next flight. Ask them if they believe they are any less professional than their counterparts at Delta. Ask them if trying to achieve competitive compensation and having a toxic-free environment in which to work, is akin to “having your cake and eating it, too.” I can guarantee that not only will you be met with honesty, but your experience in the cabin will be second to none.
Your employees are running as fast as they can. What they need and deserve is a commitment by management to step up their game and give them the respect, compensation, and resources they need to put the world’s largest and most profitable airline back on top.
Association of Professional Flight Attendants