American Airlines flight attendants just requested 2 small changes. Here’s why they matter


It’s also a question of loyalty: how to demonstrate it to employees, in the hope that they will also be more loyal to you.

Personally, I can’t imagine being a flight attendant. I’d be horrible at work at the best of times – but mostly, right now, it doesn’t matter which airline we’re talking about.

Every day there is another new story of bad passenger behavior. Even as I wrote this article, we had news of several new incidents:

  • An American Airlines flight to London had to turn around and return to Miami because of “a disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement,” according to the airline.
  • A United Airlines flight to Tel Aviv has turned around and returned to New York after two economy class passengers allegedly “ self-upgraded” (there’s an understatement for you) to business class and refused to return to their seats.
  • A Delta Air Lines passenger has been arrested after allegedly being disruptive, including refusing to wear a mask despite “being questioned dozens of times,” and after (again, allegedly) “dropping his pants and pennies. -clothes and exposed his buttocks” to the flight crew.

Yeah. I don’t know about you, but that kind of stuff doesn’t happen at my job. At the same time, American Airlines and its competitors are trying to hire thousands more flight attendants, to support expanded schedules and post-Covid opportunities.

Against all that, we heard this week from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents 25,000 American Airlines flight attendants. They have a proposal – in the words of the union, “a temporary reduction in onboard service levels and customer touch points”.

Specifically, they want two small changes – things that might seem minor and technical to some people, but are apparently important enough that the union’s national president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer all signed the message. offering them:

  • the right to “starters with salad/soup/appetizers in premium cabins when possible”, and
  • the possibility of reducing “beverage services in the main cabin on domestic and IPD flights”. (“IPD” stands for “premium international destinations”.)

I love a free drink on a plane so much when I travel by coach, but I can’t imagine too many passengers choosing another airline over American Airlines because of one less Diet Coke, or because the soup comes with the starter.

That said, this proposal, which has been covered by most of the airline industry media, is a perfect example of why I think airlines are the only industry people should follow, no matter or their activity.

It’s like an endless parade of business school case studies, presented by publicly traded commodity companies that face the same problems as other industries, but have to perform on stage in front of thousands analysts, journalists and deeply interested customers.

I write about this, along with many other examples, in my free ebook, Fly business class. Here I think the lesson for other business owners is to stop and think about small, inexpensive or even revenue-neutral changes that you might be able to make that would make life a little easier for your employees.

Of course, we assume that you already pay fair rates and treat people with respect, but ideas that smart employers could employ include:

  • Give employees the option to be paid more frequently, if they wish.
  • Offer the option of a 3 or 4 day work week, assuming everyone can complete the same amount of work.
  • Providing additional flexibility to remote work, or even just reassuring workers that if they had this option during the pandemic, they won’t have to give it up.
  • Ruthlessly go through your administrative processes and get rid of those that no longer matter.
  • If you have legacy rules like dress codes or uniforms, try improving them or making them more flexible
  • If you have employees who work shifts, make it easy for them to volunteer to fill in when needed, or make it easier for employees to schedule schedules.
  • Let employees pick teammates for various projects if that ability doesn’t already exist.

Of course, the best idea might just be to ask your employees. Again, I’m assuming you’re paying employees fairly, to begin with, and looking here for what might be the equivalent of “serving starter and soup together” for your business.

Happier, more loyal employees at no real cost? It sounds like a proposal that’s almost too good to turn down.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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